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Nov 9

Takers

My neighbors David and Barbara are intelligent, witty and charming people of the extreme right-wing persuasion. They’re wonderful neighbors, pleasant, kind and generous. He’s 89 and she’s perhaps a year or two older. He just had a hip replacement, and she was hospitalized recently, as well. They shared a hospital room for several weeks while rehabilitating, which is kind of romantic, in its own weird way.

I spoke to David the day after the election, and he was mildly distraught over the outcome. He thinks Obama is a crook and assumes the president will raise his taxes. He hates paying taxes so that other people will get benefits they didn’t earn and don’t deserve. This is a staple, of course, of Tea Party thinking, that there are earners and there are takers, and the earners shouldn’t be forced to give up what they’ve earned so that the takers can live off it.

In the same conversation, he marveled at how much he and his wife had received from Medicare. He was certain that the medical services they had just received exceeded the amount he had put into the system. I couldn’t help needling him. “So, you like socialized medicine, then?” 

What amazes me most about this whole strain of political thinking is the disconnect. Somehow, it doesn’t bother my neighbor that his neighbors are paying taxes for his health care, but it annoys him mightily that he might have to pay for his neighbors’ unemployment benefits. If he were alone in thinking that way, we might conclude that my wonderful neighbor is a sociopath, but he represents an alarmingly large and vocal percentage of the population. Fortunately, not quite large enough to have won the election. 

No FEMA?

In the last few days, Mitt Romney has had to walk back yet another of his previous stands, that he’d do away with FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It’s an article of faith among conservatives, despite conspicuous evidence to the contrary, that the federal government can’t do anything as well as state governments, and that governments in general can’t ever do anything as well as the private sector. Then something on the scale of Sandy hits, overwhelming the ability of any local responders, private or public, to handle the massive rescue, cleanup and rebuilding efforts. The only entity with resources close to sufficient to deal with the scale of the disaster is the federal government. It’s been a bit comical to watch Romney and his running mate appealing for contributions of canned goods and cash to the Red Cross while Obama puts the machinery at his disposal to work. So I guess Romney’s stance now will be that we should wait to disband FEMA until after all of Sandy’s damage has been cleaned up, and hope there’s not another one on this scale for a while. When the next natural disaster strikes we can test the conservative theory of limited government.  I’m sure the cans of soup I have to offer will make all the difference.