The current attitude coming from Republicans and conservatives is, why do we even need that socialistic safety net? All it does is create lazy people and keeps them economically stagnant.
Our safety net was implemented in reaction to years and even generations of a lack of a living wage and a comfortable retirement. Back in the late 1800s, the working people of this country were in the same economic situation as many people are today, but they didn’t have the safety net to catch them if they fell onto hard times.
Here is a snip of a speech given by Jacob S. Coxey in 1944, Coxey was supposed to deliver the speech on May 1st, 1894 but was arrested by the Capitol Police for stepping on the grass.
Upon these steps where we stand has been spread a carpet for the royal feet of a foreign princess, the cost of whose lavish entertainment was taken from the public Treasury without the consent or the approval of the people. Up these steps the lobbyists of trusts and corporations have passed unchallenged on their way to committee rooms, access to which we, the representatives of the toiling wealth-producers, have been denied.
We stand here to-day in behalf of millions of toilers whose petitions have been buried in committee rooms, whose prayers have been unresponded to, and whose opportunities for honest, remunerative, productive labor have been taken from them by unjust legislation, which protects idlers, speculators, and gamblers: we come to remind the Congress here assembled of the declaration of a United States Senator, “that for a quarter of a century the rich have been growing richer, the poor poorer, and that by the close of the present century the middle class will have disappeared as the struggle for existence becomes fierce and relentless.” Here is the link for the entire speech.
Here is a quote from an ABRAHAM LINCOLN letter to Col. William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864
“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and cause me to tremble for safety of my country; corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in High Places will follow, and the Money Power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the People, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic destroyed.”
The Lincoln quote is the complete opposite of the Tea Party mantra, that Socialism will be the downfall of this country. What their manta ignores is that socialist programs, like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare have LIFTED or KEPT millions of people out of poverty.
The American middle class has seen the rich get richer and the poor get poorer just like back in 1894. Amazing how history is repeating itself. The names have changed with the exception of a few, like JP Morgan etc., but the mission of aggregating capital has not.
In response to the greed of the capitalist who were known as the idlers and gamblers back then, liberals like FDR instituted the safety net in the early part of the 20th century, a mere 30 or so years after Coxely was originally supposed to deliver his speech in Washington D.C. This safety net expanded as needs grew, with Medicare and Medicaid being part of the safety net in the 1960s.
Perhaps our safety net would not be here today if it wasn’t for corporate greed. As we still see today, greed has not gone away. The CEOs of the S&P 500 earn an average salary that is 500 times the employees on the floors of their stores and factories.
The safety net was a reaction to the lack of living wages given to the American worker throughout the 1800s. The capitalist and Republican leaders of today do not like the safety net because it takes from their profits and earnings and gives it to the average person. This is something they are obviously and historically unlikely to do on their own.
Millions of people rely on the safety net to eat, heat their homes and to clothe themselves and their children. If the corporations they worked for paid them enough to afford these things, the safety net would no longer be needed. But as I said earlier, as long as greed is a part of human nature the safety net will also need to be there to make up for the lack of wages and benefits.
The conservative message that the safety net creates problems lacks any sort of historical intellect. It was the problems of working people that created the need for a safety net.
Going into 2012, the progressive message needs to be shared prosperity. As the economic pie grows, the “wealth producer” aka worker, needs his share of the success of the company. Not many Republican candidates will have a rebuttal, at least not one that makes sense, seeing that everyone knows how screwed the American worker has been for the last 35 years.