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A history lesson on the safety net

08/26/2011 4:10:50 PM
Florida Senator Marco Rubio does not understand the role of government, or the nature of charitable giving, or history, as he proved when he gave a speech at the Reagan Library in which he talked about Social Security, Medicare, and other safety net programs and said:

"These programs actually weakened us as a people. You see, almost forever, it was institutions in society that assumed the role of taking care of one another. If someone was sick in your family, you took care of them. If a neighbor met misfortune, you took care of them. You saved for your retirement and your future because you had to. We took these things upon ourselves in our communities, our families, and our homes, and our churches and our synagogues. But all that changed when the government began to assume those responsibilities. All of a sudden, for an increasing number of people in our nation, it was no longer necessary to worry about saving for security because that was the government’s job."

And, um … no.

Lots of people tried saving for security, but lost those savings in the recession and crash of 2008. The American people were not sitting there, squandering money and thinking: “No worries; the government will pick up the tab.” That was Wall Street, actually …

First of all, caring for the sick in our family and in our neighborhood is a nice idea, but in the real world it’s so dumb I can’t get my head around it. Sen. Rubio surely understands that every once in a while people get sick with something more than the sniffles and then it’s kind of a problem. Say you have leukemia and you need a bone marrow transplant. You’re looking at needing $600,000. Anyone believe they can rely on their neighbors to pick up a $600,000 medical bill? Anyone?

When it comes to caring for the poor, private charity has never been adequate, and actually kind of sucks at it. That’s why the social safety net was created – it was not, as Sen. Rubio seems to think, an entitlement foisted upon people by big government. It was, in fact, the people who demanded it, who insisted on it, who yelled and yelled for it, telling their government: “Hey, we’re dying out here.”

Eventually, the U.S. government agreed that seeing old people die in the streets was kind of a bad thing. So the safety net was created – but it was far less, in fact, that the people wanted at the time. Check out the history of Francis Townsend, and the Townsend clubs that popped up all over the country, and national grassroots movement that became social security here.

It should be noted that during the implementation of the New Deal and the Great Society, things that are supposed to be wrecking America, we somehow became the best, richest, most prosperous nation in history. Well. Is Sen. Rubio sure about his history? Or is he selling a predetermined narrative designed to get people to vote against their interests and protect the monied classes at their own expense?

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