During the Tea Party’s heyday, you could find variations of the ‘Keep Your Government Hands Off My Welfare State’ sign at rallies around the US. My favorite was a handmade version by a woman who had written out her slogan in black marker and then added, in red, a hammer and sickle to symbolize the peril of socialized medicine. The placard read: ‘Government Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare.’
Ideology and reality had been set on a collision course, and this absurd mash-up was the result.
Struggle as it might, the reality that Medicare – America’s government-run health insurance – is one of the nation’s largest (and most popular) public programs could not overcome the right-wing imperative to hate the state. Sometimes, it seems, keeping hate alive means making tough sacrifices in the realm of logic.
The Tea Party’s visibility has diminished significantly since 2009. However, the disconnect between popular perceptions of US government and its actual function endures.
In February, the New York Times published an article entitled ‘Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It’. Several accompanying maps showed that some areas which rely heavily on public programs – for example, Owsley County, Kentucky, where per capita payments for food stamps are the highest in the country – vote overwhelmingly for conservative Republicans who vow to slash social spending. Other studies show that deeply conservative Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee are among the places where residents, on average, get the highest percentage of their income from government supports.
Of course, there is a fine tradition of allowing one’s behavior and professed beliefs to go their separate ways: Bible-belt states whose residents claim to promote chastity and ‘family values’ have higher rates of divorce – not to mention higher numbers of online porn subscriptions – than supposed Gomorrahs like New York and California.
But why would healthcare-loving conservatives risk self-injury by embracing anti-government animus?
Continue Reading: Keep Your Government Hands Off My Welfare State | Common Dreams.