Sunday, April 9, 2017

On Self-Reliance (Does It Exist?)

The Alec Baldwin skit that opened last night's Saturday Night Live portrayed Turnip meeting with a group of Kentuckians who voted for him. One by one, each person asks him to make a positive change in their lives, such as health care or a job. To each one, he says some version of "No" and they smile and say thank you and that they still support him.

Today, the Star Tribune ran a story called Minnesota's evangelical voters sought a change agent in Donald Trump. It focused on McLeod County, which is made up of almost 50 percent self-identified evangelicals, the highest percentage in the state. They think, on the whole, that Turmp is doing a heck of a job. I read it and despaired, of course.

Later in the day I saw some tweets by local journalist David Brauer. He quoted this part of the story:

“They’re hardworking, conservative people,” said seven-term state Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, whose district includes portions of McLeod County. “They have general distrust of large government and government programs. They believe in God and they’re as self-reliant as they can be in today’s age.”
Brauer then shared two images showing McLeod county farmers got $135 million in federal subsidies between 1995 and 2014, and that the county gets back more than 100 percent of what it paid in for highway funds to the state:

Other rural counties get back as much as 400 percent more than they pay toward highway funds; Hennepin County (home to Minneapolis) gets back 51 percent.

He then went on to list these stats for Local Government Aid, which is the name for how Minnesota shares overall tax dollars with counties and cities. This is for 2014:
Glencoe (city in McLeod County) $232 per capita
McLeod County $202
Minneapolis $192
Minnesota average $115
And that's not counting the home mortgage deduction or other ways subsidies reach people.

Brauer's point is that too many people, including the hard-working people of McLeod County, mythologize themselves as self-reliant and that others (somewhere, somehow different from them, possibly with a different skin color) are not self-reliant. And journalists let them get away with that.

As long as people maintain this self-delusion, it's hard to have a meaningful discussion about how to run the country most fairly.

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