The piece follows a Berkeley sociologist who [surprise] concludes that anti-welfare politics are rooted in racism.
- "Hochschild takes care not to call anyone racist but concludes that 'race is an essential part of this story.'”
If free stuff is good, and people turn it down, they must be doing so out of spite, fear, or some other negative emotion right?
Well, I come from the heart of Tea Party country and my impression is that people [there] believe government handouts destroy one's illusion of self-sufficiency and instill a sense of helplessness. They prioritize purpose over comfort.
Scoffing at the temerity of poor whites -- the primary Tea Party demographic -- might make for amusing dinner conversation on the coasts, but I believe it's important to admit that there could be some merit to their view.
- "Being in existential poverty means living in a state of, or near, persistent material poverty while also being socially excluded, marginalized, or disadvantaged. It is a life-disempowering experience, one that privileges both immediacy over the future, and welfare over work. This results in learned helplessness, manifesting as a lack of will to take control of life."
Existential Poverty: Welfare Dependency, Learned Helplessness and Psychological Capital
- "But foreign aid has rarely done anything that countries could not have done for themselves. And it has often encouraged the recipient governments' worst tendencies--helping to underwrite programs and policies that have starved thousands of people and derailed struggling economies."
The Continuing Failure of Foreign Aid
John Keynes once suggested, tongue in cheek no doubt, that burying money and allowing people to "mine" for it may improve the economy.
- "If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with bank-notes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal-mines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is."
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (London: Macmillan, 1936), p. 129.
For anyone who's lived in Appalachia, where the Tea Party is popular, and where boredom and meaninglessness have contributed more to misery in the last thirty years than poverty, it should be easy to imagine that being the case.
- "Thinking about the future here and its bleak prospects is not much fun at all, so instead of too much black-minded introspection you have the pills and the dope, the morning beers, the endless scratch-off lotto cards, healing meetings up on the hill, the federally funded ritual of trading cases of food-stamp Pepsi for packs of Kentucky’s Best cigarettes and good old hard currency, tall piles of gas-station nachos, the occasional blast of meth, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, petty crime, the draw, the recreational making and surgical unmaking of teenaged mothers, and death: Life expectancies are short — the typical man here dies well over a decade earlier than does a man in Fairfax County, Va. — and they are getting shorter, women’s life expectancy having declined by nearly 1.1 percent from 1987 to 2007..
The White Ghetto
Instead of searching for ulterior motives, onlookers would be wise to place the instincts behind Tea Party politics into this context.