More Tea Party Hilarity
October 14, 2010
by Matt Taibbi
Quelle surprise! So it turns out that one after another of the Tea Party candidates is in one way or another mooching off the government. The latest series of hilarious disclosures center around Alaska’s GI-Joe-bearded windbag Senatorial candidate, Joe Miller, who appears to have run virtually the entire gamut of government aid en route to becoming a staunch, fist-shaking opponent of the welfare state.
Miller’s pomposity and piety with regard to government aid programs has all along been in line with the usual screechingly hysterical self-righteousness Tea Party candidates bring to such matters, railing against Obamacare and other “entitlement” programs and promising to end the “welfare state.” That makes it all the more delicious now that he and his family have been exposed for taking state medical aid, unemployment insurance, farm subsidies, hell, even for using state equipment to run a private political campaign.
Back in June, Miller was saying this about his Republican primary opponent Lisa Murkowski, blasting her for supporting a state health care program:
As you are aware, just last week the Anchorage Daily News reported that the Denali KidCare Program funded 662 abortions last year. Senator Murkowski has been a champion of this program, voting against the majority of her Republican colleagues for CHIPRA (HR 2) in January of 2009.
Of course it now turns out that back in the Nineties, Miller himself and his three children (with one on the way; he now has eight) were at one point receiving assistance via a program almost exactly like the Denali KidCare program, which is only for low-income earners. Various reports note that Miller received this assistance after he’d bought a house and been hired by a prestigious law firm; he also got low-income hunting and fishing licenses during that time. It’s also come out that he received some $7,000 in farm subsidies and that his wife received unemployment insurance benefits.
So now of course Miller, who said he and his family “absolutely” used Alaska’s state medical program, is backtracking and saying that he’s not against the modern Denali Kidcare program, only against the “expansion” of it. But even more telling was his longer answer about the program, as reported in the Anchorage Daily News:
Miller said what he’s advocating is complete state control of the programs. “That doesn’t mean we cut off the programs. That is ultimately a state decision. And I think there is a use; in fact the most effective use is probably those programs that help transition the populations from more of a situation of dependency” to one where they can be economically independent, Miller said.
You see, when a nice white lawyer with a GI Joe beard uses state aid to help him through tough times and get over the hump – so that he can go from having three little future Medicare-collecting Republican children to eight little future Medicare-collecting Republican children – that’s a good solid use of government aid, because what we’re doing is helping someone “transition” from dependency to economic independence.
This of course is different from the way other, less GI-Joe-looking people use government aid, i.e. as a permanent crutch that helps genetically lazy and ambitionless parasites mooch off of rich white taxpayers instead of getting real jobs.
I can’t even tell you how many people I interviewed at Tea Party events who came up with one version or another of the Joe Miller defense. Yes, I’m on Medicare, but… I needed it! It’s those other people who don’t need it who are the problem!
Or: Yes, it’s true, I retired from the police/military/DPW at 54 and am on a fat government pension that you and your kids are going to be paying for for the next forty years, while I sit in my plywood-paneled living room in Florida watching Fox News, gobbling Medicare-funded prescription medications, and railing against welfare queens. But I worked hard for those bennies! Not like those other people!
This whole concept of “good welfare” and “bad welfare” is at the heart of the Tea Party ideology, and it’s something that is believed implicitly across the line. It’s why so many of their political champions, like Miller, and sniveling Kentucky rich kid Rand Paul (a doctor whose patient base is 50% state insured), and Nevada “crazy juice” Senate candidate Sharron Angle (who’s covered by husband Ted’s Federal Employee Health Plan insurance), are so completely unapologetic about taking state aid with one hand and jacking off angry pseudo-libertarian mobs with the other.
They genuinely don’t see the contradiction, much in the same way that some Wall Street people genuinely can’t see the problem with their company, say, taking $13 billion in bonuses in the same year that they accepted $13 billion in state bailouts. You wave a pitchfork at them with little post-its of the relevant figures taped to the ends, and ask them to confess – and they can’t, because they literally don’t see your point.
After all, these bankers will protest, we needed to pay out those billions in bonuses to stay competitive! It’s not like we’re just taking the money willy-nilly, like those dreadful people in ratty army coats who shop with food stamps in the bodega downstairs!
The rationalization continues: If I can’t help my department heads buy Porsches, they say, the whole system collapses, and the system is what’s important. It’s not like simply handing out money to people who can’t pay their mortgages, which of course is real waste. As Berkshire Hathaway investment titan Charles Munger put it, it’s those people who have to “suck it in and cope.” But bailouts for companies like the ones Munger invests in, like Wells Fargo and Goldman, that’s preserving the system – and we should all “thank God” for that kind of state aid.
The reason these arguments are inherently ridiculous is that if you live in America, you have a pretty good chance of being in some way or another dependent upon government aid. Whether it’s aerospace or military contracting or farm subsidies or grants in academia, medicine or the arts… most of us are in some way living off of this spending, directly or indirectly. Defense spending in particular has been a primary engine of American capitalism for more than half a century now. And government subsidies of agriculture and financial services have begun to rival defense largesse.
All of which would normally make it unfair for any journalist to go after a politician for taking government aid. After all, pretty much everybody has in some way or another lived off the government in his life – whether by working in a firm that takes government contracts, or attending a state school, or getting into a college thanks to affirmative action programs, or serving in the military or law enforcement, or collecting Medicare or food stamps or unemployment.
But these Tea Partyers make themselves fair game with their preposterous absolutist stance on government. If you call Obamacare radical socialism and unemployment insurance a parasitic welfare state program—well, guess what, asshole, you’re going to get rung up when we find out you had your whole family living off state medical aid and farm subsidies.
Even beyond that, though, is the way that Tea Party candidates and activists demonize the consumers of “entitlement” programs, branding them as lazy parasites who are taking from hard-working folk by supporting “redistributionist” politicians. You probably heard about the story of David Jungerman, the Kansas farmer who created a billboard that read as follows:
ARE YOU A PRODUCER OR A PARASITE?
DEMOCRATS – THE PARTY OF PARASITES
Of course it now turns out that Jungerman himself took over a million dollars in farm subsidies since 1995. When asked about the apparently contradiction, Jungerman offered the Miller defense:
“That’s just my money coming back to me,” Jungerman, 72, said Monday. “I pay a lot in taxes. I’m not a parasite.”
In Tea Party legend the “parasites” would I suppose be people who don’t pay taxes, or pay few taxes, and receive government support in excess of what they pay. Maybe they mean the 39-odd million Americans ( about 1 in 8 ) who are now receiving food stamps. In the Hobbesian jungle the Tea Partyers would prefer we all live in, it’s true, most of those 39 million people (including the just under 50% of all children, and 90% of black children, who will at some point in their lives eat a meal bought with food stamps) would indeed be sucking wind instead of eating cheese.
These are the parasites they’re probably talking about. You know, children. Meanwhile, a slick grownup yuppie politician with a GI Joe beard and a breeder wife and eight kids, leeching off the state at every turn and gunning for a U.S. Senate salary and pension on an anti-welfare platform, he’s just a hardworking citizen who simply needed a lift during a “transitional” period. Man, did they break the mold when they made these assholes.