Friday, October 11, 2013

A Second Helping of the Cognitive Dissonance Burrito

 "Government is the enemy until you need a friend."
Former Senator William Cohen 
Republican from Maine

Recently I introduced the curious case of “George” and his inability to understand or on an even more basic level recognized the massive discrepancy in the makeup of his reality when it comes to what is commonly referred to as welfare. In short, just a few nights ago George went on an unhinged diatribe blaming Obama for the government shutdown because he wants to give all sorts of hard working taxpayer dollars to lazy bums who want something for nothing.

Not two hours later he completely reversed himself and became gravely worried about how his unemployed and unwed daughter was going to feed her twins if the federally funded Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program stopped giving out money because Washington had gone into a politically-induced catatonic state. Now George, who considers himself a good Christian following the teachings of Jesus, has absolutely no idea that his able bodied daughter and her live in boyfriend are the same lazy bums wanting free money that he whined about a few hours before and in all honesty, on many other previous occasions since I unfortunately came to know him. This is all old news but I needed to cover the basics before delving into my reasons for serving up another helping of the Great American Cognitive Dissonance Burrito.

Since the election of Barrack Obama conservative American politics has gone into spasms of fear-mongering panic, mixed in with moral outrage over a perceived liberal agenda to corrupt the country, touched off with more than a dash of barely hidden racist demagoguery. In the middle of all this is the emergence of an Ayn Rand-inspired Libertarian strain of Republican politics. Now this little, “I've got mine, screw everyone else”, monster has existed for decades in various incarnations but its general habitat has always been on the extreme end of the once honorable party of Lincoln. Even then, GOPers have tried to keep this beast safely confined in some dark cage out of sight from anyone with a soul or tiniest bit of intelligence. Not anymore, due to the rapidly changing demographics in the United States these Libertarian-Republicans have come to the forefront and while their true numbers are small they have an inordinate amount of power.

The true gods of the Libertarian-Republicans are of course Ron Paul and his son Rand but down here in the Midlands of South Carolina there is a local celebrity who faithfully carries the same banner. Since I would very much like to go avoid anymore issues with the locals than I already have to deal with I will let this influential person go unnamed, but for the purpose of this seditious post I will call him “Wally.” Absolutely no one could listen to Wally or read his posts and not understand the center of his being is fretting over money. That is typical of every libertarian I have had the misfortune of encountering. Now Wally is an entirely congenial guy, and can backup his beliefs by a long and successful career built on talent and hardwork.

The trouble is Wally moves away from just fretting over money and enters the realm of fearful obsession when it comes to dealing with government funds. To him the federal government has long since crossed the boundary from what the Founding Fathers would believe is constitutional. A list of these offenses would be far to long to name but they include social security and curiously enough for my friend George, welfare. Wally believes federally funded welfare is wasteful and could best be done by private charities. It is a common notion for types like him but where these private charities would obtain the monumental funds and large scale organizational abilities to meet the challenges of the needy here in the United States even during prosperous times are never quite answered.

That being said, Wally's issues with welfare exists on a more basic level. To sum up his position with a decent degree of accuracy he believes democracies generally crash when the unwashed masses find out they can vote themselves gifts of money from the state or, in this case, federal treasury. I for one cannot help but find some odd and dark humor in this curious couple. When George is in the mood to worry about his daughter on welfare he blames Obama for the government shutdown and the suspension of aid. Whereas if Wally and his Libertarian-Republicans buddies took over complete control of the United States government they would cut off his daughter and her children without any hesitation. Part of me would love to see how George, a barely literate working man with a kid on welfare, and Wally, a successful but cold-hearted miser with no real problem letting children go hungry would work out this huge conflict of interest.

Of course for George and Wally their usual state of mind involved righteous indignation over welfare and that everyone should work for a living. If asked, both would undoubtedly say they fervently support American capitalism and how socialism is an evil entity promoted by unknowing fools and those out to destroy American democracy. In the case of Wally his love is true and while I cannot speak for him such libertarians generally excuse all the sins of capitalism as long as it makes them a buck. Fresh water supplies can be contaminated through fracking, dangerous lead paint can be applied to children's toys, and entire forests can be mowed down for shopping malls and it is all okay because someone will be richer for it.

For George, not to be mean, he is a barely trained parrot mouthing words he does not understand while harboring illogical and irrational resentment towards those who he believes are taking advantage of the system. If George does have any opinion on capitalism, it is some grainy belief that anyone can be rich. Fine, there are definitely a multitude of rags to riches stories in this country but unless such an inspiring person has a quality education success becomes exponentially more difficult in this day and age.

What puzzles me is how both Wally and George, who go ballistic, over welfare waste and fraud completely ignore the abuses and mismanagement often inherent to the capitalistic system.

Case in point is how a bunch of billionaire bankers and corporate CEO's in 2008 came within a whisker of throwing the country into a second Great Depression. In the span of a few weeks criminal incompetence and outright greed caused hundreds of billions of dollars to disappear. This strictly man-made crisis ruined the dreams of millions of middle and working class folks who just wanted a decent retirement or to send their kids to college.

The uncomfortable truth of the matter many middle and working class either refuse to face or remain conveniently ignorant about is that a highly educated banker, or his lackey in congress can steal far more money than any welfare recipient could ever dream. These Demigods and Wizards of Wall Street can, and have, made billions of dollars disappear with a few keystrokes on a computer. Hundreds of dishonest poor people on welfare cannot even begin to approach the scope of thievery of just one of those expensively dressed but self adsorbed assholes. Nor do people on welfare have a way to counter the professionally crafted charge on certain media outlets that they are all parasites on the hardworking members of society.

Yes, absolutely there is fraud and waste in the welfare system. But that is inherent to every system devised by humans. The way capitalists gets away with the illusion that they are immune is through clever accounting and when that fails, government bailouts. The final question we as Americans must face at the end of all the political bickering is that do we want to be a compassionate country that helps those suffering through no fault of their own and provides a way for those less fortunate to possibly make the most of their talents and intelligence. Or have our morals decayed to the point that we can actually look at a hungry or destitute human being and say to them, “Sorry bud, I've got mind, you're just out of luck.”

In the case of George his cognitive dissonance is apparent, but I cannot help but wonder that if circumstances changed for Wally to the point that he and his family faced possible starvation would he stay true to his Ayn Rand/libertarian beliefs or would he be one of the many demanding government aid? That is a question anyone who gets pissed off at the idea of welfare should ultimately ask themselves.


Pixel Peeper said...

Love the Stephen Colbert quote! And now you've got me wondering who this Wally character might be... :-)

Cloudia said...

You can obviously reason - though your "friend" has obvious deficits as you point out so brilliantly. We MAY be seeing this fever break. Because of gerrymandering a minority is holding the entire nation hostage to magical thinking. And you cannot talk to these people. They need punchy, direct, simplistic instructions - hence they listen to rush et al

Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.

ALOHA from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

Akelamalu said...

It's just the same over here. :(

R W Rawles said...

Don't like the taste of your burrito, Beach. Like HST said, "Give people the truth and they think it hell."

Beach Bum said...

Pixel: Cobert is the best!

Cloudia: I hold no real hope for "George". I could get really deep, in fact an entire blog post is screaming in my head concerning how most humans are not really self-aware creatures with George the lead example but I will refrain from anymore rants for awhile.

Akelamalu: The curse of Western Civilization I guess.

Beach Bum said...

R.W.: Ain't that the truth.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Well said. I agree with Pixel about that Colbert quote. Not sure who your Wally is, but we've got a bunch of them in GA politics, too.

Beach Bum said...

Susan: LOL!!! Part of me wants to realize the true name of "Wally" but while there can be a case made that I lack a certain level of intelligence I can say with absolute certainty I am not crazy.

Like the Peach State, South Carolina seethes with proto-fascists ready to do battle with the forces of evil progressive socialism.

As for "George" just because I feel slightly spiteful this morning I will add that I once had an extremely curious conversation with him once right after the superhero movie "Captain America" came out.

George was filled with rage one night after he read an internet story saying that in France the superhero character "Captain America" was actually called the Avenger. To him it was an incredible insult to the United States perpetrated by a bunch of stupid, cowardly Frenchmen.

As much as part of me wanted to explain that if true such a was common but done by the producers that made the movie I have largely given up talking to rocks.

The Bug said...

It really is frustrating to try to talk to someone like George or Wally. And it reminds me to be more open-minded my own self so that I don't fall into the same trap. Of course, *I'm* right :)

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

In the Cephalopod Book of Etiquette, it is considered bad form, bad manners, and Bad Karma to rejoice in excess after a contest is over. Bad winners do not make good losers. So I shall not gloat.

I shall not gloat.

I.shall.not.gloat, period (!)


goatman said...

Bet George and Wally contribute to the profits of McDonalds and suchlike not realizing that the slave wages are subsidized by the evil Government with the food stamps and Medicaid that 50% of the workers collect. Not an entry job: average age of fast food workers is 29!
Ignorance is bliss!!

Pixel Peeper said...

I thought of your post and "George" the other day when I read about Greg Collett:

lime said...

basically, any system will have cheats. i'd rather have to deal with cheats though than the guilt of letting truly needy people go without.