, the Grand Poobah of left wing political bloggers (I have to be nice to him because he was one of the first big leaguers to link to my site and I almost always agree with him/her/it/them), wants to end heartland welfare
among the big square states in the middle of the country. He says that "farm subsidies are likely the largest income redistribution program in the country. Add in the increased costs to consumers due to ridiculous agricultural tariffs, and we see that these "Americans" actually love redistribution - as long as they benefit from it."
These comments are sparked by commentary by David Brooks, author of Bobos in Paradise
(a book I happened to enjoy if only for the description of the bobo kitchen) in the Times. He seems to think that most people don't want to attack the rich because, despite all evidence to the contrary, they think maybe someday they might be rich themselves. Atrios and many of his commentators are unhappy because those in the "big square states" are perfectly happy taking wealth redistribution (in the form of farm assistance and import tariffs, I assume) but keep voting for the party that doesn't want to redistribute wealth in a more overt and direct way.
I can understand the point. Crop subsidies, land banking, drought assistance, farm loan guarantees, and so forth are little more than welfare for farmers and ranchers. But you have to remember that the farmer or the rancher doesn't consider himself a worker. He's a businessman
, on the same level with Chrysler or any other business that the feds bail out. In the minds of farmers and ranchers, farm assistance is not a handout; it's an investment to keep the people of this country from starving or paying $5.00 a loaf for bread or $20.00 a pound for hamburger. It keeps farmers off welfare (yes, yes, I see the logical problem there). It strengthens our country's exports. And so forth. Besides, if all the farms fail, what are we going to do with all the unemployed farmers?
This, however, isn't why the farmers and ranchers out here don't vote Democrat. It's because they have bought a few basic myths:
- Democrats, and especially liberals, want only to raise taxes, especially property taxes, for programs that won't benefit me.
- Democrats, especially liberals, want to take God away from me.
- Democrats want to make everybody become a homosexual.
- Democrats want to surrender this country to the United Nations.
- My parents voted Republican, therefore I have to vote Republican.
- Besides, if anybody finds out I voted Democrat, I'd be run out of town.
Mike Meister, during his run for Attorney General, was fond of pointing out exactly what Atrios said. He also pointed out that the generous nature of Nebraskans is a very liberal trait. Yet he got his lips ripped off last November. The bottom line is this: folks in these big square states just hate Democrats because the Democrats have sat back and let the Republicans sell the Big Lie for years without answering it.
As for Brooks' contention that each community believes it is the "best" and feels sorry for everyone else, I am afraid that's true out here in the hinterlands. There are a goodly number of kids who grow up in small towns and can't wait to leave to go to the Big City (Omaha, population 300,000!) but that's about as far as they go. I know many, many professionals and artistic types who ran away to New York or L.A. in their youth who returned here to raise families. They like it here and truly do feel sorry for New Yorkers who live stacked up on each other or Angelinos who drive an hour to go to the grocery store. (Again, so do people in the Sandhills, but somehow it's different
-- plus la change, plus la meme chose
). They don't want to be New Yorkers -- and they don't really believe they will become Warren Buffet. They'd like to be able to pay the bills regularly, and everything over that is gravy. Or so goes the myth.
I'm not sure why Atrios says we have "disproportionate" political power. If I count all the states west of the Mississippi from Montana to Oklahoma and exclude Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, I get 66 electoral votes -- fewer than the West Coast states. And they are hardly monolithic: Utah's interests are not Nebraska's, for example. Maybe if the Democrats would come here more often we might be able to undermine the Big Lie. Remember, this was the home of populism a hundred years ago.
But yes, Atrios, we in the Big Square States like income redistribution if the money comes our way. It just has to be sugar-coated to make it look like we earned it. And perhaps that's the secret all around, anyway. The only income redistribution I see is when the money all goes up and stays in the hands of the wealthiest 1%. The guys at the bottom earn it. Maybe the message just needs to be framed in those terms to make it clearer to the American public.