Joseph Cotto, 1/13/2015 [Archive]

America is Becoming a Welfare State

By Joseph Cotto

As the controversy builds over anything and everything relating to Barack Obama, many Republicans have come to believe that their party will prosper as a result.

This definitely was true in last year's midterm elections, which had record low turnout rates, but the upcoming presidential race will be a different story.

In November 2012, as ballot returns were trickling in, television host Bill O'Reilly remarked that America is a changing country. This was in reference to the fact that an increasing number of people are dependent on direct government assistance — 49.1 percent in 2011 versus 30 percent in 1983.

Combine that with the unremarkable assertion that people tend to vote their pocketbooks, and you have increasing voter support for candidates who promise to continue and expand that assistance.

Exit polls showed that 20 percent of voters in 2012 had an annual income below $30,000. Sixty-three percent of those supported President Barack Obama, while 35 percent went for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. When a politician finds such overwhelming traction within a group, coincidence is not the reason.

This should have been evidence enough to support O'Reilly's argument. Like clockwork, however, our nation's media hounds exploded in fury.

Mitt Romney, who is now pondering a third try at the Oval Office, joined O'Reilly in stating the obvious in a conference call several days after his defeat. In so many words, he credited Obama's second term to the allotment of "gifts" for key members of the latter's electoral coalition. These gifts, of course, came in the form of direct public assistance programs.

The unfortunate reality is that emotionalism has taken a firm hold of our country's political arena. Aside from the ever-expanding welfare state, we vote our beliefs and cherry pick information to confirm our ideas. Prior to the 2012 elections, people on the right were highly prone to this, so lost in confirmation bias that some believed Obama would lose in a landslide.

The data suggesting otherwise were in front of them all the time, but they refused to see it.

Now, an alarming number of people on the left knowingly ignore the glaring statistics. This is understandable, as the data don't entirely support the version of reality they prefer, but it's still an unhealthy way to look at the world.

A major reason for centrism's contemporary decline is that it offers little room for the this kind of emotionalism. It should come as no surprise that most of O'Reilly's and Romney's detractors are either well to the left or to the right.

It is this atmosphere which the GOP not only must deal with, but conquer. If such a feat can't be accomplished, then the Republican brand is finished in the long run.

Considering that the GOP is now at war with itself, how can it earn serious consideration on the national stage? Should economic demographics fail to make Republicans unelectable, then they will probably finish the job themselves.

Talk about a bleak future.

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Copyright 2015 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at joseph.f.cotto@gmail.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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