Saturday, October 13, 2007

'Our charity means we own you.'

Digby has an excellent post about one of the lessons of the Graeme Frost hideousness: the right wingers really do believe that if you take any government money you have forfeited the right to privacy.

Digby goes on to connect the dots to why public support was brought in to supplant private charity in the first place:
Charity robs the recipient of the dignity and personal liberty to which all people have a claim, rich, poor or in the middle. Using government to act as the safety net instead of the good will (or good mood) of those of means allows that. Citizen pays in, and someday, god forbid, if he needs some help, he won't have to kiss the ass of some rich busybody or self-righteous hypocrite who thinks he or she has a right to dictate his behavior on the basis of a couple of bucks.
Krugman chimes in that Digby is more right than she knows, there was an explicit movement among 'charitable' organizations in the 19th century to use charity for social control:
The Bush administration has proved adept at what the British call “dog-whistle politics,” the art of sending out messages that only the intended audience can hear. A classic example is Bush’s description of himself as a “compassionate conservative,” which most people heard as a declaration that he wasn’t going to rip up the safety net. It was actually a reference to the work of Marvin Olasky, a Christian right author whose 1995 book The Tragedy of American Compassion held up the welfare system of 19th century America, in which faith-based private groups dispensed aid and religion together, as a model - and approvingly quoted Gilded Age authors who condemned “those mild, well-meaning, tender-hearted criminals who insist upon indulging in indiscriminate charity.”
The thousand points of light Bush Sr wanted to replace the public sector with are glinting off the shiny probing noses of the reactionary busybodies who want to dictate how their aid can be spent. When the right wingers decry the oppressive control of social welfare programs, the Stalinist totalitarian diktat of government health care or any kind of public safety net program, they are really revealing their own mindset. It's what they would do, so they assume it's the inevitable nature of any kind of government support.

I recently received an email from a family member - one of those 'forward this along the internets' samizdat things that can be jokes or rants or pleas to find missing children. This one was the modest proposal righteously demanded by a 'hard working oil rigger' that anyone on welfare should be forced to undergo urine checks in order to receive the checks 'I'm helping pay for.'

I'm sorry to say I flew into a fury, responded with a long, bitingly sarcastic response, suggesting that 'yeah, the poor should have to wear tracking anklets and have video cameras in their bathrooms too' and have been in the doghouse with that branch of the family ever since.

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