Democrats: Using band-aid remedies to “cure” systemic failures

bandaid-2One of the mantras to emerge from feminist side of the Leftist swamps during the late 1960s/early 1970s was notion that “the personal is political.”  As used by the feminists, it meant that, when suburban women got together to burn their bras, examine their genitals in mirrors, and gripe about patriarchal oppression, they weren’t just engaging in the updated version of coffee klatches.  Instead, this “consciousness raising” was a political act because the conclusions they reached would drive their politics.

As is so often the case when it comes to manipulating the political process, the Leftists were onto something.  No matter what they say, most people don’t approach issues through education and analysis, nor do they abandon ideas just because those ideas actually fail when they finally leave the analysis phase and become operational.  Instead, most people are driven by emotion:  Do I feel like a good person when I do this?  Is the beneficiary of my political act a good person?  And the contrary is true too:  Am I punishing an “evil” person if I vote or act in a specific way (since punishing an “evil” person elevates my “goodness” quotient).

I’m not saying anything all of you haven’t already figured out.  The only reason I mention this is because I’m struggling with the way in which I can counter a compelling, hard Left HBO documentary that my daughter saw, one that has left her inclined to believe that the welfare state is the answer.  The documentary is “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert.”

Maria Shriver, who produced the documentary, chose well when she and her team selected Gilbert as the poster child for single mothers, since Gilbert is a very sympathetic woman.  She got married at 19 (no out-of-wedlock children here) and had three children with her husband.  Unfortunately, her husband was addicted to prescription drugs (no tawdry illegal meth addiction here), wrecking the family finances and destroying their marriage.  The show picks up with Gilbert now in her mid-20s, working hard for $9.49 an hour at an assisted living center for the elderly.  She’s able to do this work because her children attend a government-funded pre-K daycare center in their hometown of Chattanooga.  Further, this loving mother puts food on the table only thanks to the food stamps.

As Alfred Doolittle would have said, Gilbert is definitely among the deserving poor.  When you see Gilbert — who did the right thing when she married her children’s father — struggling to cope with sick children and a flooded house (her boyfriend’s house), you can’t help but feel sympathetic.  You want to help her.  You want her to earn more money considering how hard she works and you want her to have better childcare opportunities.  And you think to yourself, “Heck, if she  lived in Denmark, none of this would be a problem.  (In part, of course, because Denmark’s young people aren’t having children to begin with.)  Gilbert would get free child care, a high living wage, all the benefits in the world, and be able to take endless sick days for her kids, as well as for herself.”

When the documentary ends, by which time you’re firmly rooting for Gilbert, the film hits you with the real numbers.  Gilbert, we’re told, isn’t an anomaly.  She’s part of a crowd:  According to the documentary, Gilbert is the living embodiment of the 42 million women in America who live at or below the poverty line, along with (I believe) 28 million children.  The documentary doesn’t have to say what we need to do.  It’s quite obvious that we ought to raise the minimum wage, make free childcare available to all American children, and provide comprehensive welfare for food and housing.

In case you’re too dim to reach this conclusion by yourself, HBO helpfully provides a guide for you to read alone or discuss with a group.  Some of what you’re supposed to discuss involves smart choices women can make.  Other discussion ideas, though, encourage Big Government as a solution, and advance a highly partisan Progressive agenda:

The Chambliss Center [pre-K childcare] is very important for Katrina. When she picks up her children she says, “The kids are learning so much here. If I went to a normal day care center, it would cost me $300 per week for all three of my children …that’s a whole paycheck.” Child care expenses for families with working mothers can range from 20 to nearly 50% of the mother’s monthly salary. How do you think Katrina would function if her kids weren’t at the Chambliss Center? Do you know anyone who is struggling with childcare needs? What can we as a society do to help? How important is it that the Chambliss Center operates 24/7?

Numerous studies have shown the long-term benefits of high-quality early education for young learners. However, fewer than 30% of American 4-year olds attend high quality preschool programs. President Obama expressed his support for universal high-quality preschool and many states have been developing universal pre-K legislation and programs. What do you think are some of the advantages and disadvantages to government sponsored universal pre-Kindergarten programs?


What did you know before about federal programs like Head Start, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit? Has this changed after viewing the film?

What are the social services in your area for families in need of financial assistance? Do you think it’s not enough, or too much? How are they affected by budget decisions at the State and Federal level? Do you think people are aware of what government programs provide? How do you think people feel about receiving assistance? Can you think of other programs that could be helpful to women on the brink?

The study guide ends with a list of resources, the second of which is the hard Left Center for American Progress, which some describe as the “shadow Democrat party,” and which sets the agenda for many of the Obama administration initiatives.  People troubled by the hardships Gilbert faces will quickly learn that Big Government is the only thing that can save her.

After my daughter saw the show, she was pretty sure that we ought to have more free education for the pre-K crowd, more free daycare, more free food, and mandated higher wages.  She was certainly correct that each of these things would have been an immediate benefit to Gilbert.  My task was to get my daughter to see that these are all band-aid remedies that might staunch small individual wounds, but will  not stop the fatal hemorrhaging in the American economy.

The problem I had is that there’s nothing sexy about free market fixes.  They’re abstract and the benefits fall randomly, rather than on specific, targeted people, such as Gilbert.  It’s this last fact that means that market reforms cannot guarantee immediate — or, indeed, any — aid to sympathetic figures such as Gilbert.

People who watch the documentary want Gilbert to be fixed immediately and her personal life becomes an overarching political argument.  When I said that single motherhood is the biggest dividing line between rich and poor, my daughter pointed out that Gilbert had her children within a marriage.  When I said mothers should stay married if at all possible, she pointed out that Gilbert’s husband was a drug addict who destroyed finances, so staying together was not an option.  When I said that education is important, she noted that Gilbert was trying to go back to school, but could do so only with government help.

My prescriptions were a free market (as opposed to the over-regulated market we now have), which has proven repeatedly to provide increased economic opportunities for everyone, not just government cronies; education, marriage, and children, in that order; and sticking with a bad marriage, provided that it’s not violent or otherwise abusive, because that is the best way to avoid poverty for both women and children.  My daughter’s prescriptions after getting a close-up look at Gilbert’s sympathetic struggles were Big Government.

I didn’t increase my sympathy quotient when I explained to her that there will always be poor people, no matter the system.  (In North Korea, outside of government circles, everyone is poor.)  In a strong, free-market, capitalist system, fewer people will be poor and even poor people will do better than in non-capitalist countries.  For example, I said, while Gilbert is struggling by American standards, the reality is that she shares a big house with her boyfriend, complete with a modern kitchen and nice electronics; she has government-subsidized food; she owns a car; and she has a smart phone, as do all the other adults in her low-income world.  It’s almost ludicrous to call her experience “poverty” when one looks at poverty in Brazil or India or Cuba or North Korea or large swathes of Africa.  Yes, she’s struggling, but life is struggle.

ThornsIt would be lovely to give an economic band-aid to the hardworking Gilbert.  But when the Democrats demand 42 million band-aids for all the other single mothers, you’ve got a problem.  If the body politic or body economic really were a body, this would be the scenario:  The American body (we’ll call it Sam) gets entangled in economic brambles, and poor Sam ends up bleeding from millions of scratches on his arms and legs.  He looks at the scratches and thinks, “Yikes, I need some band-aids.”  Fortunately for him, a mobile blood bank rolls by and offers to buy almost all of his blood in exchange for 42 million single-use band-aids.

Sam is delighted with this offer.  He’ll be able to stop the blood flow, even though he’s probably giving to the bank almost as much blood as he’s losing to the cuts.  What Sam ignores is that, when the bandages are applied and the mobile blood bank rolls away, he’ll still be stuck in those brambles.

Economic reality says that, if you’re mired in brambles, you don’t sell all your blood for band-aids, while remaining deep in the thorns.  Instead, you first get out of the brambles Only then do you deal with the worst cuts, ignore the rest, and get down to the business of regaining your health and staying away the brambles that got you into trouble in the first place.

None of the above is sexy.  Advocating a free market capitalist economy so that there will be fewer poor people is not sexy.  Encouraging marriage, even unhappy marriages, for the sake of the children is not sexy.  Acknowledging that there will always be poor people and they will always suffer is not sexy.  And trying to explain that, in a healthy economy, fewer people are poor and fewer people remain poor isn’t sexy.  Appearing to turn your back on the Gilbert’s of the world isn’t only un-sexy, it appears downright sadistic.  And explaining that economic reality means that it’s impossible to be, simultaneously, both a comprehensive welfare state and a thriving free market is un-sexy too.  (Not to mention the fact that you have to explain that Europe managed to have a welfare state with a capitalist gloss only because America paid for Europe’s defense during the long Cold War years.)

I’ve described one show and one child who was moved Left by its message.  However, this close, personal focus is a chronic issue when dealing with the Left.  To gain sympathy for its larger agenda, the Left always focuses on the one child who’s illegal immigrant father is deported (although never the one child whose redneck father goes to jail following drunken revelry); or the one single mother who did all the right things; or the one single Gitmo detainee who was a mere child when the Taliban forced him to kill Americans.  The focus is always tight, obscuring the rest of the message.

I mentioned the other day that Ben Shapiro has written an excellent book about arguing with Leftists, How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them, which you can get free by registering at Truth Revolt. The book presupposes an argument. My question is how does one challenge this type of gooey, emotional propaganda, which gains a wide television audience and promises that the world can be healed, one government band-aid at a time?

Be Sociable, Share!
  • Jose

    There is no doubt that assistance to some is justified.  Perhaps your daughter should start making some kind of charitable donations herself, to help the truly needy.  You can help by setting the percentage of her assets to donate.  And she doesn’t need to have any say on how the money is spent.  She may not want to contribute to sex changes for prison inmates but you can make that decision for her.  And you’ll need to keep a bit, for your administrative costs.  Do you have a home office that may need remodeling?
    The message isn’t that people don’t need help.  The message is that government is a poor way to administer help. 
    Why would the Maria (Kennedy) Shrivers of the world want government run charitable programs?  With her resources, she could accomplish a lot more on her own if she was serious.  If she wanted to get her hands dirty. 

  • Charles Martel

    In Roman times, misery and suffering invited sneers and derision. They were sources of entertainment for a populace that lived in a perpetual “if not for him or her, that would be me” view of life.
    We’re more advanced now. We are the People of the Big Hearts. We cannot abide struggle or suffering, and we seek quick solutions to them. Thus, Book, your daughter, a product of our time, looks to her easily swayed heart to tell her how we can best help Gilbert. It doesn’t matter, as you’ve pointed out in your adult manner, that the Band-Aid applied to Gilbert, if multiplied millions of times, is impoverishment for those of us forced to “solve” her problems.
    Your daughter is a microcosm of what we’re up against. If a smart kid from a household where the mother is awake can fall so hard for treacly appeals to her empathy and sense of charity, we’re in trouble. She doesn’t yet have the intellectual tools or acumen to see through the manipulations that are being foisted on her. I don’t know what you can do.

  • Matt_SE

    Your daughter has been the victim of a fraud, perpetrated by the left in general and HBO in particular to create a false narrative.
    The switcheroo happened here: “According to the documentary, Gilbert is the living embodiment of the 42 million women in America…”
    No. No, she’s not.
    Gilbert was cherry-picked because she is seemingly beyond reproach. Someone truly undeserving of her fate.
    Let’s examine why she is so unrepresentative, based on your daughter’s criteria for sympathy:
    Gilbert had her children within a marriage: Share of unwed births (2008) by race: White 28.7%, Black 72.3%, Hispanic 52.6%, American Indian 65.8%, Asian 16.9%. Percent of all births to unmarried women (2012): 40.7%. (Therefore, 59.3% of births were to married women) OF SPECIFIC NOTE: Of 15-19 year old first time mothers, only about 11% of them were married at the time, according to HHS.
    3.954 million children were born in the US in 2011. Of this number, 329,797 were to teens 15 to 19, or about 8.3%. This is material because Gilbert’s problems are greatly a result of becoming a first-time mother at so young  an age (by today’s standards)
    So, out of all women giving birth in the US, Gilbert was in a group containing only 8.3%, and out of *that* group, she was in a further sub-group that were wed containing only 11%. That’s 0.083 times 0.11, or 0.00913 (less than 1%!!!)
    But somehow, she is the living embodiment of the 42 million women in America.

  • Matt_SE

    The point that Gilbert is unrepresentative is important because HBO is conspiring to craft US policy based on her. Her experience DOES NOT REPRESENT most American women, not least of which are the 42 million mentioned.
    This is the old “bait and switch.”

  • Matt_SE

    Instead of filling the page (and I could) with examples, I’ll simply note that discrediting Gilbert’s status as a representative is only one way to attack this specious argument. There are several, like the opportunity cost associated with establishing a welfare state (economic), the effect on individual initiative (psychologic), the efficacy of the welfare state to achieve its goals (practical), the ethical dilemmas inherent in redistribution of wealth (moral).
    I leave it to you to come up with your own examples.

  • Ymarsakar

    It’s like trying to argue with some guy in the desert that the water he sees is a mirage and he needs to go this other direction. It’s not obvious.
    I presume your daughter has the basics of logick that is workable, since she talks with you since from birth alone. In that case, the job is not to provide examples but to inform her of some additional aspects, such as the Democrat “single mother” in Texas. The people who will be in power, who will get the vast majority of the benefits, will be those Democrat “single mothers”. The point is to stick to the corruption, not the virtues. So that corruption overcomes virtues.
    How many psycho Democrat politicians are we going to subsidize in order to help a single Gilbert? And how many Gilberts will the Democrat enslave once the Democrats are put into power due to the cash flow? It’s a basic mathematical equation. Even on a 1 to 1 level, where you help one Gilbert and subsidize another Democrat Texas “single mother”, what you end up with is the fake single mother deciding for Gilbert what Gilbert should do.
    In this sense, it’s time to go O’Keefe and crush the Left’s dreams and faiths. A sustained armor piercing barrage must be applied to penetrate the Left’s armor and propaganda, before it hydra regenerates.
    “If a smart kid from a household where the mother is awake can fall so hard for treacly appeals to her empathy and sense of charity, we’re in trouble.”
    Most of the corruption comes from the so called man of the house(hold). Although over the years, I’ve often felt Book is the one that wears the pants, as she exemplifies more masculine qualities than the other one. But it’s typical of Marin and California that such people are produced. It’s something in the air.
    Until the daughter book sees for herself that the Left is full of hypocrisy when it comes to helping women (Afghanistan), she is going to believe in authority. And authority tells her that 42 million people all clamor for the Money. Which will be conveniently distributed by Democrat rapists, child molestors, and corrupt con artists. Conveniently. The point is not to focus on stopping the money from reaching the Fourty Two Million people they want to help, the point is to focus on the Left’s weakness, which is their upper echelon freaks and the lower echelon criminals. Get enough darkness, enough hate, enough blackness, that it’ll wipe out any hope of idealism or “good intentions” for Leftist operations. Human emotions are a balancing scale, positive wars with negative. So long as you don’t provide enough negatives, the positives of believing in the Left’s salvation will trump things like fear of death.
    You have to bring the Left’s corruption closer to people, so they can feel and smell the rot. Describing it isn’t enough. That’s what O’Keefe does. It digs through the smellies garbage, the most infected sewers and trash cra heaps, and presents it under the NOSE OF THE PEOPLE. So that the people are FORCED to look at the truth, instead of hiding in their Cathedrals of Ignorance and Human Leftist Utopian perfection/paradise. Like Breitbart, it’s time to smash the Left’s nose in and keep on doing it, wailing on them. The point is not to convince people, allow the Left to convince people, that is what they are good at. But don’t let the LEft set the terms of the propaganda. Don’t argue about 42 million this or 42 million that. The numbers don’t matter. The facts don’t matter.
    Emotion is only argued with better and harsher emotions. Belief is only answered and countered by stronger and better beliefs.
    The propaganda is set up in a fashion where attempting to prove the Left’s incorrectness ends up with you attacking Gilbert. So you, hateful Republican, will fall into the trap Mike here outlined. If you fall into the trap of attempting to discredit Gilbert, you’ll be seen as the conservative monster that doesn’t care about the little guy. Whereas if you attack the Left personally and highlight the Left’s power to destroy the Gilberts, you will appear differently. It doesn’t matter what people believe, people will believe what they want to believe and what they fear is true.
    Specialists in psychological warfare and propaganda don’t care about people’s beliefs. Those beliefs are easily controlled and molded via force or technique.

    I recommend reading my comment there for case examples of Leftist black ops, the stuff they don’t show on the propaganda good will posters.
    As for Maria Shriver, I believe she is married to Arnold S. Which means she is related to Ted Kennedy. Attack the person who sent the messenger, not the messenger in the form of the docu star. Highlight how the documentary uses people’s poorness, in order to exchange cash for loyalty, to fulfill the work of a clan like the Kennedies. Whether that means attacking Maria or Ted Kennedy doesn’t matter. Either one can work. Although Ted kennedy the dead F is a lot easier to hate.
    The difference between a liberal and a Leftist is that the liberal believes in individual liberty,  FULL STOP. A Leftist doesn’t care and ignores evidence of enslavement. That’s the only key difference that matters in the future war’s ROE, although the Left is already making war on the children and women. The way to test a person’s belief in individual liberty is to see how they react to tyranny. If they fail the test, attack them with hypocrisy and make them choose, again, honestly. Either they are a liberal or they are fake. Either they support tyranny or they support individual free will. The Left’s SOP is that it advertises a utopia where you can be both. Both a tyrant like Hussein and a liberal.

  • Ymarsakar

    Correction, it’s not Mike but Matt SE. Those new to the war often make that mistake concerning which targets to prioritize.

  • lee

    I watched a documentary on an Applachian family struggling to make it. They had a VERY tough life. The mother got help in going to college, and in the end, got a teaching license. The husband set up his own fix-it, odd job business–scraped by, but he made a living. The son had dreams of being a musician, but wound up in the t-shirt business. Somehow, the family scaped up enough money (to get a loan) to buy the t-shirt business. At the end of the documentary, it looked like the t-shirt business had a chance of surviving. The mother pushed her family to work, and work hard. The kids were not terribly inclined to do so, and kind of resented her for it. But the town was in bad shape. There were a lot of people in welfare. The impression one got was that a lot of them just didn’t give a rat’s behind anymore, and prefered welfar to trying to do anything.
    The take away I got from this was that it was better to WORK than to go on welfare, and that work can get you out of a hole.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Ymarsaker, that has to be one of your most eloquent rants ever. 
    Not only is Ms. Gilbert not representative of all 42 million women allegedly in her situation, but your (Book’s) description of the documentary overlooks all the other State and private assistance available to this woman, including EBT cards and Earned Income Tax Credits. Yes, life is tough when you are poor, but trying to make a life in poverty easy only ensures that you will have more people opt for a life in poverty. 
    I once, as a student, lived in a low-income housing project. I fairly quickly realized that there are different groups of “poor”.
    One group was down on tough times and fully deserved, in my humble view, a helping hand. I knew that for these people and their kids, life would become better because of the values they embodied. For them, poverty was a way station. It is for them that EBT cards, housing allowances and such were designed.
    A second group just liked to live poor and had the system down: they collected their benefits and flourished on the underground economy, whether it was drugs, prostitution, theft, scavenged goods or working off the books whenever they wanted. Their children were taught to thrive in the same environment. They were both industrious and creative, in their own way, but also parasitic. They, in my opinion, did not deserve a penny of public assistance.
    The third group was just vile and they deserved to live in abject poverty as society’s rejects. They had no self control, were totally self-centered and parasitic on others. They were the violent criminals, the abusers, the addicts, the useless…and their enablers. They were economic failures because they were human failures. They, too, deserved not a penny of public assistance. But, in their case, their children should definitely be taken from them.
    If only people like Maria Shriver and members of my church who wax loftily and eloquently about the victims of poverty took the time to learn more about poverty instead of romanticizing it. 

    • Ymarsakar

      “They were both industrious and creative, in their own way, but also parasitic. They, in my opinion, did not deserve a penny of public assistance.”
      Remember those guys who would file warranty claims by damaging their products via plugging in wrong adaptors and electricity shorts before the year was out?

  • phaedruscj

    42 million women live in poverty? The most recent Census report  p. 13 clearly shows a total of 46 million persons in poverty of which 26 million are female. Where does the 42 million come from? Some people think numbers don’t make a difference as 42 million or 26 million are both big numbers. But if the film is wrong about 42 million how can you be sure it is correct in any of the other assumptions it makes to support its position. Same for children the actual number is 16 million which is a lot but is not 28 million.
    That report also includes a lot of data that supports your position regarding marriage as the poverty rate for persons in married couple HHs is a fraction of the overall rate.

  • Ymarsakar

    The primary reason why Book’s attacks of logick don’t work is because the teen is using the Left’s propaganda as the forward armor. So obviously your pinkety 9mm won’t go through a main battle tank’s front armor plate.
    You have to hit it somewhere else, flank it, hit the weak points like the treads or blow off the external ammo containers, or shoot a Hellfire at it from above. The idea that whenever the Left comes up with a propaganda attack that the natural reaction is to defend against it directly, at the front where they are strong, is why so many people get defeated. Like the man that stood in front of a tank found out in Tian Square… tanks go over people like you.
    No matter how many AP rounds you think your 9mm has, it will not penetrate the hybrid layered armor of modern main battle tanks. You can shoot 5000 at one point if you don’t believe me.
    An armor piercing round is something like a depleted uranium sabot fired into the side armor of a M1 Abrams tank. That’s what you need to deal with Leftist propaganda. They use the move of Gilbert. The counter of free economy or welfare=bad is attempting to directly defend against the tank blitz. It won’t work unless you got like 1000 people shouting the same thing at the same time, which we don’t.
    People can prepare for counter attacks from the front. But when somebody clobbers them in the back of the head, they get knocked out often by the blow they didn’t see coming. The same applies to Leftist propaganda. Every piece of Leftist mind rape is intended for a subject field, is armed with a certain type of detonator and warhead, and has defense measures for certain types of resistance. So the video about Gilbert is armed specifically to counter conservative ideas about free markets and the welfare economy. Don’t attack the front of a tank. Flank it. Find another way.

  • Wolf Howling

    1.  HBO provides a study guide . . . ?  I assume it is written.  What were the circumstances under which your daughter watched this documentary?  It sounds like a school project of sorts.
    2.  You are certainly right that this problem is systemic.  Any appeal to emotion is manipulative and the left has mastered it.  And unfortunately, emotion usually trumps reason, at least unless you realize that you are being manipulated. 
    3.  Matt_SE – You hit the nail on the head as to the most important point, that the documentary is based on a meta falsehood.  It doesn’t change the reality of Gilbert, but it should completely change the context in which it is viewed.  While it would not be human to feel anything other than pity for Gilbert, it would insane to base a policy decision on one story.  Indeed, the whole history of welfare should prove that point.  It hasn’t alleviated poverty, its made it worse.
    4.  Book, trying to argue first from Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell at the start would indeed be too dry and academic.  You need to make your daughter feel a counter emotion.  No one likes to be manipulated and played for a fool.  That is what just happened to your daughter.  Indeed, any time someone tries to sway you to part with your money based on one or two anecdotal stories, you can safely assume that you are being manipulated.  
    5.  If you can make her understand how she has been manipulated, it may drop the left wing scales drop from her eyes.  And it may effect her perception permanently.  (Then hand her a copy of Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics – it is not dry at all, and it should be required reading for every American.)    
    5.    Your daughter also needs to understand the difference between static and dynamic systems.  Capitalism is dynamic – history is crystal clear that capitalism provides the best opportunity for Gilbert to improve her life.  Socialism is static – it freezes people in their place, partly by giving them things for free, reducing the incentive to better one’s situation, and equally important, by taking money from the free market economy, thus making for less opportunity.  If the economy were booming and labour in demand (like after every post recession recovery but Obama’s, where the opposite is true), would Gilbert have to settle for a $9 job that is only livable if the government takes money from some people at point of a gun and give it to Gilbert?  Yet under Obama, while welfare programs have expanded astronomically, average wages have declined by over $5k, hurting people like Gilbert the most – but also everybody else, including your daughter.  You might want to ask your daughter which she would prefer for Gilbert and herself.

  • Libby

    Since there are already some really good comments, I’ll just add that it may also be good to attack the premise that the government is the sole and best provider of assistance to Gilbert and her fellow 26-46 million citizens in need (sure is a statistically significant difference!). Did Gilbert get any assistance from other family and/or local community services? Who could have assisted her if the government programs weren’t available? These government programs replace/crowd out the traditional community safety nets.
    As I mentioned a few weeks ago, volunteering at a food bank really opened my eyes not only to the kind of wonderful assistance that is available through a private charity, but also the superior efficiency that an organization like this has over a bureaucracy that has built in incentives to grow for the sake of jobs and the political power derived from being the one who controls the money. The ultimate example of bureaucracy instituted to “help people” that mostly helps others would be Obamacare. If she’s moved to make a difference, in which way would she feel she’s more effective: volunteering at private organizations created to assist the Gilberts,  or agitating for someone else, somewhere to use someone else’s (tax) money to help them?
    **I’m also going to recommend another movie, After the Wedding. It’s a family drama, but buried in there is a really interesting question about helping people – about who helps people more (person doing it or the person financing it) and whether it’s better to keep busy helping strangers half-way around the world or to help those at home.

    • Libby

      I think I didn’t make my point well, so here’s a clarification: the HBO movie focuses on one person to make their case, so why not ask your daughter to focus on one person (herself) for the solution? Otherwise you’re talking apple/oranges, one very specific scenario vs.a menu of one-size-fits-all solutions that will ultimately impact everyone (such as the minimum wage hike). The impulse to help is universal (and noble), but what is she willing to do about it? If there were a Ms. Gilbert in her life (a relative, a neighbor, a family friend), in what ways would she help her, especially ways other than merely giving her money?
      Seems that kids today are strongly encouraged to Do Something to Help People, but what’s being offered is more about feel-good acts and political activism. They’ve been instructed to save the world rather than make a personal, tangible difference in just a few people’s lives; getting signatures on a petition for legislation vs. volunteering at an organization that works directly with the needy and/ or just being there to support a relative/friend in need. It may not be as glamorous, but it likely has a much greater impact.

      • Ymarsakar

        I’ve heard that phenomenon called self satisfaction or a personal brand of hero worship. They help themselves feel satisfied, instead of helping other people.

      • Beth

        Yes, Libby–you hit on something key.  We are a nation that throws money at problems.  Money will buy the food, the medicine, the wheelchair, the ramp, the food, the bus fair… fix the problems.  PEOPLE need to fix the problems.  Since the basic family unit has been destroyed, we no longer take care of our own–who does your daughter think would take care of Grandma if YOU didn’t?  Where are Gilbert’s parents?  
        We’ve got to stop throwing money at problems.  Those on the receiving end of aid must be held to higher expectations of self-sufficiency.  Those of us on the charitable giving side must give time and talent, not just treasure.

  • Pingback: The malignant narcissism that is the Democrat party, as headed by Barack Obama()

  • expat

    Book, I’ll share an anecdote that may help your daughter see the other side of the coin.  When I worked for the welfare dept, I had a co-worker who was an older black man who served as a kind of mentor for the rest of us just-out-of college caseworkers. One day he returned from visiting clients and told me he had done something terrible. While reviewing his cases, he noticed that the day of his visit was exactly 25 years after this woman’s family had begun receiving welfare (she was about 5 at the time). When she answered the door, he greeted her with a Happy Anniversary and then told her why in response to her question about the greeting. He felt really horrible about embarrassing her.
    A few weeks later, he came over to me to tell me he had just gotten a phone call from the woman, telling him that she had a job. She told him that his comment made her realize that she had never before thought about what she wanted to do with her life.
    I’m am pretty sure that for every Gilbert there are dozens if not hundreds of people out there who have been deprived of their self determination by the existing “help” that the government gives.
    I agree with Libby that the closer the source of help is to the recipient, the more likely it is to deal with them as individuals with abilities and dreams of their own. Sometimes something as simple as sharing a recipe with someone at the food bank can do a lot to encourage them to try something out and to convince them that they are not a different species from the helpers.
    Tell your daughter she should always as what kind of help is more likely to empower the recipient.

  • David Foster

    I’ve heard the term Synecdoche (using a part of something to represent the whole) used in reference to this kind of media presentation, in which a single individual is used to stand for a whole category of people.  I think Republicans/Conservatives/Libertarians need to do a whole lot more of this sort of thing: for example, describe the plight of a family who wants their kids to get a good education but is stuck with a bad public school controlled by the Education Blob. And we can do it without intellectual dishonesty, because the plight of one such family *really is* representative of the plight of millions more.

    • Ymarsakar

      We would get victims of the Left on screen with Breitbart and O’keefe but unfortunately most of the Left’s victims are dead in unmarked graves. Ted Kennedy’s woman that launched his career, seen her around lately while floating in the lake yet? Also Breitbart’s dead.
      Propaganda cannot defeat Death. That goes for all of us.

  • David Foster

    Neal Stephenson usefully distinguished between the “explicit, text-based” presentation of information and argument, and the “icononic” presentation. As an example of the latter, he used something he saw at Disney World: a hypothetical stone-by-stone reconstruction of an Indian temple, implicitly carrying an “environmental” message that may or may not have had much to do with the religion that was being invoked in its service.
    Stephenson’s analysis is IMO thought-provoking and important; I wrote about it here.

    • Bookworm

      David:  That’s a great post you wrote about the difference between textual and icononic (or emotional) idea development.

      I also enjoyed the Erin O’Connor posts you sent me too.

    • Ymarsakar

      That’s why Japanese audio anime makes it easier to counter act English Leftist propaganda. Without the support of this external barrier system for Book’s children, Book will have to rely upon herself and her Marin culture.
      Not something I would have went down unsupported. 10 years of watching Japanese anime will build up a protection against iconic propaganda or emotional propaganda. Mostly because the space left unfilled by Western decadence is a lot harder to destroy if it is strengthened.
      English audio anime is not as effective. Because of English.

  • Bookworm

    Everyone:  I have to thank you for your thoughtful, interesting, informed replies.  I’m mulling them over so that I can, without being heavy-handed, broach the subject with my daughter and help her think about issues away from the false, emotion-laden narrative in the HBO “documentary.”

    • Matt_SE

      Out of the possible examples I gave, I would probably start out with the easiest: welfare doesn’t work.
      From an informational/rational direction, it’s easy to show that the numbers don’t add up.
      From an emotional direction, you can show that you aren’t really helping Gilbert, and in fact you might actually hurt her.
      It’s also easy to show that lots of people smarter than us have tried over decades to make this work, and it hasn’t. The easy explanation: it is impossible.

      • Ymarsakar

        The way the movie propaganda works is that it sets up the belief already that it works, that Gilbert did get help from it. In a choice between believing somebody’s claims that the sky is red and their own lying eyes that the sky is blue, most people will say it is blue. Numbers won’t change that.

  • Pingback: H.L. Mencken on the fine line between helping people and controlling them()

  • shirleyelizabeth

    I’m most often loathe to reply to political posts on Facebook, but one acquaintance posting about how important welfare and expanding it is got me. My response was to say that I believe that people are good (why else would we have these programs? The scare tactics wouldn’t work otherwise) and do not want to see their neighbors fail, starve, or go without. I pointed out that after so much money going through the welfare system, there are still so many people who seem to be doing just that, so many people that end up stuck there for life, and so much money intended to help that is lost through fraud.
    The problem isn’t in the intent, but in the method. So I introduced a new idea (which, yes, it’s sad that it was a new idea to these people): welfare not a federal program, but something determined by individual communities – and the money coming directly from the people in that community. I pointed out that people would be far more interested in what was really going on with their money, and that limits and requirements could be set however that community decides. When the community is involved, they are better able to determine what you need besides money, like a skill or interview help or things for baby, and also decide when it is best to cut you off. I offered quite a few anecdotes of ways in which this form of “welfare” (really, goodwill, charity, kindness, love) could work so much better, even in very poor areas (which are usually helped along by charities/churches with deeper pockets anyway). On a thread filled with generally left-leaning, mid-twenty somethings, I was surprised by the number of “likes” my comment received and positive feedback to it.
    The message told is that people in hard times would have nothing else if it weren’t for federal and state (aka, federal funded) welfare, and that the people that don’t like welfare are hateful and mean and think the poor would be better off starved. Tell your daughter the real meaning of the word “welfare”. Tell her it’s a pit of quicksand – trapping individuals and the nation further the more we struggle to stand. Then teach her about real charity.

    • Ymarsakar

      Bottom up hierarchies work more efficiently than top down tyrannies.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Book, doesn’t it really come down to a simple question: if we make poverty comfortable and easy for people, why should they change? Then point her to Dr. Ben Carson’s life story and, better yet, that of his mother.
    Even better, have her read his book:


  • Jose

    From the Diplomad:
    “My money will be going to fund the superstate and its many transgressions. My money will be going to people I don’t like or mostly don’t know. It will help pay for illegal aliens to go to school; pay for food stamp programs to be advertised in Mexico; fund abortion clinics and leftwing public broadcasting; provide guns to drug cartels; suppress dissent at home; listen to every phone call made in America; and, of course, to pay for six out of seven persons now allegedly enrolled in Obamacare.”
    Diplomad also mentions that his wife would like to vacation in Spain, but they can’t afford it.  But he did contribute to Michelle O’s Spanish holiday.

  • riw777

    My answer would be two pronged — and they would both try to address the emotional aspect, rather than the logical (since the left works on emotion). First, if you feel so bad for this woman, then find out what her address is, and send her a check. If you think you can afford to pay more taxes to help her, why pay the paycheck of the person who’s deciding she’s worth helping along the way? Help her yourself.  This exposes the problem with leftist thinking — leftist aren’t thinking about sending their own money, they’re thinking about sending someone elses’ money. The Forgotten Man’s money.
    Second, I would ask her whether this woman needs relationships, or money. You see, if she had a solid community around her, others could help with her children when they are sick, and with a flooded house. Why does she have a boyfriend, rather than a husband? If she’s serious enough to help when his house floods, why not get married and halve your expenses? Because the left assumes, wrongly, that money is a substitute for relationships. In fact, that independence, as a person, is more important than anything else — period.
    But when you put it in terms that expose the two assumptions at their core, you can hope for an emotional reaction to counter the emotions so carefully stoked by the television. “Wait, I’m working hard at my relationships, why can’t she?” And “wait, why should someone watching this program decide to send my money to this woman rather than hers?”
    Beyond all of this, I’ll say — where is the church? As a Christian, I think it’s a crime the Church isn’t in there helping this woman, if she’s a member of a church. But then again, she’s probably not a member of a church; the left would never choose someone like this who’s a member of a religious community, because it would go back to relationships, and relationships — real, human, relationships, not “sex in a bathroom stall,” isn’t what the left really wants. This is the core point at which the left destroys society — by destroying the smaller societies (family, church, civic organizations) in the name of promoting the one society (the state). The left wants the individual free of every relationship with responsibility, and thus wants the individual naked before the state. It’s a tradeoff they don’t understand.

    • Ymarsakar

      That’s quite right. If a person does not love someone enough to fight the world for them, the Left can easily make people submit to the Authority of the Divine Regime.