Saturday, November 19, 2011

Spare the Starvation, Spoil the Child...Unless They're Rich

It's good for people to have to deal with adversity.  It's good for people to be challenged, to have to solve their own problems and suffer from their mistakes, as that's the only way we can expect to improve.  Just as we need to lift weights to challenge our muscles, we need to be challenged in every way, mentally and physical.

Republicans too, supposedly believe in this, which is why they decry Big Daddy Government.  To hear them tell it, children should be challenged with starving bellies and crumbling schools, or they'll stay soft and dependent.  We need for unemployed people to hit rock bottom and face homelessness or they'll never build the character they need to become self-made millionaires.  Mere adversity isn't enough for them; they insist we need to suffer.

And while most conservatives are at least smart enough to not say this out loud, at least not if they're running for political office; some of them apparently haven't faced enough adversity on this issue to learn their lesson.  And so we get this sermon on suffering from Rick Santorum; the angry white male who's so unliked by Republican voters that they'd seriously consider nominating Newt Gingrich before even looking at Santorum.

(For the record, Santorum is regularly polling at 2-3% in every poll, which not only puts him behind "no one" in the polls that give that option, but with the margin of error, might conceivably put him in negative territory.)

He Said This...Out Loud

And so what better way to kickstart your failing campaign than to insist that it's good for children to suffer.  Seriously.

Here's the tape:

Wow.  I guess I'm a bad parent, as I've made a point of never letting my children suffer from lack of food and shelter.  I mean, never.  On the contrary, I've always made it a point for my children to not only believe that they're entitled to food and shelter, but for them to not even consider it to be optional.  This apparently constitutes neglect according to conservatives.

Kids Shouldn't Feel Entitled to Eat

Here's the transcript, as it really does help to take this stuff apart and see it in amber:
And if you're low income, you can't buy something, you can qualify for, in many states you can qualify for Medicaid, you can qualify for food stamps, you can qualify for housing assistance.  And that's not if you're in poverty.  That's if you're above the poverty line. 
And so you have all of the children growing up in an environment where the government is paying you, and then you wonder, "Why do these kids feel like they're entitled to something?"  Because that's how they, that's how they (garbled), that the government provides.  And that is not a healthy thing for children, it's not a healthy thing for society.

So, that's how I square it.  I square it that suffering, if you're a Christian, suffering is part of life.  And it's not a bad thing.  It is an essential thing in life.  And that we suffer, we, there are all different ways to suffer.  One way to suffer is through lack of food and shelter.  And there's another way to suffer which is lack of dignity, hope.  There are all sorts of ways that people suffer, and it's not just tangible.  It's also intangible and we have to consider both.
First off, I'd like to apologize for any potential mistakes in this transcript, as it wasn't a great sound recording; but more importantly, it was obvious that Santorum really didn't know what he was going to say before he said it, and was often shifting ideas mid-sentence.  So it was tough to know where he was going with this, because his sentences didn't quite mesh up.

After all, his theme was that suffering was good, and yet ends by saying we need to consider both intangible and tangible suffering, with the idea that it's ok to let kids suffer tangibly if it means they're not suffering intangibly.  And that would imply that suffering isn't good, because it's a trade-off of suffering.  And that completely undermines what he had just been saying about suffering being good.

Some Suffering is Better than Others

But there's a bigger element of this missing from Santorum's sermon.  Because yeah, sure, it's not good for people to be too accustomed to having everything handed to them.  Santorum seems to believe starvation is within the realm of adversity children need to endure, while I draw my line a little higher than that.  Like, say, making them do their own homework, or making them do chores to earn money, instead of just giving it to them.  But I guess we all have our standards.

But there's a group of people who Republicans like Santorum support, who not only don't suffer from starvation, but in fact, don't suffer from lack of anything.  From the time they were born to the time they die, they are given just about anything they want or need.  They're given the best toys, the best education, the best food, worldly experiences, and get to meet all the best people; and they didn't do a damn bit of suffering to earn any of this.  They don't just feel entitled to eat, but feel entitled to the world.

And of course, I'm referring to children of the wealthy.  They're given all the best advantages in life, and rarely endure any real adversity at all.  And Republicans insist that it must be this way.  It's cruel for us to punish the rich by forcing them to endure taxation.  And it's better for us to cut food stamps for the poor than to tax the inheritance of people born into luxury.  And so the wealthy will endure the suffering of not getting to suffer, just so the poor can reap the benefits of a starving belly.

Ah, those poor rich people.  What they endure so the rest of us can be better people.

Adversity's Only for the Poor

And this makes no sense to me, because I *do* believe that adversity is a good thing, and think one of the worst things you can do to a child is to bring them up feeling entitled to everything.  Just as I've made it a point that my children are raised to believe that I'll always provide for their needs, I've also made it a point for them to know that I won't always provide for their wants.  And so I agree with Santorum's analysis that adversity is a good thing, even if I disagree with who he thinks should suffer.

But for conservatives, this only applies when it's the government providing for you.  As if food purchased with food stamps is somehow less morally nutritious than food purchased with wages...or the money you inherit.  As if there are six year olds out there feeling morally bankrupt because the Hamburger Helper they're eating was charity from Uncle Sam.

But if it's the parent's own money we're talking about, well then, nothing's too good for the little buggers.  These kids don't need to suffer, because their parents suffered enough when earning the money they're spending.  Or maybe it was their parent's parents who did the suffering to earn it.  But whoever it was, someone suffered to earn all that money, and that suffering gets transferred on down the line to the end.  Or...something like that.

The Twain Shall Never Meet

But it's obvious that conservatives can't really put these two sides together.  They know that it's bad for poor people to be given things and they know it's never good to deprive a rich person of anything, but these two ideas just can't possibly mesh.  And that's why they're always so confused on this stuff, because none of it comes together.  It's like they've got half an apple and half an orange and are trying to argue that this is one fruit.

Because the reality is that conservatives aren't interested in the moral well-being of poor people one way or the other. They're just looking for an excuse to not help them.  Why?  Is it because they're bad people?  Not really.  The problem is that they're conservatives and the conservative ideology simply has no mechanism for helping poor people.  Yet because these people know in their hearts that they're good people, they have to invent moral rationalizations for why they're letting people suffer.

And so this is the best they can come up with: To insist that children will become lazy if they feel entitled to being fed...unless they're rich, in which case they shouldn't have to suffer at all.

And the big mistake Santorum made here is that these arguments are only meant to be used for lazy adults.  You're supposed to say that food stamps are bad because they let adults be lazy.  But they're not supposed to mention that the children of these adults are also suffering from the consequences of our inaction.  And they're definitely not supposed to say that it's better for children to starve than to eat food purchased with food stamps.  While he was smart enough to not say that out loud, he apparently wasn't smart enough to realize that that was the implication of what he was saying.

I'll score Santorum some points for honesty, but that's really just because he's so damn dumb that he didn't realize he had waded into water he wasn't supposed to be in.  And if he fully understood the argument he was making, he couldn't be a conservative.  Because yes, adversity is good; but not to the point that it requires children to suffer.  In this regard, he got the whole thing backwards.

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