Tag Archives: Welfare

Look for the helpers


Disagreements are scary things sometimes: people yelling, accusing, abusing.  What to do? I recommend turning to Mr.Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Inspired by one of Scott’s comments the other day, let’s call this the “helpfulness objective.”  The HO ought, like the principle of charity, to guide one’s discursive interaction.  It’s fine to be critical (jeez, that’s what we do here all of the time), but the objective of criticism ought to be the improvement of the overall quality of our arguments.  After all, we come into arguments with an objective: demonstrating the correctness of our position.  If we fail in this, then we need improvement; if others fail, they need it.

Here’s a good example of the HO in action from Mike Konczal at the Washington Post’s Wonkblog:

Perhaps some of these programs should be discontinued, or expanded, or turned into straight cash. (How about cash instead of food stamps?) But we can’t have a productive conversation unless we make it clear what the government is, and is not, doing. And it is spending a lot less on welfare than conservatives claim, and getting fantastic results for what it does spend.

What is critical here is the opener (“let’s have a productive conversation”), rather than the closer (“are they lying or stupid?”).  Nice work.  Here’s to the HO.

OMG. What if?

Mark Steyn’s recent contribution to NRO’s page is an exercise in (a) guilt by association, by way of (b) rampant speculation.  The ultimate payoff is to criticize the food stamp program.  Here’s how the line of argument goes:

[The House Audit and Oversight Committee] are now trying to discover whether the Tsarnaev brothers used [Food Stamp EBT cards] to pay for the Boston Marathon bombing

OK.  So where it stands is: we don’t know if they did.  But there’s an investigation into the funding.  Ah, so we might have, in providing a safety net for millions, provided the means for a lunatic fringe to build a bomb from household and cooking supplies. (Pressure cookers.) Maybe.

Ah, but all the ‘maybes’ in the world won’t hold Steyn back.

Paying Islamic terrorists to blow you up is more like assisted suicide.

And… Scene.

Earlier in the post, Steyn complained about the fact that the EBT cards had been used to buy porn, piercings, and manicures.  Add funding terrorist attacks to the list.  (Maybe.) Well, that’s enough to be up in arms about the welfare state — we, as Steyn sees it, not only encourage dependence, but irresponsibility and wantonness with welfare.  And terrorism.  (Maybe.)

Oh, and Steyn’s analogy is flawed: in providing the minimal means to live to the Tsarnaevs, we weren’t paying for them to blow us up. We were paying for them to survive and eventually prosper.  That they used that generosity against us is simply more testament to the fact that their minds were infected with hate — they were aggressive toward a society and state that had showed them some consideration.  We didn’t deserve that.  Would Steyn’s alternative be that because we don’t want that, we’ll cut off all those other people welfare helps?  I’m pretty sure that’s the plan.