Let’s talk about that free stuff

Jeb Bush has been talking about how the Democrats have been getting voters by offering free stuff. Well, it is not fair to pick on him because that is what the vast majority of Republicans and conservatives have been saying. You can be assured that this is going to come up more often. New York Times has an article giving insight here.

Jeb Bush told a crowd in South Carolina on Thursday that Republicans could attract more African-Americans with a message of “hope and aspiration,” and not with promises of “free stuff” — a phrase that echoed comments made by Mitt Romney during and after his 2012 bid for president.

The remarks, first reported by The Washington Post, came in response to a question from a white man in a largely white crowd in Mount Pleasant, who asked how Mr. Bush planned to appeal to African-Americans.

“Our message is one of hope and aspiration,” Mr. Bush said. “It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting — that says you can achieve earned success.

While the conservative observation is accurate, it is also deceptive. How can that be? Well, it is because the definition of “free stuff” was intentionally given a narrow definition.  The definition only considers programs where someone gets a direct benefit from the government.  It does not include policies and programs where the benefit is indirect.

Let’s consider the following example.  Person A makes 20k and pays 2k in taxes (yes, the poor do pay taxes).  Similarly, person B makes 20k and pays 2k in taxes as well.  Person A gets a benefit such as food stamps for 1k. On the other hand, person B gets a tax cut of 1k.  The bottom line for both of them is that they both have 19k.  In other words, there is no real difference.

Given the Republican/conservative definition, person A is getting free stuff while person B is not.  In the real world, person A is typically a lower income worker that tends to vote for Democrats. Person B is typically corporate business leader who usually provides campaign cash and supports Republicans.  Coincidence? Highly unlikely.  This is a case of class warfare but not the kind that we are allowed to talk about.

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