Saturday, October 31, 2015

To Increase the General Welfare is a very useful site, but at times they publish some odd things.  They just posted an analysis of a liberal meme:

Snopes rated it a mixture of truth and falsehood.  The final quotation about "the disintegration of the family unit," for example, is evidently not genuine.  Some of the services the meme claims he benefited from did not exist when he was a kid -- Medicaid, for example, and affirmative action during his undergraduate years -- and some are dubious according to Snopes, such as the claim that he lived in subsidizing housing: "whether Carson ever lived in subsidized housing in his youth was unclear."

This is important to sort out.  Unfortunately, the writer (not one of the original Snopes bloggers, but someone named Kim LaCapria) makes some unwarranted leaps of her own.  LaCapria wrote that a 2011 profile of Carson "mentioned 'projects' but also seemed to suggest Carson's mother endeavored to avoid government assistance save for food stamps," and quoted the profile:
When Sonya Carson moved her sons from their modest house in Detroit to live with her brother and his wife in Boston, she scrimped and sacrificed so they could return. When they did, they had to settle for Detroit's downtown housing projects — but at least they were home.
"Projects" presumably refers to housing projects, i.e., subsidized housing.  "At least they were home" means they were back in Detroit.  The fact that Carson's mother "endeavored to avoid government assistance save for food stamps" doesn't mean that she didn't fall back on government assistance when she had to.  Then LaCapria quotes Carson from the profile:
I knew [my mother] was trying to keep us off public assistance. By the time I went into ninth grade, Mother had made such strides that she received nothing except food stamps. She couldn't have provided for us and kept up the house without that subsidy.
LaCapria then writes that Carson "never claimed to have benefited from more than food stamps and a free pair of glasses on Uncle Sam's dime."  What Carson said, going by what LaCapria quoted, is that his mother used public assistance of various kinds, until she'd "made such strides" that she only needed food stamps.  That she worked while receiving certain benefits makes her not at all unusual: most people on welfare also have jobs.  Some of them are encouraged to seek welfare benefits by employers who decline to pay them a living wage.  But despite her wish not to use other forms of public assistance than food stamps, it seems she did so, according to Ben Carson himelf.  LaCapria seems determined to miss the plain sense of what he said.

The point of the meme is that Carson is a hypocrite, vilifying social programs and assistance that he himself benefited from.  LaCapria doesn't like that either, and she works hard to defend Carson.  Carson, of course, has denied the accusation.  He told The View:
This is a blatant lie. I have no desire to get rid of safety nets for people who need them. I have a strong desire to get rid of programs that create dependency in able-bodied people.
When you rob someone of their incentive to go out there and improve themselves, you are not doing them any favors. When you take somebody and pat them on the head and say, 'There, there, you poor little thing ... Let me give you housing subsidies, let me give you free health care because you can't do that.' What would be much more empowering is to use our intellect and our resources to give those people a way up and out.
Stuff like this doesn't support LaCapria's very generous framing of Carson's position.  Did the subsidies the Chinese government provided to Apple to develop and produce the iPhone rob Steve Jobs of his incentive?  Evidently not, though Jobs did cultivate a victim mentality and blamed the US government for not subsidizing him enough.  In general, those who are already rich demand more subsidies from the government.

Did the GI Bill rob veterans of their incentive to go out there and  improve themselves when it paid for their college educations and gave them preferential housing loans?  It has often been pointed out that the same people who attack public programs and assistance are generally careful not to recognize the extent to which they use and benefit from government programs -- the "Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare" syndrome.  Carson is pandering to such people with his caricature of the government disempowering the poor.  It would be interesting to know what he envisages as the right, empowering way to "use our intellect and our resources to give those people a way up and out"; on the surface that sounds just as patronizing as the attitude he's attacking.  I doubt, from what I've seen of his response to requests for clarification, that he has any idea what he envisages.  The Republican Party is not interested in what would help, namely more and better jobs that pay enough to support a family.  (P.S. The GOP candidates generally oppose any increase in the minimum wage.)

A number of them have defended Carson where the Snopes post has been linked, and they tend to fall back on a prepackaged propaganda term, "welfare as a way of life."  What advocate of public assistance wants welfare to be a way of life?  Does a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system constitute a "way of life"? What better alternative does Carson envisage?  It may well be -- I haven't checked his website -- that he favors a government-run health care system on his website, but denounces government assistance on the stump, as he vilifies gay people and same-sex marriage in public appearances, and when criticized claims that he favors same-sex marriage and opposes Kim Davis.  It's a great way to run a campaign; it worked for Obama, after all.

I've noticed before, despite the popular right-wing accusations of Snopes' radical liberalism (supposedly because they're supposedly owned by George Soros), that they have a soft spot for right-wing politicians.  They took George W. Bush's side when he claimed he'd been insulted by a liberal, and declared that there's no need for citizens to confront their elected officials face-to-face at all, even politely, since we can vote and write letters to their offices.  (In fairness, they cast it in terms of "respect for the office of President of the United States," not of obeisance to Dubya specifically.)  Now one of their team is doing something similar for Ben Carson.  Odd.  Well, is still a useful site, but like any source of information, must be read critically.

This doesn't excuse the makers of the anti-Carson meme, who did shoddy and dishonest work.  It's only going to get worse as the endless campaign continues.