When Graves says in his press release, “It’s become a lifestyle for some to actively choose government assistance over work,” it’s another dog whistle: White conservatives take a kind of perverse and ignorant pride in their work and in their value as members of society. They would only take public assistance if they absolutely needed it.
But for others, it’s a lifestyle to actively choose not to. This plays into the idea that the poor and needy have morally failed somehow, that they choose their poverty– and therefore, it’s fair to disdain them, shun them, and make their lives more difficult by adding onerous requirements such as this one. (It’s no coincidence that the bill introduces requirements for SNAP recipients similar to probation: These requirements reflect a conservative belief that being poor is a moral failing that shows someone to be untrustworthy and of low character.)
This isn’t serious legislation. It is cruelty marketed as conservatism, Changes to federal law as part of the welfare reform of 1996 already prohibit anyone able-bodied, age 18-49, and with no dependents– the same people targeted in Graves’ bill– from receiving this benefit for longer than three months at a time.
The emphasis is original to the piece. I decided to leave it in there since it points out that twenty years ago Bill Clinton decided the best way to answer Republican cruelty was to latch himself on to the brand. Just agree to the basic principles of conservative policy so they can congratulate you on your bipartisan wisdom and everyone can get on with their lives.
Of course for many of us, getting on with our lives means being ground into the dirt by unnecessary obstacles to basic necessities placed in our way for the sake of political expediency. But hey, that's "compromise," right? Sometimes you have to give up a little now in good faith to ensure they won't come back for more later. Until they do. Then what? Compromise again, I guess. You'll be a hero.
It turns out Democrats still think like this. Even in the face of a Republican threat to "end Medicaid as we know it," party leaders are promoting a "bipartisan" compromise response this week they say is meant to attract more Republican support. Of course it won't. If Donald Trump and the Republican majorities in Congress continue decrying Obamacare as "socialism" and if Garret Graves can come back decades after Clinton and rail against imaginary welfare cheats, it should be clear by now there is no bipartisan solution that is going to satisfy them. However cruel you agree to be for them, they can always demand you be a bit worse.
So, we have to ask what is it Democrats actually want?
But today, the political dynamics are there - precisely because CAP cannot win this fight. The odds of any CAP-crafted healthcare bill making it through Congress as an alternative to Trumpcare are effectively zero. The GOP may fail to pass Trumpcare, but if that happens it will be because of the GOP, not because of any clever maneuvering from CAP.(I added the emphasis that time. I was also tempted to put it in 72 point flashing type just for fun.)
Once we dispense with the pragmatic-compromise explanation for the MSPRA, it's much easier to understand what CAP is doing. They are proposing a "bipartisan" patch on Obamacare, not because they think they can win through compromise, but because they largely agree with what Republicans want to do. They are promoting market-based healthcare instead of embracing popular support for single payer because they do not want to see single payer succeed. There's no counter-intuitive chess game going on here; liberals are telling the left exactly what they want, and we would do well to take them at their word.