Stumbling candidate for Nevada’s 4th District in Congress, Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) is the subject of a very interesting retrospective compliments of Steve Sebelius. Mr. Hardy’s adopted as his very own the 47% argument first inartfully set forth by Mitt Romney. Then things got worse as Hardy attempted to conflate the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and whatever right wing rants to which he’s been listening, when speaking of the Cliven Bundy Ranch standoff between Bundy’s Brigade of radicals and cop killers and Federal officials attempting to get Bundy to pay up like every other rancher. Undaunted, Hardy tumbled down the rabbit hole of “segregation laws” during an attempt to explain his position on discrimination in hiring.
As if his position weren’t crystal clear he added a reference to a “welfare district” which doesn’t leave much room for re-interpretation. There’s a lesson in all this somewhere. That lesson is probably not to plead illiteracy and a paucity of vocabulary: “I’ve never been slick or polished. I grew up on a ranch and learned to stand up for what I believe and to speak my mind respectfully even when others may disagree.” [Hardy]
Growing up on a ranch doesn’t explain away being inarticulate, nor does it offer any justification for being a practitioner of slip-shod logic and rhetoric. The reference is simply an appeal to the Common Folk brand of political propaganda. The Plain Folks technique is as old as propaganda itself, and it demands that the listener ask: What are the speaker’s ideas worth when they are divorced from the personality of the speaker himself?
In Hardy’s case, not much.
The 47% Myth is a pure Republican creation, and about as self serving a concept as can be imagined. If a person is not paying Federal Income taxes that’s because the person isn’t earning enough to have a tax liability – as contrasted with, say, Mr. Romney who managed to pay about 13.9% in taxes because most of his income is derived from interest and capital gains. However, that doesn’t mean the individual isn’t paying any taxes. Of the current 43.3% who are not liable for Federal Income taxes about 28.9% pay Social Security/payroll taxes. That leaves 14.4% who don’t pay either Federal Income or Payroll taxes. Who are these people?
About 9.7% of these people are ELDERLY with incomes less than $20,000 annually. 3.4% of them are people who are not elderly, but whose income is less than $20,000, and there are 1.3% in the “others” category. [Tax Policy Center] That “others” category often includes the disabled. Surely, Mr. Hardy is NOT trying to bemoan the lack of federal tax liability for the elderly poor? Or, the disabled? Or, both?
History Lesson – the Federalist Papers were written as newspaper opinion pieces on behalf of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. They are NOT part of it, any more so than the anti-Federalist papers written by “Brutus” between October 1787 and April 1788 in New York. [mmisi pdf] The Federalist Papers have become a cause for the conservatives, some of whom read them (or don’t) as a guideline for original intent; and, as with any documents the interpretation of them is often found in the eye of the beholder. However, the ideological underpinnings for modern conservative thought are quite often more in line with the arguments offered by “Brutus” in the Anti-Federalist collection than in the contentions and ideas set forth by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay. Consider this example from “Brutus” (Robert Yates)
“This government is to possess absolute and uncontroulable power, legislative, executive and judicial, with respect to every object to which it extends, for by the last clause of section 8th, article 1st, it is declared “that the Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this constitution, in the government of the United States; or in any department or office thereof.” And by the 6th article, it is declared “that this constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and the treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution, or law of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” It appears from these articles that there is no need of any intervention of the state governments, between the Congress and the people, to execute any one power vested in the general government, and that the constitution and laws of every state are nullified and declared void, so far as they are or shall be inconsistent with this constitution, or the laws made in pursuance of it, or with treaties made under the authority of the United States.” [Const.org]
And, after this and several more paragraphs, Yates declares his opposition to the adoption of the new Constitution. This excerpt from Yate’s publication is far closer to the modern States’ Rights/Limited Government than anything one might find in the Federalist Papers. It must be very trying to purport to be a Constitutionalist while sounding ever so much like the Anti-Federalists who argued against the original ratification.
About those “segregation laws?” No, it’s not inarticulacy which ties a politician up in knots when trying to explain that opposition to employment discrimination is tantamount to creating “segregation.” It’s the sheer unalloyed nonsensical illogical construct itself. What Hardy, and altogether too many others, are trying to say is that they opposed adding members of the LBGT community to those having standing to file a lawsuit for employment discrimination as a protected class. To “segregate” these individuals would be to continue along the current course – to separate them from those who have the opportunity to resort to litigation in the face of employment discrimination. The essence of Hardy’s argument, such as it is, is that employers should have the right to separate themselves from those people they don’t wish to hire predicated on gender discrimination. It’s discrimination which begets segregation, not the other way around, and that explains Hardy’s inability to express an acceptable position – not his “ranch bred inarticulateness.” [See also NVProg]
About that “Welfare District?” This isn’t so much a dog whistle as a fog horn. He might as well have quoted one of the more infamous residents of southern Nevada:
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do. “And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.” [Cliven Bundy, WaPo]
Would the North Las Vegas public housing project be that “Welfare District?” Mr. Bundy and Mr. Hardy apparently have bought into the Welfare Queen Myth lock, stock, barrel, and ramrod. There is probably no convincing them that the 2011 consumer expenditure survey (BLS) thoroughly debunks the myth. Equally unproductive would be any attempt to convince them that only about 20% of welfare recipients are categorized as “long term,” some 80% get out of the system and stay out for at least five years. No, for Mr. Bundy and Mr. Hardy, the face of welfare is Black, the cars are always Cadillacs, and they’d not listen even if CNBC told them the whole system has changed.
No, they’ve clutched the Heritage Foundation’s deeply flawed analysis which says that if you have a air-conditioner in your apartment you aren’t really poor. Let’s think about this for a minute. 9.1% of Americans over the age of 65 are classified as living in poverty. [Pew] Further, let’s exclude the fact that many apartments in hot climates come with air-conditioning included in the rental agreement. Let’s simply focus on those 9.1% of Americans over 65 whose incomes are below the poverty line – do we want them living without air conditioning in hot locations? Here’s a cautionary tale from the CDC:
“During June 30–July 13, 2012, a total of 32 deaths (0.11 deaths per 100,000 population) from excessive heat exposure were reported, including 12 in Maryland, 12 in Virginia, seven in Ohio, and one in West Virginia. In comparison, a median of four and average of eight (range: 1–29) heat-related deaths occurred in the four states during the same 2-week summer period each year of 1999–2009. The median age of the 32 decedents was 65 years (range: 28–89 years); 72% were male. Most decedents (75%) were unmarried or living alone.” (emphasis added)
Is the death of a person from “excessive heat exposure” acceptable? These people weren’t driving an Escalade, most were men living alone, without adequate ventilation or cooling in their quarters, and with a median age of 65. Are those the Undeserving Poor who are “Takers” and thus are the disposable parts of our social contract? Mr. Hardy might want to hone his arguments against government assistance in light of these considerations?
It might be that for most people the tragic death of one elderly man in an un-air-conditioned apartment is one too many—but for Mr. Hardy is it better that the man succumbed to excessive heat exposure than for a single other person to game the system?
What we can gather from Mr. Hardy’s comments is a picture of a man, who isn’t really inarticulate, but whose arguments are so far from the reality of our social and political lives that they can’t be expressed without resorting to an unacceptable glossary of ideological and racial/ethnic ideas. This has nothing to do with being “slick and polished.” It has more to do with being humane and realistic.