|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
After many months of conservative claims that Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are determined to engineer a "government takeover" of the private sector in order to "redistribute" income, Steele is upping the ante to suggest that Obama wants to redistribute healthcare – and perhaps even the opportunity to take another breath – as well.
This should be familiar to any political observer over the age of 30 as a new version of the old "welfare wedge": the emotionally powerful conservative argument that Democrats want to use Big Government to take away the good things of life from people who have earned them and give them to people who haven't.
The "welfare wedge" largely disappeared from national political life in the wake of the 1996 welfare reform initiative that eliminated any federal entitlement to cash assistance for families, imposed a work requirement for temporary assistance, and generated, for a while at least, a massive reduction in "welfare" caseloads.
It returned during the latter stages of the 2008 presidential campaign, when conservative gabbers and ultimately the McCain-Palin campaign attacked Barack Obama's tax proposals as a "redistributive" effort to offer "welfare" by boosting the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit – by definition eligible only to families with earned income and stiff payroll tax liability. This was interesting not only because the EITC had long been a staple of conservative social policy, but because previous efforts to call refundable EITC payments "welfare" had been denounced by George W. Bush and John McCain.
After the election, the "welfare" treatment of Obama's tax policies was echoed by similar conservative rhetoric about proposals to help homebuyers getting hammered by the mortgage and real estate collapse. Most famously, CNBC financial reporter Rick Santelli became a right-wing folk hero for a rant about the injustice of being asked to help the "losers" who took out mortgages they should have known they couldn't pay. This was at about the same time as Republican members of Congress began handing out copies of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," with its prophecy of a dystopic society in which socialist "looters" and Christian "altruists" had brought the United States to its knees, and some conservative agitators began urging "productive" Americans to emulate Rand's plutocratic heroes by "going Galt" and refusing to contribute to the welfare state. The "tea party" movement that ramped up in opposition to Obama's economic stimulus proposals was heavily freighted with this sort of revolt-of-the-producers attitude.
Rick Perry's talk of secession appears to have buoyed efforts by Texas secessionists who want the governor to follow through. At a rally Saturday on the Capitol steps, members of the of the Texas Nationalist Movement called on the governor and the Legislature to put a referendum on the state ballot on whether Texas should leave the union. At an anti-tax "tea party" protest in April, Perry touted states rights and raised the possibility of secession.
On Saturday, secessionist speakers denounced the federal government in general - and the Obama administration in particular. One speaker said, "We are aware that stepping off into secession may be a bloody war. We understand!" Another self-styled patriot invoked George Washington as an ally of secession (History lesson: Washington presided over creation of the union) and Sam Houston - "You go ask Sam Houston what he thought about secession. He did it anyway." (History lesson: Houston opposed secession. He ran for governor as an independent Unionist in 1859. Despite his efforts, the people of Texas voted to secede, and he was forced out of office in March 1861. )