Over at the Campaign Spot (see links below), Jim Geraghty compiled some clips of the "entitlement mentality" Mitt Romney was referencing in his remarks that were leaked last night. In one, a woman is rejoicing that "Obama" is going to pay for her gas and her mortgage. In another, there's a news report of a crowd being taken in by a scam promising a "prepaid debit card" that was $1,000 in "money from Obama," or "Obama stimulus money."
The fact that people would even fall for the latter scam -- or proudly proclaim their willingness to let the government (that is, other taxpayers) pay their bills -- is a sad sign of the times. Over the last few decades, the left has worked hard to destigmatize the receipt of government benefits. Certainly, anyone can fall on hard times, and that's what the social safety net is intended to address. No one should end up living below a certain standard in a country as rich and as kind as America. But once upon a time, it was seen as something less-than-optimal to be depending on the government in order to get by; people tried to get off public aid as quickly as possible.
Now, the left has created a culture that normalizes -- even celebrates! -- going on the public dole. The problem is that after a while, people who aren't actually in need figure that they might as well help themselves, since everyone else seems to be doing it and no one seems to think there's any problem with it. And then, before we know it, we cease being free people, and all of become -- more or less -- wards of the state. Who's going to pay for all of it isn't entirely clear.
Here is a script of a real, recent USDA ad encouraging Americans to go on public aid, described on the site as a "concept" that "attempts to bring some clarity through a playful interaction between a serious announcer from USDA and an everyday mom."
MALE ANNCR: (clears throat) The following message is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Did you know millions of Americans with low-income can get help buying food? Introducing SNAP. It helps you eat right when money’s tight...
MOM: Wait. Excuse me! Did you say SNAP?
MALE ANNCR: (taken out of his rhythm) Yes. SNAP is the new name for the federal Food Stamp Program. Lots of people with low income qualify for SNAP but don’t know it. If you qualify, you’ll get a card you can use to buy all sorts of food, including fruits and vegetables. It works like a bank card when you check out.
MOM: (joking) A card? Like one you swipe and goes (makes sound effect) beep?
MALE ANNCR: (laughs) Yes, that’s right. (Resumes announcer tone) SNAP offers help to all kinds of people...
MOM: So, wait... can I be eligible if I have a job?
MALE ANNCR: Yes, you can, if your income is low...
MOM: But I have a car.
MALE ANNCR: No problem, you may still qualify
MOM: But, I own my own house, so can I still qualify?
MALE ANNCR: (laughs) Yes, you might.
MALE ANNCR: Ahem. To learn more about SNAP, call 1-800...
MOM: Hold on. Let me get a pen.
MALE ANNCR: Ok. (understanding laugh) Call 1-800-221-5689. That’s 1-800-221-5689. SNAP. Putting healthy food within reach.
MOM: Hey, thanks!
MALE ANNCR: You’re welcome.
And there you are, America! It's as easy as pie (oh, and your food stamps will pay for that, too!). In a sense, Mitt Romney's gaffe created the opportunity for America to have a much-needed discussion on what government -- and government aid -- is for. Is it intended to be a last resort, a way for truly needy families to get by until they're back on their feet? Or is it a way of life, where none of us need hesitate to pick up the phone and have a friendly, "playful" interaction with a government that exists not only to enable survival, but to "enhance" our lives?
If it's the former, count me in. If it's the latter, it's not clear to me how long America can continue as a free nation, populated by self-sufficient (and self-sustaining) citizens.
Judging from Mitt Romney's leaked remarks and President Obama's comments praising "redistribution," it sounds like there is a real and serious difference of opinion here. Maybe someone should actually point this out and ask the American people where they come down on this question.