Last week the video of the so-called "free phone lady" went viral. "Everybody in Cleveland know (sic) minority got Obama phone," the woman in the video contended. "Keep Obama in (sic) president, you know? He gave us a phone. He gonna do more." The concept of "going viral" refers to the idea that something people see or hear strikes them in such a visceral way, they feel almost compelled to share it with others. So what struck a national nerve here? Before proceeding, it should be noted that the comment section that usually accompanies YouTube videos has been disabled for this one.
That disablement neatly ties into the first and most obvious reason this video has been disseminated far and wide: race. While it is undoubtedly politically incorrect to say so, there is little doubt a black woman who essentially reveals herself to be semi-literate, very likely a ward of the state, and definitely invested in receiving at least one "free" government giveaway, validates a certain racial stereotype in the minds of many who watched the video.
Yet the issue is of stereotyping is complicated. It is one thing to make value judgements regarding this particular women, themselves based on less than a minute's worth of input. They may be right, or they may be wrong. Yet whether Americans want to admit it or not, that's what we do, almost reflexively. The assessment made above is based on what the woman herself says and, just as importantly, how she says it. Toss in the political component of a presidential race, and all of it likely contributes to the visceral feelings that have given this women her 15 minutes of fame.
The problem arises when one takes the actions of a single individual and extrapolates upon them to impugn an entire group of people. That is undoubtedly racist. Yet if we're being brutally honest here, there is little doubt that some of the sharing of this video is based on the idea that this woman exemplifies such extrapolations, no matter how misguided such feelings are.
But there's also the aspect of entitlement. Simply speaking, most Americans pay for their own cell phones and service providers, and some undoubtedly resent that this woman is apparently getting both, courtesy of a tax
attached to everyone's communications bills. They more than likely question how a government drowning in $16 trillion of debt can afford to spend $1.6 billion on such a program.
The answer to that question is obvious. Since the initiation of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society in the mid-1960s, the federal government has undertaken its self-appointed mission to "end poverty as we know it." It has also attempted to eliminate the economic disparities caused by a legacy of slavery. LBJ enacted Executive Order 11246 requiring government employers to take "affirmative action" to hire without regard to race, religion and national origin. The overall goal of both programs was to essentially make sure people like the free phone lady would grow up to be prosperous, educated and productive Americans, living in a color-blind society.
What we've gotten instead is a nation on the brink of fiscal insolvency. Despite $16 trillion of wealth re-distribution from the Haves to the Have Nots since 1965, the number of Americans living in poverty remains
monumental. 46.2 million Americans--including 16.1 million children--live below the poverty line. That number constitutes 15 percent of the nation's population. Moreover, affirmative action has devolved into a de facto quota system that exacerbates, rather than ameliorates, race relations in the minds of many Americans.
Thus, an obvious question arises: can we finally admit that this centralized, top-down, government-centric approach to America's problems is a failure?
|RECEIVE LIBERTY LOVING COLUMNISTS IN YOUR INBOX … FOR FREE!|
Every weekday NewsAndOpinion.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". HUNDREDS of columnists and cartoonists regularly appear. Sign up for the daily update. It's free. Just click here.
As we approach the election in November, it's a question that merits an honest discussion. Yet as we approach the election in November, an honest discussion about the genuine nature of our welfare state and its safety net, is the last thing Americans will hear anything about--unless it is accompanied by the knee-jerk cries of racism and bigotry for even suggesting the "free phone" mentality is indicative of a larger worldview among any particular subset of Americans.
Or is it a subset? Many Americans believe this is the election that may provide the definitive answer to that question. Does the "free phone" crowd--of every race, color and creed--now outnumber the people of every race, color and creed who provide the government with the revenue necessary to run such a program? The Lifeline program was instituted in 1984 to subsidize landline phone service for low-income Americans. It was funded by government-collected communication fees (read taxes) paid by consumers.
This particular aspect of the "safety net" was expanded in 2008 to include cell phones, at an initial cost of $772 million. By last year, the tab had increased to $1.6 billion. And as naturally as day follows night, just like every other government giveaway, abuse entered the picture: a 2011 audit revealed that 269,000 wireless Lifeline subscribers were receiving free phones--and monthly service from two or more carriers.
This brings us to another, less obvious component of why this video went viral. That component is morality--or more accurately, a seeming lack thereof. In short, our modern welfare state has produced legions of Americans more than willing to "game the system" for their own benefit. And make no mistake: such gaming transcends race and class. Whether it is a poor American scamming the welfare, food stamp or Social Security disability systems, or a rich American scamming Wall Street insider information, or establishing a crony capitalist/government nexus to stifle genuine competition, gaming the system has reached epidemic proportions.
And once again, the collapse of morality has it roots in the '60s. In that time of social upheaval, the Baby Boomer generation, most of whom were invested in removing the ostensible shackles imposed on them by the generation that fought WWll, simultaneously embraced moral relativity, and the secularism that facilitated its promulgation. Right and wrong were reduced to "shades of gray," and cries of Friedrich Nietzsche-inspired "God is dead!" echoed on college campuses around the nation. "Do your own thing" became the order of the day--even as the ruinous omission of what ought to have followed--"and accept the consequences of one's choices"--portended where America was heading.
We have long since arrived. Traditional understanding of right and wrong, and the religious institutions that buttressed that understanding, are in precipitous
decline. Between 2005 and 2012 alone, the number of Americans who consider themselves "religious" has dropped from 73 percent to 60 percent. What has replaced religion? It is no secret America is the most litigious
nation on earth. In other words, right and wrong have been supplanted by "legal" and "illegal."
But that's only half the equation. The other half is therapeutic. Bot
h the number of now-recognized mental "disabilities"--and the drugs used to treat them--have risen in almost exponential proportions. In 1987, prior to the introduction of Prozac, the U.S. mental illness disability rate
was 1 in every 184 Americans. By 2007, the rate had more than doubled, to 1 in every 76 Americans. As of last year, an astounding one-in-four
American women were on psych medications. Sales of Ritalin, usually administered to children for attention deficit disorder, also soared
83 percent between the years 2006 and 2010.
Have Americans become mentally unhinged at seemingly historically unprecedented levels? Perhaps more skillful diagnoses of mental problems has contributed to part of this explosion. But the bet here is that increasing numbers of Americans far prefer being categorized as "well" and "unwell"--as opposed to good and bad.
Such a re-calibration of the national ethos is implied by this video. Substantial numbers of Americans have long abandoned the notion that taking something for nothing is either shameful, or constitutes a lack of integrity. Thus, voting for the person who promises to give way the most "free stuff" becomes the dominant rationale. Yet the fact that this video went viral may also indicate that many Americans are fed up with such a status quo. Perhaps there are still a majority of us who recognize the difference between being our brother's keeper--and being his enabler.
Which brings us to yet another component that many Americans picked up on, consciously or otherwise. It is the ideological component. Quite simply, the current composition of our welfare state is fiscally unsustainable. Yet the American left not only remains completely invested in maintaining it, but committed to expanding it as the principle means of expanding their own power. Their formula for doing so is as simple as it is cynical: the more Americans we get dependent on government, the more Americans we get to vote for the party of ever-expanding government.
The first half of that formula is certainly working. A record-setting
8.7 million Americans are now collecting disability payments. This represents a four-fold increase relative to the number of working Americans over the past 45 years. In addition, 46 million Americans are receiving
benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also a record. With respect to the send half of the formula, even if we assume the overwhelming majority of people on such government programs deserve to be there, it is impossible to ignore the reality that millions of able-bodied Americans now prefer being on the dole over taking care of themselves.
It is also impossible to ignore the reality that government is facilitating them. For example, the qualification standards for claiming disability have been substantially relaxed
. A study conducted by the non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research reveals that benefit awards for mental illness rose from 16 percent in 1983 to one third
in 2010. Awards for back pain rose from 13 percent in 1983 to 28 percent. Those increases were attributed to three factors: the Social Security Administration now places more weight on self-reported
pain and discomfort; the application process has been streamlined; and disability payments plus Medicare replaces almost 90 percent of one's working income.
It is also impossible to ignore the latest pushes towards dependency promoted by the Obama administration: they have gutted workfare reforms enacted during the Clinton administration, and encouraged cradle-to-grave government reliance, best expressed by the creepy "Life of Julia" story Obama's re-election website.
such realities impossible to ignore? Obscuring them has become child's play for the American left. In a nation filled with substantial numbers of morally-indifferent, economically-illiterate Americans, "the rich don't pay their fair share" truly resonates. It resonates despite the reality that the top ten percent
of wage-earning Americans now pay more than 70 percent of the nation's income taxes, and 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income taxes at all. It resonates because the human condition is hard-wired to contain a certain level of envy regarding someone else's success--especially when one's own life doesn't measure up by comparison.
Yet it is that hard-wired nature of the human condition that also contains the seeds of destruction for progressive ideology. In short, progressives have a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature. Every expansion of the welfare state is based on the premise that eliminating the obstacles of life that ostensibly inhibit success, will almost invariably cause people to pursue success. It is the idea for example, that giving people "temporary" assistance, be it food, housing--or a free cell phone--will give them time to gather their energies, and cross the threshold from dependency to independency, even as they remain eternally grateful to those who provide that assistance.
It's utter nonsense. In reality, the overwhelming majority of people are fallen creatures who travel the path of least resistance. An ever-expanding welfare state is constantly smoothing that path, even as the understanding of right and wrong that would normally mitigate peoples' desire to relinquish greater portions of their lives to government bureaucrats, is being undermined. Thus, it is also quite likely that people intuitively recognize the debasement of human dignity when they watch that video.
The leading edge of such ideologically-instigated debasement is currently playing itself out in Europe. Millions of people are furious, lashing out in all directions save one: at themselves, and the devil's bargain they collectively made with their respective welfare states. Welfare states that made utopian-esque promises impossible to keep. That is not to absolve the promisers, who were more than willing to ignore the inevitability of "running out of other people's money to spend" as long as they could maintain power. Furthermore, the reality that these power brokers in government and finance have made themselves whole once again, even as millions continue to suffer, cannot be ignored. But as it was noted above, the moral relativity engendered by the same leftist ideology that gave us those welfare states, is a scourge that knows no class boundaries.
Is it possible that so much of what is said here can be extrapolated from a video less than a minute long? Since YouTube disabled the comment section below the video, we can never know for sure. Perhaps they considered it better than letting what might have been an avalanche of racist rants gin up even more controversy than this video has already ignited.
On the other hand, it is no secret that the American left, and sadly, not an insignificant portion of the American right, would like to avoid any honest discussion of who we are, and
what we are becoming. Race, morality and ideology are weighty and difficult subjects to confront when America is prospering. As we remain mired in economic uncertainty--and on the cusp of what is likely to be an historic election--genuine forthrightness remains in short supply. For Barack Obama, such reticence is politically expedient. For Mitt Romney, it is unconscionably timid.
One may disagree with some, or all, of my analysis here. But one thing remains inarguable: the "free phone lady" video has gone viral. And we ignore the discussion it elicits, now matter how raw or unpleasant, at our national peril.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment on JWR Contributor Arnold Ahlert's column, by clicking here.
09/24/12: The Lovers' Quarrel Between CNN and the State Department
08/22/12: PC Kills American troops: More than 100 unarmed already murdered by Muslim 'friends'
08/20/12: The PC Insanity Surrounding the Nidal Hasan Trial
08/16/12: Dems Believe Nothing Beats Something
08/14/12: Republicans Roll Over on Debate Moderators
08/08/12: Soc Sec Propaganda: the Left's Greatest Triumph
08/06/12: Harry the Weasel
08/03/12: First They Came For My Chicken Sandwich . . .
07/30/12: Stupidity Sold As Common Sense
07/24/12: Obama's 'You Didn't Build That' Was No Gaffe
07/17/12: LIBOR: Another Symptom of the Same Disease
07/09/12: Dear Mr. Romney
07/02/12: Different Shades of Lipstick on the Same Socialist Pig
06/27/12: We're Going to Do What We Want, and We Dare You to Stop Us
06/25/12: Fast and Furiously Diverting Attention from the Economy
06/20/12: So Much For Stopping the Leaks
06/18/12: Another Feckless Attempt to Change the Conversation
06/12/12: Mr. Obama's Latest Fantasies and Fabrications
06/04/12: Progressivism: An Adolescent Ideology
05/21/12: Drones Against Democracy
05/17/12: Pay Up --- Or Else
05/07/12: A Tale of Two Women
05/01/12: 2012: The Economic Paradox No One Wants to Talk About
04/23/12:2012: A Referendum on Our National Character
04/13/12: Feel This
04/11/12: Teaching Dependency
04/04/12: Network News Shapers
04/02/12: Stabbing Israel in the Back Is More Like It
03/19/12: Gas Pains and Debt Bombs
03/12/12: Israel Under the Bus
03/05/12: Baby Steps Down the Road to Depravity
02/27/12: Debasing Our Military, One Politically Correct Moment After Another
02/20/12: The 'New Normal' of Rampant Illegitimacy
02/13/12: Sandwiches or Freedom?
02/10/12: Progressive Obsolescence
02/06/12: Safeguarding Kids No Match for Following Procedure
01/29/11: 2016: R.I.P. GOP
01/26/11: Obama's Happy Talk Versus Bernanke's Action
01/23/11: South Carolina Goes for the Media-Masher
01/17/11: Nuking the Strait of Hormuz?
01/09/11: Coercion and Incentive Are Not Interchangeable Terms
01/06/11: Will We Retire Obama --- or the Constitution?
01/03/11: Dumb -- or Disabled?
12/27/11: Islamists Celebrate Christmas
12/19/11: A Deficiency of Decency
12/16/11: Better a A War On Whiners Than Christmas
12/12/11: Anybody But Obama
12/07/11: Connecting the Feckless Foreign Policy Dots
12/05/11: Can We Keep Our Republic?
11/28/11: Cyber Crack-heads
11/21/11: Water Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Think
11/18/11: Walking along Avenue J(ew)
11/09/11: Military Scandal, Media Blackout
11/09/11: Open-Mics and Closed Minds
11/07/11: Back in the EU--SSR
10/31/11: Camping Out in La-La Land
10/14/11: Bagman Tim
10/13/11: Are Colleges Too Big to Fail?
10/11/11: Why aren't they upset when their child is mugged in school?
10/07/11: I Stand With the One Percenters
10/03/11: Can We Legalize Assassination?
09/29/11: Tim, Liz and Bev Equals Moe Larry and Curly
09/26/11: No Acknowledgment of Israel? No More Money
09/19/11: Jobbing America
09/16/11: Carville knows a few things about crazy
09/12/11: Contemptible Krugman
09/09/11: Solving the 9/11 Invitation Controversy
09/06/11: Our Progressive Economic Wrecking Crew
09/01/11: Summer Swoon
08/29/11: The Real American Fanatics
08/24/11:The Five Stages of (Progressive) Grief
08/22/11:The Inevitable Descent From Progressivism to Nihilism
08/22/11: Perry Stands Firm. Obama Stands Mute
08/15/11: Give Me a Flatscreen TV, or Give Me Anarchy!
08/11/11: Resign, Mr. President
08/08/11: Facts? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Facts
08/03/11: Manufactured Crises
08/01/11: Stay Healthy, America --- or else!
07/28/11: Existential Crisis, Part 2
07/25/11: Three-Out-of-Four Americans Are Radicals
07/21/11: What Does Two Plus Two Equal?
07/18/11: News Nuggets
07/13/11: The Write Stuff
07/11/11: Completely Expectable Unexpectedness
07/07/11: Organized Cheating
07/05/11: Stimulating Disaster
06/30/11: Progressivism Masquerading as Education
06/27/11: America: Greece With Better PR
06/23/11: NBC-ya Later
06/19/11: One Man's Conversation About Race
06/10/11: An Exhibitionist in an Exhibitionist Age
06/07/11: NAACP Betrays Black American Schoolchildren
06/02/11: For the First Time in My Adult Life . . .
05/31/11: If I Were President
05/25/11: California Dreamin'
05/23/11: On Wisconsin!
05/20/11: Obama's Farewell to Israel Speech
05/16/11: Krauthammering Amnesty
05/11/11: Bounce, My Backside
05/09/11: The Epicenter of Progressive Contempt for the Rule of Law
05/03/11: SEALing Osama's Fate
05/02/11: The Education plantation
04/24/11: The Bell May Toll for Jersey Toll Collectors
04/19/11: From Medical Dependency to Dependency on the Welfare State
04/14/11: Trumping the Debate
04/06/11: It Takes a Bigot to Expose a Death Cult
04/04/11: Charlie and Snookie --- and Barack
03/30/11: Disabling America, One Lawsuit at a Time
03/28/11: The MSM Kills the Kill Team Story
03/23/11: Another Military Scandal
03/21/11: Barry, Joe, Helen and Wisconsin Teachers
03/16/11: The Inevitable Viability of Conservatism
03/14/11: Progressives in Their Own Words
03/09/11: $61 Billion in Cuts --- Vs. $223 Billion in One Month of Spending
03/07/11: Bean Bag B.S.
03/02/11: A Green Catastrophe in the Making
02/28/11: Ain't Noting Like the Real Thing
02/23/11: Progressive Rot vs. the ROTC
02/21/11: Wisconsin: Progressivism in All its Ugly Glory
02/18/11: News reporters --- or Narrative Shapers?
02/16/11: The Presidents Budget Proposal: An Obamination of Progressive Profligacy
02/14/11: Only Another 9/11 Will Alter the Illegal Immigration Status Quo
02/10/11: Is O'Reilly losing his touch or is he just irresponsible?
02/07/11: Tossing Britain Under the Bus
02/03/11: Starving the World In Order to Save It
01/31/11: Walking the Middle East Tightrope
01/27/11: Small-scale Terrorist Attacks: Big Strategy?
01/24/11: Jeffery Immelt: A Crony Capitalist In Charge of Job Creation
01/20/11: An Intimate Prime-time Interview
01/17/11: Progressives: Always Angry, Newly Desperate
01/12/11: Twain vs. the Totalitarians
01/10/11: Politically Correct Passports?
01/05/11: Showdown at the Fiscal Corral
01/03/11: Reading the Constitution Aloud is a Good Start
12/30/10: Getting Our Moral Mojo Back
12/27/10: PC Airport Safety is an Oxymoron
12/23/10: Getting America Back On Track
12/20/10: A Collectivist Coalition of Convenience
12/15/10: The President Who Wasn't There
12/08/10: A Lethal Military, Inclusive or Not
12/06/10: The Unexpected Consequences of Progressivism
12/01/10: Leakers and Losers
11/29/10: We Won, Part One
11/22/10: Keep Your Hands Off My Constitution
11/17/10: Grope and Change
11/14/10: Taking Back Our Country, One School At a Time
11/11/10: Checks (and Balances), Please
11/08/10: Curtain Up, Progressives Down
11/04/10: Last Chance, Republicans
11/01/10: By Their Own Words Shall Ye Know Them
10/28/10: Progressive Determination to Undermine American Elections
10/25/10: Shock, but more importantly, action: De-Unionize Public Schools now
10/20/10: Multiculturalism? Check, Please
10/18/10: Healthcare: Alice in Wonderland vs. The Constitution
10/11/10: Vote for Restoring the Rule of Law in November
10/11/10: Dems: Running From Clarity
10/07/10: Hypersensitive Hogwash
10/04/10: Comprehensive Con Artists
09/29/10: Why Dems Are Going Down in November
09/27/10: The Unholiest of Unholy Alliances
09/22/10: Two Words for Republicans to Remember: I Won
09/20/10: Purging Me First Politicians
09/17/10: No More Lesser of Two Evils
09/15/10: Recovery Arms Race
09/13/10: Bigots in the Majority --- Again?
09/09/10: Giving Voters Something to Vote For
09/07/10: Irresponsible Dems, Incomprehensible Bills
09/02/10: War Weary Americans vs. Implacable Islamists
08/31/10: A Dream Debased
08/25/10: American Bigots Versus Media Propagandists
08/23/10: Recovery Bummer
08/19/10: An Unholy Alliance of Radicals
08/16/10: You've Lost America, Mr. President
08/13/10: The Twin Towers of Progressive Disconnect
08/11/10: A Far Better National Discussion
08/09/10: It's Only One Dead Nun
08/06/10: Incremental Tyranny
08/04/10: Ground Zero Mosque: Context Counts
08/02/10: The Arizona Ruling: a Gift for November
07/29/10: The United Cities of America
07/26/10: JournoList: Coordinated Ideological Bankruptcy
07/20/10: Go For Broke Or Get Out of the Way
07/14/10: You're a Liberal/Progressive if You Believe…
07/12/10: $33-an-hour--For Sleeping On the Job
07/08/10: Extortionist Government
07/06/10: Commerce Clause Totalitarians
07/01/10: Another Public School Travesty in MA
06/30/10: Calling YOUR Bluff, Mr. President
06/28/10: A Trifecta of Progressive Corruption
06/23/10: Plug the Darn Hole --- In Our Border
06/21/10: Our Empty-Suit-in-Chief
06/16/10: Betraying Our Children
06/14/10: Who Gets the Benefit of the Doubt?
06/07/10: Politically Correct Warfare
06/01/10: Bill Maher's Black President
05/25/10: A Mosque At Ground Zero
05/23/10: Libs Stand Tall --- For Mexico
05/19/10: The 'Unintended Consequences' of Liberalism
05/17/10: 'Los' Suns: Stuck on Stupido
05/12/10: Union Audacity: Yes We Will!
05/10/10: Greeks, Leaks and and Double-Speak
05/05/10: Twelve Million Illegals --- or Thirty?
05/02/10: Republicans: Playing Not to Lose Doesn't Cut It
04/28/10: Arizona: Progressivism's Waterloo?
04/26/10: Son of Amnesty
04/22/10: Mortgages and Moral Meltdowns
04/20/10: Bashing Christians Or Gays?
04/15/10: Personal Integri-tea
04/12/10: Fools, Tools and Ghouls
04/08/10: (Tea) Party On
04/05/10: The Triumph of Mediocrity
04/02/10: Two For the Road
03/29/10: The Innate Immorality of Liberalism
03/24/10: The Art of War
03/22/10: I Want My Country Back
03/18/10: A Perpetual Process
03/17/10: American Exhibitionists
03/15/10: A Light Bulb Moment of Clarity
03/10/10: Little Things Mean A Lot
02/03/10: Budgetary Fork in the Road
02/01/10: Liberal Economic Illiteracy
01/27/10: Roe-ing and Wade-ing Back to Reason
01/25/10: Arrogance When Up, Denial When Down
01/20/10: Connecting the Educational Dots
01/19/10: The Next Tea Party?
01/15/10: The Myth That Keeps on Giving
01/13/10: Airport Security Begins Away From the Airport
01/11/10: Secrets and Lies
01/08/10: Embracing Bigotry or Rejecting Bullying?
01/06/10: Hanging by an Ideological Thread
01/04/10: Our Wonderama Bureaucracy
12/30/09: A Day Off
12/28/09: Dangerous Myths
12/25/09: I, Me, Mine
12/23/09: A Very Harry Christmas
12/21/09: My Opinon
12/18/09: The Party of Repeal
12/15/09: Privileged Exemption
11/30/09: Settled Science and Unsettled Children
11/30/09: American Sharia Law
11/23/09:The Trial (Travesty) of the Century
11/04/09: American Vampires and Their Political Enablers
11/01/09: Opting Out of Insanity?
10/28/09: Cell Phones Cause Brain Cancer. Brain Required
10/26/09: Communism: Nazism With Better PR
10/21/09: Just Asking
10/16/09: Cost Projections vs. Actual Costs, or Hope and Change vs. Reality
10/14/09: News you can use …
10/07/09: Incremental Insidiousness
10/05/09: MIA: Common Sense and Common Decency
09/30/09: Iran: Bad Options and Unpreparedness
09/21/09: Crying Racism: the Last Refuge of Scoundrels
09/11/09: 9/11 Cannot Be Sanitized
09/08/09: Truthers and Consequences
09/01/09: A Paper Trail Challenge for the Mainstream Media
08/31/09: Drowning in Amorality
08/26/09: The Republican Recovery Program
© 2011, Arnold Ahlert