The Self Made Myth
|September 9, 2012||Posted by Adam T under News Bump, Political News, Political News - U.S.|
A renewed focus on the idea of individualism and making it on your own seems to be in full swing on the Republican side of the aisle this year. The Republicans went so far as to convert an out of context quote by President Barack Obama into the theme for their convention this year. Republicans would have us believe we are all “self made,” that every man is an island unto himself that determines, through his own choices and his own choices alone, where his life will lead. And, in contrast, they would have us believe that government does not help anyone build or accomplish anything. In other words, if you’re successful it is because of good choices, and if you are not successful it is because of bad choices. These ideas are false.
For an example of a successful man, take a look at Bill Gates. Bill Gates is not every man. He did not start from rags, he started with a middle class background, college educated parents, and he was also a white male. He already had an advantage going in. He is an example of a man who didn’t make it without a significant advantage and help from his family. Throughout his whole life, he went to school funded, at least in part, by public money. He went to school via the roads that were built by the government. And now that he has made it, he gives money back through charities and he supports taxing himself and people like him more.
Normally, pointing out a specific person with wealth who also advocates for taxation on himself and others like him elicits the “he should just cut a check to the treasury” argument. It’s a bogus argument that is basically saying all taxes should be voluntary or itemized selections. Both of those would collapse the entire tax system, and thus the government would also collapse. It is important to remember that the government also backs the U.S. dollar, giving it legitimacy in the world. It is also the global reserve currency. What this means is, fundamentally, that without government money basically ceases to exist.
Not everyone can choose to invest or take out a loan. And often people who are poor do not have many choices in what they buy, because of what they can or cannot afford. In other words Wal-Mart or other stores with oodles of lowest-bidder-made goods get the bulk of the buying because the “rules” are such that a poor person is very very likely to remain that way. Education, health care, and tax law all play into this.
Education is being cut, so more people don’t have the mental tools or earned skills to get ahead. Health care is being cut, and costs are going up, so if there’s someone with unexplained fatigue that could be a deathly illness or something as simple as allergies they cannot afford to go to the doctor to be checked out. Free clinics and sliding scale are also being cut and/or removed, making the problem even worse.
Tax law – well Republicans actually spent a good month near the beginning of this year arguing that the poor aren’t really poor and we should tax them more because of bogus statistics about who pays taxes and how dare they be so poor they have no federal income tax liability. This is all placing the responsibility where it doesn’t belong, implying that the poor are poor by choice and really have nothing to complain about anyway. It also, by implication, leads people to believe that if choices the poor make keep them poor, the choices rich people make keep them rich, and both types of people deserve everything they get.
So the Republicans have supported taxing the rich less, taxing the poor more, and making sure the poor have less and less health care and education. All of that, if implemented, leads to a society in which it is only the underdog out of millions that can rise past all that, mostly through pure luck. All the rationalization in the world won’t change the actual effects of all these policies in place at once and being pushed to their limit every time Republicans get into office. Rationalizing all this away is just being apologetic for really morally bankrupt policy platform.
With all this taken into account, Republicans believe in a false narrative. We are not all “self made,” with no involvement from any other people or government help. We all rely on the infrastructure paid for through taxes. Many of us rely on social programs whether or not we realize it. We all rely on police and fire services. We all also rely on our parents, teachers, and other authority figures for our education and well being until we can take over those things for ourselves. Republicans would have us believe otherwise. But, as Former President Bill Clinton said in his speech at the DNC this past Wednesday, “One of the greatest chairmen the Democratic Party ever had, Bob Strauss, used to say that every politician wants every voter to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself, but, as Strauss then admitted, it ain’t so.”