You know when you get a political article from Rolling Stone you’re going to get an article that may as well have been written by a rockstar: vapid, self-absorbed, naïve.
We begin with a discussion of FEMA:
The media is casting this as a stark and simple dichotomy. Romney, the rhetoric goes, is on record as having favored cuts to disaster relief agencies like FEMA (“We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids,” he said in a primary debate last year), while his running mate, Paul Ryan, has been even more hostile to FEMA (“When disaster-relief decisions are not made judiciously, limited resources are diverted away from communities that are truly in need,” he said just last March).
Obama, meanwhile, has reportedly embraced FEMA in the past, and is certainly doing so now, with his comments this past week seeming to argue in favor even of an increase in FEMA spending, noting the frequency of “these kinds of storms.”
Remember, these are the people who screamed bloody murder about FEMA during Katrina just a few years ago, yet all of a sudden they want to give them more money. If the Left was as outraged at FEMA post-Katrina as it could be at other government agencies, we’d have a smaller government in about 15 minutes.
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone contributor, points out that “the storm has become a flash-point for a new media meme: Obama is for big government (which is suddenly a good thing), Romney is for small government (and wants to take rafts and blankets away from flood victims)”.
Which is exactly how the media works. Find a crisis, politically exploit it, and succeed. You didn’t see them calling for increased monitoring of abortion providers after Kermit Gosnell was found snipping the spinal cords of born alive babies. But after a mass shooting like Newtown, the media is all about background checks (despite the fact that the kid stole the guns from his mom).
Taibbi continues to call out President Bush for being an enormous spender, which his administration was and for which he was raked over the coals by his own party.
However, Taibbi then makes a bizarre assertion:
In the abstract, most Americans want a smaller and less intrusive government. In reality, what Americans really want is a government that spends less money on other people.
This only stands up if you’re talking about a microcosm of federal spending—federal spending on other countries. There’s certainly a case to be made for trimming the flow of American taxpayer dollars going to Pakistan and Egypt.
But Taibbi ignores what could be a logical argument in favor of bombast:
Hurricane Sandy is a perfect, microcosmic example of America’s attitude toward government. We have millions of people who, most of the year, are ready to bash anyone who accepts government aid as a parasitic welfare queen, but the instant the water level rises a few feet too high in their own neighborhoods, those same folks transform into little Roosevelts, full of plaudits for the benefits of a strong state.
First of all, Sandy happened in a liberal state, along the coast, with most victims likely not being in favor of cutting government spending. I don’t think the Tea Party had an active base in Atlantic City or Newark.
Second of all, conservatives are more likely than liberals to prepare for a crisis. Conservatives buy guns, stockpile food/water, and own the properties you’d probably want to flee to when shit hits the fan.
The truth is, nobody, be he rich or poor, wants his government services cut. Drive up and down route 128 outside Boston, you’ll see a lot of affluent white people waving Romney signs, complaining about entitlement spending. But about four thousand percent of those same people working along the high-tech ring there are totally dependent on the Pentagon contracts that keep doors open at companies like Raytheon and General Dynamics.
What about the Hollywood liberals publicly in favor of gun control who create movies rife with gun violence? I’d argue that’s more hypocritical than receiving government contracts for defense, which is an actual function of government, versus money being wasted on manatee sex studies or wine tastings.
Here in the tri-state area, and especially in the lower Manhattan region I’m staring at out my window right now, you’ll get much of the same – lots of whining now about deficit spending and the parasitical 47%, but also conspicuous silence a few years ago, when in one fell swoop, taxpayers had to spend about twice the amount of the annual federal budget just to save bonus seasons on Wall Street for the few thousand of our local assholes who nearly blew up the world economy.
No, most reasonable people were vocally against the bailouts. The only ones for it were perennial government spending champions and, well, those directly receiving the cash.
And a lot of those same parasite-bashing, Randian pure-market ideologues were in full pucker mode for all of this past summer, while they waited in frank desperation for the Fed to announce a third Quantitative Easing program – in which the Fed will henceforth inject $85 billion of raw, uncut welfare into the financial services industry’s bloodstream every month.
One wonders who all these closet hypocrites are that Taibbi keeps referring to. But names and facts be damned, the man has a story to weave!
The only reason we’re having this phony big-versus-small argument is because of yet another longstanding media deception, i.e. that the only people who actually receive government aid are the poor and the elderly and other such traditional “welfare”-seekers. Thus a politician who is in favor of cutting services to that particular crowd, like Mitt Romney, is inevitably described as favoring “small government,” no matter what his spending plans are for everybody else.
Romney and others were never in favor of increasing government spending, so this is a wholly flawed argument.
But everyone lives off the government teat to some degree – even (one might even say especially) the very rich who have been the core supporters of both the Bush presidency and Romney’s campaign. Many are industrial leaders who would revolt tomorrow if their giant free R&D program known as the federal military budget were to be scaled back even a few percentage points. Mitt’s buddies on Wall Street would cry without their bailouts and dozens of lucrative little-known subsidies (like the preposterous ability of certain banks to act as middlemen in transactions when the government lends money to itself).
This is a point that keeps coming up and is annoying. Small-government people are not anti-government spending. They’re simple for responsible government spending. And most reasonable people can agree—our government does not spend responsibly.
Also many industrial leaders as well as the vast majority of Wall Street donated to Barack Obama.
The evolution of this whole antigovernment movement has been fascinating to watch. People who grew up in public schools, run straight to the embassy the instant they get a runny nose overseas, stuff burgers down their throats without worrying about E. Coli and sleep happily in planes they know have been inspected by the FAA (I regularly risked my life in Aeroflot liners for a decade and know the difference), can with straight faces make the argument that having to pay any taxes at all is tyranny. It’s almost as if people feel the need to announce that they don’t need any help with anything, ever – not even keeping bridges safe or drinking water clean.
Taibbi’s descent into madness and pure hatred for average Americans is fascinating to watch, like a car crash.
Nobody argues that paying taxes at all is tyranny. Nobody argues against clean drinking water or functional bridges. The number of straw men here could send Kansas aflame with a single match. The argument that 47% of the country literally pays nothing in taxes is a valid one and shows that, if we want to experience government services, we should pay equally for them. Say, how about a flat tax? It certainly would keep our government funded enough to take care of basic functions like they should. And equal contributions will mean that people will keep the government mighty accountable for spending money on stupid shit.
It’s this weird national paranoia about being seen as needy, or labeled a parasite who needs government aid, that leads to lunacies like the idea that having a strong disaster-relief agency qualifies as a “big government” concept, when in fact it’s just sensible. If everyone could just admit that government is a fact of life, we could probably do a much better job of fixing it and managing its costs. Instead, we have to play this silly game where millions of us pretend we’re above it all, that we don’t walk on regularly-cleaned streets or fly in protected skies. It shouldn’t take a once-in-a-generation hurricane for Americans to admit they need the government occasionally, but that’s apparently where we are.
Having federal disaster agencies which kneecap state agencies, are poorly run, don’t get help to those who need it immediately, and are bureaucracies instead of effective like the Red Cross just make disasters worse. Look at Katrina.
Everyone admits government is a fact of life. Straw man No. 87.
Nobody pretends they’re above it, that they don’t walk on clean streets or protected skies. Straw man No. 88.
Americans aren’t hesitant to admit they need government for certain services. Government dependents are hesitant to admit they don’t need the government to pay for birth control, pelican studies, and other pet projects that suddenly become constitutional when funding is in danger of being rescinded. That’s the real national crisis, and in $16 trillion debt, Taibbi avoids admitting the real elephant in the room.