Travis Rowley: Dependency and Democrats

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Two audio recordings released this week showed both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama expressing controversial political statements. In response to a question about how his campaign plans to overcome a presumably large number of Americans who have been taught to put their lives in the hands of the government, Romney responded by saying that “there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what…who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims…I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

And within an audio from 1998, President Obama was exposed, once again, as a government thief. Obama expressed his desire to “pool resources, and hence facilitate some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution.”

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No surprise there. But still. What the hell.

Much has also been said recently about the fact that almost 47 million Americans “are now on food stamps” and that “the food stamp program has doubled in size since 2008 and quadrupled since 2001” – according to the Senate Budget Committee.

While everyone realizes that the Obama economy has certainly spiraled more and more people down to an impoverished state, it is less known that the progressive Left has been on a purposeful mission to increase the welfare rolls for quite a while – even during healthy economic times. Doing their part to fulfill the longstanding desires of the 1960’s radical “welfare rights movement” – that “pushed for a guaranteed living income” for every American – members of the local George Wiley Center once admitted, “We’re in the midst of a major battle…to get 60,000 more Rhode Islanders signed up for Food Stamps.”

That’s right. While normal Americans lament the fact that “one out of every seven” Americans gets their food from the government, the activist base of the Democratic Party considers this a desirable societal condition. It’s a left-wing success story. They’ll be telling their grandkids all about it someday.

Conservatives Cringe

Meanwhile, conservatives cringe at delivering more people to the dole – primarily because conservatives are not naïve. After all, their philosophy stems largely from an understanding of the nature of man.

The fact of the matter is that people do become addicted and satisfied with lives of laziness. And it’s not as if evidence doesn’t exist that illustrates the fact that many people will avoid searching for work if earned income promises to result in the loss of a government handout. After all, if life’s basic necessities – food and housing – are secured, if a virtual “guaranteed living income” has been obtained, then what’s the hurry? Just pass me the remote and the Cheetos.

After it was widely accepted that the Democrats’ Great Society programs had resulted in “generational welfare,” it finally became politically popular during the 1990s to enact the Republicans’ landmark welfare reform legislation. Liberals predicted a whole host of social ills would be the result. President of the National Organization for Women Patricia Ireland said that the new law would place “12.8 million people on welfare at risk of sinking further into poverty and homelessness." President of the Children’s Defense Fund Marian Edelman called the act an “outrage…that will hurt and impoverish millions of American children…[It] will leave a moral blot on [Clinton's] presidency and on our nation that will never be forgotten." Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) called the new law “the most brutal act of social policy since Reconstruction."

Probably relying on one glaring reality – the fact that liberals have never gotten anything right – Republicans whipped welfare reform through Congress, and it became a resounding legislative success. Welfare caseloads dropped by half, the employment of single mothers surged, and millions of children were lifted out of poverty.

Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani recorded similar results in the 1990s by enforcing “workfare” standards that required welfare recipients to perform various tasks throughout the city. Go figure, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers voluntarily dropped off the rolls, saving the city millions of dollars per year.

Liberals were wrong again. Piles of emaciated bodies never materialized on the streets of New York.

Almost twenty years later, Democrats still have the same objections when it comes to government altruism. After I argued on Channel 10 News Conference last winter that it’s “simply not true” that people become homeless and starve to death when government benefits are restricted, executive director of the RI Democratic Party Stephanie DeSilva argued, “What do you think happens when you have no food and no place to live? You’re homeless and you have no food.” And when I objected to government-funded food stamp advertisements on A Lively Experiment, chairman of the RI Democratic Party Ed Pacheco gave me a similar response: “Well, you don’t want people to starve.”

DeSilva and Pacheco have clearly never considered exactly how Americans housed and nourished themselves before 1961, the year food stamps became part of the American fabric. In 1960, zero Americans were dependent on SNAP. And zero Americans were collapsing from starvation in American streets. It is only now, decades after the full-fledged implementation of federal food assistance, that 47 million Americans – all at once – seem to be in need of a government spoon.

What more proof do we need of the fact that progressive policies only serve to expand poverty, not eliminate it?

A Culture of Liberty

Conservatives also understand that the true victims of welfare programs are welfare recipients. After all, we find the most abject poverty in areas long under the direction of progressive policies – namely the nation’s urban neighborhoods. recently reported that Providence has “more than one in three children…liv[ing] in poverty.” And just this week we discovered that “more than a fifth of children in Rhode Island are living in poverty, and over 10 percent are in extreme poverty.”

Nice work, Democrats.

Forced “redistribution” is immoral and inefficient. And it crushes the human spirit of not only those who are forced to live under its tyranny, but also those beneath its benevolence. Everything is as black conservative commentator Star Parker once wrote: "Instead of solving economic problems, government welfare socialism created monstrous moral and spiritual problems. The kind of problems that are inevitable when individuals turn responsibility for their lives over to others. The legacy of American socialism is our blighted inner cities, dysfunctional inner city schools, and broken black families.”

Liberals should have learned their lesson by now. But it seems only conservatives understand that a culture of independence is crucial in the ongoing mission to preserve freedom for themselves and future generations; that it’s more important for Americans to know liberty in their hearts before they comprehend it in their minds; that they should love liberty even before they understand it.

It is an American tragedy that, when President Obama proclaims his belief in socialist “redistribution,” it resonates with millions of Americans. These are the people Mitt Romney will “never convince.” And the progressive Left aims to increase their numbers.

Travis Rowley ( is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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