Rush Limbaugh Makes the “Dependency Argument”

September 29, 2011, 9:40 am | Posted by

On his radio show Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh shared his cohesive explanation for the problems ailing the country. Unsurprisingly, his theory was heavy on ridiculous partisan accusations and light on actual substance.

Attacking ‘compassion’ as the word “that has had the most disastrous effect on the advancement of everybody in this culture,” Limbaugh articulated his theory that federal support programs are actually a liberal plot to win votes by creating an angry underclass infantilized by government spending:

We don’t have a shortage of finances in this country, we don’t have a shortage of revenues…We’ve got a spending problem out the wazoo and the spending that’s taking place, in large measure–the majority portion of it–is being wasted, is being spent to destroy the lives of people…because it robs them of their initiative, it robs them of motivation, it robs them of inspiration, it robs them of desire.

You give them just enough to get by and they live their lives in constant anger and rage. And so you keep feeding that rage by telling them their conditions are because the Republicans don’t care about them or what have you. They constantly vote Democrat and that’s how you destroy a country, that’s how you destroy a culture, that’s how you destroy a Great Society.

Limbaugh’s rhetoric, of course, mirrors the “dependency argument” we’ve highlighted before as an increasingly popular way for conservatives to attack crucial safety net programs even in the midst of tremendous economic downturn.

This view of working Americans victimized by government spending, however, doesn’t match with reality. Helping working families keep their heads above water in tough times prevents them from slipping to more dangerous levels of poverty that are harder to escape from and ultimately cost taxpayers more money.

What’s more, Limbaugh’s vision ignores the numerous examples of Americans who have used this kind of assistance to springboard themselves to better futures.

As the millionaire who asked President Obama to raise his taxes at a townhall meeting last week put it “I would like very much to have the country to continue to invest in things like Pell grants and infrastructure and jobs training programs that made it possible for me to get to where I am.”

Faced with a choice between Americans with first-hand experience with these programs and Rush Limbaugh’s rambling fantasies, I’ll take the former.

H/T Media Matters

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Faith Leaders Speak Out Before GOP Debate

September 22, 2011, 6:11 pm | Posted by

2011-09-22_15-55-55_236.jpgTonight in Orlando, the GOP presidential candidates will participate in a debate hosted by Google, Fox News, and the Republican Party of Florida. So far these debates have helped reveal the distorted values of the Tea Party and the influence of these extremist views on prominent candidates.

But before this next debate, Faithful America and local religious leaders are sending the candidates a clear message: their political priorities must reflect the real values of faith voters, namely caring about how those policies affect the poor and vulnerable.

This afternoon, during a press conference outside the debate venue in Orlando, faith leaders spoke out against the morally extreme positions expressed at the last debate, specifically the acceptability of letting an uninsured person die due to lack of health insurance coverage. The speakers also denounced chants at recent debates celebrating the death penalty and rejected policies that reward the rich and powerful while harming families, seniors, and others in need.

“We want to hear these candidates state their clear and unambiguous commitment to helping the poor, the vulnerable, the hungry, the homeless in our nation – it is simply and purely wrong to sacrifice these members of our communities, often represented among our senior citizens and our children, on the greedy altar of protection for the wealthiest members of our society,” said Rev. Bryan Fulwider, Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of Winter Park in Winter Park, FL. “It is high time for those with significant wealth to pay their fair share… fairness is a real faith value – greed is not.”

As a backdrop to the press conference was the mobile billboard emblazoned with a biblical passage from Isaiah sponsored by nearly 500 members of Faithful America. The billboard’s presence is serving as a constant witness to our values during the CPAC Florida and Faith and Freedom conventions happening in Orlando today and tonight.

The billboard also highlights Faithful America’s “Real Values Agenda” calling on elected officials to act with honesty and integrity in the political arena, stand up for the poor and vulnerable, and put the common good above self-interest. Over 6,000 people of faith have already endorsed it.

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Amy Sullivan Talks About Religion and Politics

September 22, 2011, 9:39 am | Posted by

Building off her piece from earlier this month with some guidelines for reporters on how to ask about and report on politician’s religious views, Amy Sullivan went on NPR’s On the Media to talk to Bob Garfield about the subject.

Sullivan drew an important distinction: asking candidates for office about their religious views only when the candidate has invoked faith to justify her/his political position, and not using religion to cast candidates or elected officials as abnormal or out-of-the-mainstream:

Well, reporters need to be careful that they’re asking relevant questions and not simply trying to use religion as part of the political circus.

Certainly, when a candidate raises their faith on the campaign trail, and particularly when they present their faith as part of their political persona, as part of the reason to vote for them, reporters have not just a right but a responsibility to push on that.

But, again, I think the questions have to be relevant.

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More on Anti-Poverty Spending and the Dependency Critique

September 20, 2011, 11:14 am | Posted by

I predicted earlier that opponents of federal anti-poverty programs would be increasingly likely to adopt the softer “dependency critique.” By alleging that safety-net spending actually hurts the poor, they hope arguing for harsh cuts in tough economic times will appear less cruel.

Last week’s news from the Census Bureau, showing poverty rates at a 17-year high provided a great opportunity to demonstrate this phenomenon in action. Right on cue, Media Matters highlights an almost unbelievable exchange on FOX’s “Forbes on Fox” show:

The amount of empirically-dubious nonsense in the clip is staggering, but the opening exchange really takes the cake. Displaying a graph of long-term poverty rates, host David Asman asserts that because the poverty rate decreased during the Reagan and Clinton administrations, “it actually brings down the poverty rate when you spend less money on these poverty programs.”

Luckily, Asman’s guest, Professor Mark Tatge of Depauw University, properly describes that logic as “a total distortion” of the graphs and explains that economic growth is the reason for those improvements. In response, Asman twists this rebuttal into further support for his own theory–implying that cuts to welfare spending were the reason for the economic growth in the first place.

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Honoring MLK: Why the New Memorial is Not Enough

August 30, 2011, 10:35 am | Posted by

Jamelle Bouie over at the American Prospect has a great reflection on why the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial here in Washington is a less-than-complete tribute to his legacy:

By 1966, Dr. King had moved from his familiar message of nonviolence and racial equality to a more radical attack on the foundations of American life. “When I say question the whole society,” he says in his speech “Where Do We Go From Here?”, “it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together.” In pushing this message, King aligned himself with views–black nationalism, left-wing redistributionism and radical pacifism–that were wildly at odds with the views of most Americans.

Of course, many of those views remain widely at odds with most Americans, which is why we don’t hear much about them.

Bouie continues:

Like all saints though, we’ve had to diminish Dr. King’s message to inoffensive platitudes to make him acceptable to the country at large. The Martin Luther King Jr. memorial depicts a defiant King, but the King we celebrate isn’t the one who declared, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” It isn’t even the more palatable King who explained justice as “power correcting everything that stands against love.” The Martin Luther King Jr. that we celebrate is more akin to the George Washington who never lied than any person who actually existed.

King’s work for Civil Rights is most certainly praise-worthy, and we absolutely should memorialize the person, and the movement that helped this nation move so far away from the violence of Jim Crow. But in failing to lift up economic justice and pacifism – which King saw as inextricably linked – we lose a vital part of his legacy, a loss which is particularly noticeable as right-wing commentators like Glenn Beck attempt to appropriate his memory in support of conservative policies King would have never endorsed.

In a time when working class families and the social safety net they depend on are under unprecedented attack and the war in Afghanistan is about to reach its 10th anniversary, it’s clear we need more than a stone monument honoring Dr. King. We need movements to address the work for justice that’s not yet finished.

Photo Credit: Jason Rosenberg, Flickr

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