If it is true that 47 million Americans are on food stamps it is a malignant and metastasizing tumor on the American civic body. Let me clarify: it is a malignant problem for society if you value liberty and human autonomy. If you are a statist or a partisan for the party of government (GOPers not excluded) it is glad tidings of good cheer — your policies are creating new clientele for the welfare state.
If the Republican party were paying attention (we need if in 78 point font) that number would be alarming but also an invitation.
Alarming because growing dependency on government means the American electorate is metamorphosing from citizen to subject to serf. Serfs don’t have a need for limited government or republican democracy for that matter.
An invitation because of that 47 million people a good many do not want to be dependent subjects of Washington D.C. That is the group the GOP must identify and, get this, go make a case for free market, limited government policies that will lift them from poverty. Radical, I know, but that’s where we find ourselves — in the undignified position of having to convince people to vote for us.
Let’s do some unscientific, back of the envelop sorting.
- An estimated 5.9 million adults aged 25-34 live at home with their parents because of unemployment or underemployment. For every one of those 6 million we convert to a conservatism we’ll get two parents in the bargain just out of sheer gratitude for getting the slugs out of the house.
- In 2012 53 percent of of all Americans under 25 with a bachelor’s degree were unemployed or underemployed. This group probably has a significant overlap with the living at home crowd. The difference is in the massive amount of student loan debt they carry. Democrats will use the carrot of debt forgiveness (based on some government designed indentured service) to keep this frustrated lot in the fold. These are future creators of culture. The GOP needs to advertise policies that will return them to full use in the private sector. The GOP needs young, educated, professionals as allies if conservatives are to ever hope of seeing a welcoming media.
- In this group are the truly (as opposed to relatively) poor. The type of people that use busses as the primary or sole means of transportation not because they are urban hipsters or metropolitan professionals but because they cannot afford a car. The type of people that send their kids off to school from a homeless shelter. Do we not have a word of hope, or policy of uplift that does not feature the government, for the them?
- There are over nine million “prime age” (30-49) parents raising at least two minor children who live on incomes below $34,000/yr. Of that number approximately six million are married. The conservative refrain of “get married, then have children and you won’t be poor” is being tested. It is not clear that conservatives are aware of this swelling demographic or that we speak to it in a meaningful way. It is bad policy and worse governance to cede people in those circumstances to a federally designed, bureaucratically administered future of dependence.
We have to be careful that our rhetoric about the relatively poor ( in terms of how many cars, televisions, electronic devices they have etc.) does not separate us from the truly poor. We also need to be determined to actively win the poor to our side. As Newt Gingrich pointed out recently, Detroit has lost half of its population and dropped from number one in income per capita to number 67 but remains a Democratic Party stronghold. The same can be said of many other large cities and soon it will be true of California’s 50 plus Electoral College votes. We cannot assume a poor economy will drive voters our way when we do not present an alternative to the status quo.
Conservatives do not stand for anyone if they do not stand for the poor or between the poor and a horizon narrowing, soul crushing state. We don’t have to sacrifice our principles to expand our base but we do need to explain them.
Author Wendell Talley