Thursday, March 10, 2011

At It Again, The Nation's Leading Elitist

When Carly Simon sang "Nobody Does It Better," she didn't mean Rush Limbaugh. But nobody does it better- or at least more brazenly. One is to disregard the major welfare problem in this nation when he misleads his listeners, as he did Wednesday, by complaining

We declared war on poverty, and what do we have? Thirty-five percent of our people living on the dole! Thirty-five percent of American citizens living on handouts.

It's unlikely that Rush was referring to the fossil energy companies, which receive from the federal government and state governments $10 billion to $52 billion a year, nor the eighteen provisions in the tax code that benefit the industry. And that would not include the billions which go toward companies promoting the neo-liberal energy of choice, nuclear.

But while Limbaugh continually has proven masterful at setting the wealthy ("producers" or "earners") against the non-wealthy ("non-earners," "non-producers"), he has been nearly as adept at more fashionable class warfare: setting public employee vs. private employee, union worker vs. non-union worker, middle class against middle class. But maybe, just possibly, some of his listeners are beginning to catch onto his scam.

After Rush whined about an alleged 35% of the nation's citizens scavenging off the backs of wealthy people like him, one of his fans telephoned and complained that Limbaugh was lumping Social Security recipients such as himself in with recipients of unemployment compensation "and other, uh, free handouts." Limbaugh replied in part

There are two distinct definitions here. What I'm talking about is the overall number. I don't care what the subdivisions are: 35% of the American people are living on something produced by somebody else, not themselves. Now, contrary to the knee-jerk reaction that people have when I say this, I am not first condemning those people.

I could, and I would eventually get to it in my priority list, but that's not my concern.

My concern is for the country at large. Thirty-five percent of people who have money coming in are not earning it! I don't want to hear the sob stories.

Limbaugh went on to explain

"Even as the economy has recovered, social welfare benefits make up 35 percent of wages and salaries this year, up from 21 percent in 2000 and 10 percent in 1960, according to TrimTabs Investment Research using Bureau of Economic Analysis data."

This report from CNBC's Fast Money implies that Trimtabs figure (a rather misleading metric) of 35% referred to Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance. Rush went on to condemn unemployment compensation, declaring

Pelosi and Goolsbee say that this unemployment compensation generates a buck and a half return for every dollar-of-benefits. It's an out-and-out lie. (interruption) No!

Limbaugh must know the statistic (chart below) comes from respected economist Mark Zandi, expected his listeners to believe that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and presidential economic advisor Austan Goolsbee pulled the $1.50 figure out of the air. There is, of course, a lie there, but it came from the $50 million a year man rather from Pelosi and Goolsbee.

But a few of his listeners may be catching on, if this portion of the exchange between one of them and the show's host is indicative:

CALLER: I ran into a little bit of an issue a few years ago when I got some severe cancer and battled it for a couple years. I'm cancer free right now, but unfortunately I cannot work and I had to go on disability.

RUSH: Yeah.

CALLER: And I was just wondering, you know, like I say I'm kinda in conflict with myself because --

RUSH: No, you're not. You're in conflict with me and what I just said. Let me ask you a question.

CALLER: Well, no, sir, I've always been told that, you know, tax money and this and that goes to, in case anything like this comes up --

RUSH: Look, you have a disability, right?

CALLER: Yes, sir.

RUSH: You can't work, right?

CALLER: No, sir.

RUSH: Okay. Do you think I actually think you ought to be denied stuff?

CALLER: No, sir.

RUSH: Okay. I don't think that. I'm not talking about people like you, but there are people who fudge this disability business. I had a story not long ago about a bunch of drunks --

CALLER: Sir, that's what I mean, that's what I mean. I agree.

RUSH: -- in jail getting disability payments because they were alcoholics.

CALLER: No, sir, I agree with that, sir. But, you know, I want our country to survive, and, you know, I just don't know where we can get --

Understandably, if regrettably, the caller then was cut off before he could ask Rush why the latter thinks he lazy. Limbaugh instead did a pirouette, pivoting to the idea that it's only those other guys who are slothful, that "you're not the one we're talking about":

Well, we are a compassionate country. There is not a person in this country that does not want somebody who cannot provide for themselves to go empty. There's not a person in the world who wants that. You don't fall under the headline definition freeloader or what have you. And if you're bothered by it, it's life. A lot of things affect a lot of people. But we're not talking about you. And you are not the majority of that 35% on the dole anyway. You're a small percentage of it. You're not the problem we're talking about.

You probably noticed that this fellow apparently receiving SSI is part of Rush's problem. A few moments before that phone call, Limbaugh had claimed

Sure, some of the 35% are general born freeloaders (every society is gonna have some of those), but a lot of these people have been manufactured. They've been created. A lot of people think this is what they are due as Americans, that this is their entitlement. They haven't been taught the founding. They haven't been taught industriousness. They haven't been taught self-reliance. All that stuff's sneered at. They haven't been taught the beauty of work and achievement, accomplishment, and self-esteem that way.

He makes a distinction between "some of the 35% (who) are born freeloaders" and those who "have been manufactured" and thus "think this is what they are due as Americans, that this is their entitlement." Sure, he argues that government has encouraged this attitude- but he believes the individuals in the 35% not "born freeloaders" are not industrious or self-reliant and don't believe in "work and achievement, accomplishment, and self-esteem."

Perhaps they don't believe in self-esteem. It's difficult to have a positive view of oneself when Limbaugh and a few other conservatives assert that you are not entitled to receive unemployment compensation when you are laid off. Or that in old age you have no right to receive medical care because you are no longer a producer or "self-reliant."

But Americans who believe that families of individuals who have lost their jobs should not be left to starve or that the elderly should not be left to die can take solace, if only to a limited extent, that on at least this occasion, Rush Limbaugh had to defend himself against a caller who appeared to understand that a hero of his believes he is just another slothful American. Call it minimal, but it is progress.

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