This time, ‘those people’ are us


Those people have their hands out again.

You’d think by now they’d learn to plan ahead. But no, they’re just taking, taking, taking, expecting the American taxpayer to bail them out, to pay for their mistakes, to reward them for their lackadaisical attitudes.

Opinion: This time, ‘those people’ are us

I looked around for local reaction. It’s strange that the Taxpayer’s League hasn’t started complaining. Usually they’re all over government decisions like this. Also strangely silent have been members of Minnesota’s conservative blogosphere. But conservatives have been relatively silent about the millions and millions of taxpayer dollars that the federal government is handing over to those people.

Of course, there’s a good reason for that. This time, “those people” are us. It was our own lack of foresight that led to disaster. It is our own poor planning that has led the federal government to funnel a quarter-billion dollars to us, to help us rebuild a bridge that, had we had a better process in place, may never have fallen in the first place.

Oh, I can already hear the conservatives howling in protest that this is “different.” When a poor family’s sole breadwinner gets cancer and can’t afford health care, that’s his own lack of planning and saving, but when one of the most affluent states in the union has a bridge inspection process that misses a bridge literally so damaged that it falls into the Mississippi, not because of weather or earthquake, but gravity, that’s a disaster that we couldn’t foresee. When New Orleans is all but destroyed in a hurricane, it’s the city’s fault that they only got 95 percent of the people out, and who are those people to expect the federal government to get aid there quickly? When it’s our bridge that falls, we hope for government action within three days, to allow us to rebuild as quickly as possible. When a middle-class family loses its home due to a predatory mortgage, or a factory worker loses his job because it’s been shipped overseas, or an average family can’t afford to send a child to college because of skyrocketing tuition, these people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

When our bridge falls, we’ve got our hand out. Immediately.

Now, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that the federal government decided to help us rebuild the 35W Mississippi River Bridge. Indeed, that’s part of what the federal government is there for — to help when states need help, when they deal with emergencies, even with ones that with more state spending and focus might have been prevented. And I’d say the same thing if a bridge collapsed in Birmingham or Los Angeles or Salt Lake City or Providence.

But if it was another state facing disaster, or worse, just a family, those on the right side of the aisle here would be singing quite a different tune then they are now. They’d be explaining why we’re just encouraging risk, why we’re rewarding bad behavior, why we’re having to support those people again and again and again, and why we shouldn’t anymore.

It’s the difference in attitude. My fellow liberals and I believe that there are times when the government should help people who can’t help themselves, whether that aid is to help dig out from a disaster on the scale of New Orleans or a disaster on the scale of a woman losing her job and wondering how she and her husband are going to feed their three kids. We believe that those people are us, and that we need to help each other.

Conservatives, contra wise, believe that people should be able to do for themselves, and if those people fail, that’s just their tough luck. Unless those people happen to be us. Then, we’re owed help. After all, we’re different than they are. The conservatives believe that we deserve it, even when those people don’t.