There is a point at which villainy becomes humorous and that happened today with a report at Huffington Post, Food Stamp Fliers Threaten To Name People On Government Benefits. According to the article, someone in Portland, Oregon has put up fliers that read, “There are twenty seven people in this neighborhood who vote and receive food stamps. The names of these people are being posted where they can be seen by taxpayers and the neighborhood can decide who is truly in need of food.” Ah yes, the defenders of tax payer money!
If you aren’t clear what these people are getting at, last month, there were similar fliers that read, “Benjamin Franklin said ‘when the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.’ Some of us in the neighborhood wish to save this democracy and to stand in the way of those who would destroy it.” So the problem is that those who are getting public assistance are able to vote themselves money. Therefore: we must stop the poor from voting!
Note how this is exactly the same argument that Dave Rubin made about drug testing the poor. “Well, I guess if they’re getting government money it isn’t asking too much to make them pee in a cup!” Or just not be allowed to vote. The thing about people who make these arguments is that they never want to go after the rich who get public funding. They might grouse a bit when they hear about some corporate boondoggle of a government contract on the TV box. But it takes the outrage of a family of four getting a hundred bucks a week in food to get them out on the street with their fliers.
We don’t know exactly who the people are who are putting out these fliers. But clearly this is the Tea Party mentality—right down to the founding father quote. It goes deeper than that, however. Remember: the Tea Party did not burst on the scene after all our military interventions. It did not burst on the scene after the financial crisis and the huge TARP bailout of the banks. No, no, no! It burst on the scene after Rick Santelli’s CNBC rant. And what was that about? A homeowner refinance program that was a fraction of the cost of TARP. That’s the Tea Party mentality. It’s basically “Get the poor!” in a tricorne hat. (“Poor,” of course, can be replaced by whatever racist epithet the person likes.)
Of course, one thing we know about the Tea Party is that its membership is old. That is most likely due to the demographics of Fox News, which was singularly important in publicizing the movement. All the news that’s fit to create! But that means that the people in the Tea Party are much more likely to be on various kinds of subsidies like Social Security, Medicare, and even Disability. What’s more, as a more wealthy group, they are far more likely to have had their homes subsidized with the enormous mortgage interest deduction. None of these handouts are considered handouts by the Tea Party members.
There is a tendency to portray the Tea Party as a well educated group. The demographics do bear this out. But education in this country is more something you are born with. For example, you are more likely to graduate from college if you are born stupid and rich than if you are born smart and poor. Regardless, I know lots of smart and educated people who simply cannot see past their petty prejudices and generalized rage. And that’s what leads to people putting up fliers complaining that people who get food stamps shouldn’t be able to vote.
A common apologia of conservatives who are on welfare is that “they paid into” whatever program it is: Social Security, Medicare, and so on. But these fliers mention SSI, the disability program. People paid into those as well. In fact, anytime any of us pays any taxes, we are paying into all of these programs. That’s how a society works. But this all shows the lie of the “we paid into it” defense. That isn’t what they mean. What they mean is “we are different.” The programs that benefit them are programs that “good” people take advantage of and programs that don’t are those for “bad” people. It’s as simple as that: in and out group. They are in and those people on food stamps and disability are out.
 For the record, I cannot find this quote anywhere. It seems to be apocryphal. It is however, huge with Tea Party people. Just google the phrase.