THE MYTH OF THE SELF-MADE AMERICAN: WHY PROGRESSIVES GET NO RESPECT
By Sara Robinson
October 29, 2010 - 1:03pm ET
“One of the biggest problems facing the Democrats going into this election is that they're getting absolutely zero respect for everything they've done for the average American over the past two years. Tax cuts, health care reform, financial reform, expanded veterans' benefits, direct funding of student loans -- the list is long, and one that, by rights, should get the Democrats re-elected handily.
The problem is that the average voter has no idea that any of this ever happened. In fact, if you ask most Americans (even a lot of Democrats), they'll tell you that Obama raised their taxes.
This ignorance is on full display at your average Tea Party gathering, which is full of people who will proudly insist that they're entirely self-made. "I did it all myself," they'll snarl, quivering in spittle-flecked outrage. "I didn't get any government handouts. Nobody ever did anything for me -- so why are all my tax dollars going to support those shiftless welfare cheats who aren't willing to work like I did?"…
The magnitude of the self-delusion is gobstopping. Did Mr. Self-Made Man grow up in a VA or FHA-funded house? Attend a public school or college? Go to school on the GI Bill, Pell Grants, or student loans? Does he claim a mortgage interest tax deduction every year? Does he support his retired parents out of pocket, or does Social Security do it for him? Does his employer get government contracts or subsidies that make his paycheck possible? Does his business depend on a sound currency, enforceable contracts, or reliable transportation systems?”
“An Open Letter to the White Right, On the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum
“NOTE: PLEASE RE-READ THE TITLE OF THIS ESSAY BEFORE GOING FURTHER. NOTICE, IT IS AIMED AT THE WHITE RIGHT. NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE. ANYONE WHO THINKS THIS ESSAY IS “ANTI-WHITE PEOPLE,” AS OPPOSED TO THAT SEGMENT OF THE WHITE COMMUNITY THAT IS RIGHT WING, CANNOT READ PLAIN ENGLISH. PLEASE TRY AGAIN.*
For all y’all rich folks, enjoy that champagne, or whatever fancy ass Scotch you drink.
And for y’all a bit lower on the economic scale, enjoy your Pabst Blue Ribbon, or whatever shitty ass beer you favor.
Whatever the case, and whatever your economic station, know this…
You need to drink up.
Because your time is limited.”…
Cassi Creek: Leonard Cohen wrote it in”The Future.”
“There’ll be the breaking of the ancient
Your private life will suddenly explode
There’ll be phantoms
There’ll be fires on the road
and the white man dancing
You’ll see a woman
hanging upside down
her features covered by her fallen gown
and all the lousy little poets
tryin’ to sound like Charlie Manson
and the white man dancin’
Sarah Robinson and Tim Wise both found avenues of attack.
When we college-educated elitists studied Western Civilization, we were taught that the Greek victory over the Persian Empire was a turning point that lead our very distant ancestors toward a society based upon democracy, reason, rationality, and civic duty. Though these concepts were largely lost after the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire; the European Enlightenment finally booted society from beneath the rule of monarchs and religions.
The industrialization of Europe and North America brought to the surface a few men who were able to cash in as leaders and developers of various industries. In the absence of regulations, these men amassed huge fortunes by paying their workers as near to nothing as was possible. The expansion of agriculture into the U.S. as it gained territorial control of the middle North American continent spawned the concept of the independent self-made American. In fact, these farmers and ranchers had to be independent because there was little to no cooperative effort among landowners and homesteaders. Slaves, indentured servants, and hired hands did the heavy manual labor if the landowners could afford to buy or hire them. Large families replaced purchased labor to a large degree.
Children were put to work in mines, factories and other industries with no regard for their well-being or education. Women and men slaved for pennies in sweatshops in our cities and eked out meager livelihoods in smaller towns.
In the absence of educated physicians, sanitation, and other public health services, the life span of Americans was about 40 years.
With the rise of progressive politicians, many of these problems began to be corrected. Public schools made more Americans literate. Public health laws brought longer life spans. The robber barons were reigned in and workers began to bring home a paycheck that bought more than extreme poverty.
In the 20th century, we made huge strides with social safety nets, health care for more Americans, and the improvement of our lives with such tax-funded benefits as publically funded fire and police services, schools and teachers, roads, bridges, electrical networks, and other means of improving everyone’s life.
The self-made man myth ignores the public support of our legal system, public health, transportation, mail, schools, education loans, and a host of services that we use daily without thought as to who pays for them. The myth believer shows up all over the internet spurning social security, Medicare, medicaid, public school teachers, and a host of others. They are often people with small businesses, inherited in many cases, who think government can be run as a business and for businesses. As in Roberts article, they continually deny any benefit from the existing government. If the Teavangelists have their way, there will be many self-made men unmade by the loss of funding for those services they use daily without notice or belief.
Tim Wise is a new source for me. I have to admit that I like much of what I’ve read. The belief that this nation can be rolled backward to the 19th century is likely to hard to debunk. However, Wise is willing to try and I’m sure many others are as well. The damage that the Teavangelists can do is major in scope but fortunately limited in time. Like every hate group before them, time may leave them nothing but a dirt spot on the history of our nation.
FWIW, my college education was paid for with scholarships, with an inadequate Vietnam era GI Bill, and by me working as well as attending school. I attended a state-funded university. I took advantage of the NDEA program for some loans. My profession is federally, and often state regulated because of the potential for harm that can be visited upon patients if inaccurate or incorrect results are used by physicians in providing care. Some of my work went into the public health arena when lack of compliance with food, water, and drug safety regulations resulted in widespread illnesses. The myth that public health and FDA services are not beneficial to all citizens is more smoke and mirrors spread by people who have yet to be handed hepatitis with their hamburger or giardia in their water. They are either too young or too poorly educated to recall what a horror Polio was before the publically funded Salk and Sabine immunizations became available. Unfortunately, the only way that many of these people will realize that their taxes go for good things and that we do not want to roll back the nation to the 19th century is for us to undergo some sort of major dislocation. We too, can become like Haiti before we know it.
It’s time to light a fire and get the pizzas ready for dinner.