Friday, January 23, 2015

An Old Playbook

Incensed that President Obama wants to fund community college for good students by increasing income tax on the top 1% of earners, Fox News pundit Todd Starnes remarked

we all know that President Obama wants universal community college: free tuition for every person in America. But I’m having a hard time finding where the Constitution mandates that every American is entitled to an associate’s degree. We are now six years into the Obama presidency and they have a reputation for being less than truthful. Take for example this notion of free community college. 

It turns out that free education is going to cost American taxpayers $60 billion over the next decade, and that doesn’t even include all of the free condoms and cell phones and medicinal marijuana bongs. You know, back when I was growing up, college kids were expect to work their way through school, it was considered shameful to ask for a handout. But this is Obama’s America and the entitlement crowd thinks that they are entitled to our money.

Digby comments "They're giving away free condoms and medicinal marijuana bongs in college? I think that's great. Good public health is good for all of us. And if everyone had cell phones we'd all be safer. These strike me as excellent, low cost benefits. "

Free condoms actually would be a splendid idea. But the policy would strike at the heart of the conservative vision of women as baby factories, a role even the Pope now finds antiquated, leaving Rick Santorum confused. Medical marijuana would be of great comfort to many Americans in pain, so Republicans won't allow that, and we already know the right resents poor people with cell phones.

Digby notes also that Starnes was subsidized handsomely by the taxpayers of Georgia as a student at Georgia State University.  It is a Galt fantasy of having done it all alone, which is reminiscent of one of the greatest conservative songs of all time, of a bygone era which virtually never was.

It has its modern expression in the GOP beyond Starnes. In her (official GOP) rebuttal to the President's State of the Union address, freshman Senator Joni Stepford of Iowa (truly a grinmeister) maintained of her family:

They had very little to call their own except the sweat on their brow and the dirt on their hands. But they worked, they sacrificed, and they dreamed big dreams for their children and grandchildren.

And because they did, an ordinary Iowan like me has had some truly extraordinary opportunities because they showed me that you don’t need to come from wealth or privilege to make a difference. You just need the freedom to dream big, and a whole lot of hard work.

This is a variation of humblebrag, in which a man or woman of accomplishment implies "my parents afforded me few privileges, so everything I got I accomplished on my own." But it probably goes beyond phony to dishonest for, as the Des Moines Register's Jack Pompe explains

Any self-respecting poor Iowa farm kid knows that one doesn't wear bread sacks over their shoes to protect their good shoes. You wear the bread sacks between your socks and shoes to keep your feet dry. If worn over your shoes, a bread bag would be ripped and torn before a kid got out the door. Also a truly poor farm kid probably does not have a pair of good shoes worth protecting.

John Cole, at 44 the some age as Senator Stepford, argues bread bags "didn’t mean you were poor. It meant you didn’t like wet feet."

Ernst's response bumps up against reality also because, the District Sentinel News Co-Op recently reported

The truth about her family’s farm roots and living within one’s means, however, is more complex. Relatives of Ernst (née: Culver), based in Red Oak, Iowa (population: 5,568) have received over $460,000 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009. Ernst’s father, Richard Culver, was given $14,705 in conservation payments and $23,690 in commodity subsidies by the federal government–with all but twelve dollars allocated for corn support. Richard’s brother, Dallas Culver, benefited from $367,141 in federal agricultural aid, with over $250,000 geared toward corn subsidies. And the brothers’ late grandfather Harold Culver received $57,479 from Washington—again, mostly corn subsidies—between 1995 and 2001. He passed away in January 2003.

The Sentinel cross-referenced the Environmental Working Group farm subsidy database with open source information to verify the Culvers’ interest in the Department of Agriculture’s crop support program.

Sen. Ernst’s family’s financial interest notably came up once during her campaign. In October, Salon reported that Richard’s construction company was awarded $215,665 in contracts from the Montgomery County government in 2009 and 2010, while Ernst was the body’s auditor. The bids won by Culver included Federal Emergency Management Agency projects worth $204,794.

President Obama, channeling, somewhat ineffectively, a great liberal vision, had stated "I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long" and  "Let's begin this new chapter – together – and let's start the work right now."

Joni Ernst, too, suggested "we work together"- for more free trade deals throwing Americans out of work; lowering taxes for corporations, whose declining tax burden has been replaced by one growing for the middle class; and by approving Keystone XL, because ramping up climate change and supplying the energy needs of mainland China must be our greatest priorities.

Starnes, Ernst, Roy Rogers, whomever, it's still the Republican dream, sold as reality: you can do it on your own. More realistic and patriotic is this:

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