Monday, February 28, 2005

Why the Right Hates Social Programs

The elimination of social programs has been a basic tenet of the Right-wing's approach to government for decades; at least since the New Deal. The Left, finding this position morally reprehensible, has sought various models to explain the Right's thinking, in a way that doesn't demonize them. Currently, the model of choice is the one developed by linguist George Lakoff in "Moral Politics". He creates two metaphors for understanding how the Right and the Left view the world. The Strict Father Model for the right, and the Nurturant Family Model for the left. According to Lakoff, the Strict Father Model prizes, among other attributes, moral toughness and self reliance. From this perspective social programs give to those, who are not morally strong and self-reliant, things that they have not earned and, hence, don't deserve. And for them, this is morally wrong. In essence, then, what Lakoff is trying to do is to show that the members of the Right-wing are not the selfish, insensitive, opportunistic hypocrites (that they might appear to be at first glance), but are just folks with a different worldview and moral system.

Well, actually, they are the selfish, insensitive, opportunistic hypocrites they appear to be. Simply, the reason the Right-wing wants to get rid of social programs is that these programs raise the cost of labor. If one can make the equivalent of $5.00 an hour being on welfare and getting food stamps, business would have to offer $5.50 or $6.00 an hour to find workers. If there were no social safety net, there would be no reason wages couldn't eventually be lowered to be more competative with those of underdeveloped nations. If you whittle away all the rhetoric and come to the core goals of Right-wing ideology, the maintenence of a plentiful supply of cheap labor is at the center.

I recommend "Regulating The Poor; The Functions of Public Welfare", by Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, for a history of the right's has attempted to achieve the goal of cheap labor, and especially the gains they made during the Reagan and Bush years.

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