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Campaigning on Government Dependency

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
All the pundits and self-described strategists weighing in on Mitt Romney’s 47-percent comments are missing the point. Indeed, most are so immersed in Washington’s corrupting culture that they cannot imagine a political system that creates anything other than ever-increasing government dependence. No one likes to admit it, but most career politicians want you to be dependent upon government.

Politicians of all stripes campaign on what they have done for their constituents. That’s what made earmarks so popular with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. They could fire off a press release touting a new bike path or attend a campaign event centered on the groundbreaking of a community center.

The not so subtle implication was that the politicians were the providers. Of course, they are not so much providers as redistributors. They provide the programs by which they coerce the makers to funnel money to the takers.

Nonetheless, it is all about what perceived benefits politicians could deliver to their constituents back home. The more they provide to their constituents, the more essential politicians become. And let’s face it, a career politician’s dream is to become indispensible to their constituents.

A typical politician campaigns to protect programs A, B and C, while promising new programs to do X, Y and Z in the future. Oh, that same politician also says his opponent not only opposes new programs to do X, Y and Z, but he is going to gut programs A, B and C, too.

Only when you understand that dynamic can you understand the politically perceptive nature of Romney’s comments. Not only are there those “who are dependent upon government” and “who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them,” but there are politicians who perpetuate that belief.

Just take the now-stalled farm and food stamp bill.

Last week, the Associated Press explained, “Farm-state members of Congress have campaigned for decades on the back of farm bills delivering election-season subsidies and other goodies to rural voters.” This year, however, they will be “returning home empty-handed.” Farm-state Democrats are following the familiar pattern, “gloating” that rural communities will collapse unless voters side with Democrats in November.

Instead of bickering about the political implications of comments and policies, we should be considering the impact government dependency has on real people (as opposed to those fake people who inhabit the mythical ground surrounding our nation’s marble-clad capital).

New data from the American Community Survey (ACS) shows 2.2 million more people were living in poverty in 2011 than in 2010. That means, nearly five decades after Lyndon Johnson declared a “War on Poverty,” roughly 1 in 6 people living in America live in poverty.

At the same time, our dependency on government has only increased. According to The Heritage Foundation, prior to the War on Poverty, just 28% of federal spending went toward dependency programs. By 2010, that number had grown to more than 70%.

Although the government-centric policies of the previous half century have failed, many Americans still live under the false impression – perpetuated by self-serving politicians – that Washington is the source of prosperity.

Not only does that run contrary to our nation’s founding principles, it also conflicts with human nature. The anti-poverty programs designed by liberals have done little to promote self-sufficiency and independence; instead, they have served to erode our civil society by making politicians the collective providers-in-chief for their constituents.

During a July fundraiser in Montana, Romney made clear he had no intention of being the provider-in-chief. He said if voters “want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy-more free stuff.” He wisely added, “nothing is really free.”

Over the next six weeks, as you listen to politicians campaign for your vote, ask yourself one simple question: are they promising me a lifetime of child-like dependency or the opportunity to grow into an independent adult.

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