Liberals are often accused of promoting policies which encourage government mooching and the avoidance of accountability. Many conservatives assert that programs like welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, WIC and higher minimum wages cause people to be lazy and unproductive. Valid arguments can be made for both why safety nets are needed and that those safety nets can create dependency. But the focus of this article is, are liberals bigger freeloaders than conservatives?
I do not believe liberals are bigger freeloaders than conservatives. I have come to this conclusion for several reasons; which I will explain. But what truly helped me arrive at this conclusion is having the experience of living in both larger-city liberal and small-town conservative areas. And despite the political atmospheres being quite different, I noticed a particular commonality. Both places had their share of freeloaders.
I have seen conservatives promote the idea that government assistance to the poor only continues to exist because freeloading liberals are voting to keep it that way. There is this idea that good, hardworking people are being taken advantage of by people who vote to maintain a lifestyle of non-productivity and frivolous spending. But there are two major assumptions within this line of thinking. One is that most of the people abusing the system in this way actually care enough to vote. The other is that when they do, they vote for Democrats.
In my current small-town environment I have had the opportunity to come into contact with many conservatives (I am an independent). Many are self-motivated and hardworking. But I have also had the occasion to cross paths with people who are taxpayer mooching freeloaders, yet consider themselves to be conservatives. Are they merely in the closet about their liberal leanings? No. All that has occurred is that like many Americans, their political positions are fickle.
As much as most of us want to profess we have established our political stance because we have carefully weighed all the evidence and then arrived at a logical conclusion, this is usually not the case. To this day some of the biggest predictors of how we will vote, or at least lean politically, are based on factors such as where we live, racial identity and age. How our family and community tend to lean, is the direction we are likely to also lean. Yes, there will always be exceptions to this, but they are in fact exceptions rather than the norm (that is of course, minus that late teen/young adult rebellious phase).
Furthermore, even when we do attempt to make political decisions based on “the issues,” we tend to mainly focus on 1-3 which are the most important for us. For instance, racial minorities are statistically more likely to vote Democrat. Yet, they are also statistically more opposed to abortion and homosexuality. How can this possibly be in our society where you are supposedly either 100% liberal or 100% conservative? For most in those groups, their belief that Democrats are more likely to address economic and racial inequalities overrides most other issues. Likewise rural whites may dislike Republican policies which have led to outsourcing labor, yet their concern for issues like illegal immigration, gun rights and foreign policy keep them firmly in the Republican camp. (Thus why campaign stops only focus on 1-2 issues which change based on the audience)
The point being made here is voting habits are more often a reflection of someone’s environment, rather than how productive they care to be. This is why a person who considers themselves to be conservative, could also be someone who abuses or becomes dependent on government assistance programs put in place by liberal politicians. Of course, this is given that this person even makes it to the polls.
People who do not invest in themselves enough to pursue employment or further education are also unlikely to really involve themselves in the political process. Sure they will have their opinions about elections and policies, but do not believe this means they will be motivated enough to voice it at the polls. Statistically, upper and middle class individuals vote in much higher percentages. The less education someone has, the less they are likely to vote (a college grad is almost twice as likely to vote compared to a high school grad). This then means that lower-class, uneducated individuals are perhaps the least likely groups of people to actually advocate for themselves at the ballot box. Many are not even registered.
The notion that welfare and other programs are being kept in place thanks to a politically active group of liberal slackers is ridiculous. The numbers simply do not support that theory. The top states which have the most people on welfare or receive more assistance than they contribute to those programs are solidly red. Am I using these numbers to say conservatives are then the biggest freeloaders? No. The general idea that anyone receiving government assistance is freeloading is ridiculous. According to most data, at least half of the households receiving government assistance have an employed occupant residing there. There was no significant difference in this trend between red and blue states. But by all means, please continue with this, “Get off welfare and get a job!” slogan.
Most people are not on welfare because it is their lifelong dream. In most cases, the jobs and salaries needed to keep up with the ever rising costs of living are simply out of reach. Since the majority of Americans find themselves on the lower end of the economic totem pole, conservatives and liberals are both facing this reality. And if someone is working or has worked for years before losing their job to the recession, outsourcing, technology, etc… are they really a freeloader? Are they not simply benefiting from the system they have paid into? If this is considered mooching, then we are all moochers whenever we accept an insurance payout following a car accident.
Now at this point I could go into corporate freeloading done at the taxpayer’s expense, but I will save that for another article. For now, how about we simply refrain from making general assumptions about people who receive government assistance and why they do. In my experience, those who are true freeloaders usually either have no shame about it or are far too ignorant to even understand why it is a problem. So why shame those who really are trying to make it, yet still find themselves in need of help to keep food on the table? No matter how conservative or liberal someone is, it does not increase their ability to create a livable wage in an economy plagued by factors beyond their control. Freeloading is always a reflection of someone’s character, not their political allegiance.
By Corey Dorsey
Image by johnny_automatic