Citizens or Subjects?
Will government serve the people or run their lives?


Deroy Murdock

Citizens or subjects? That is the question.

Dueling videotapes of Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama suddenly have gripped the fall campaign. In broad strokes, they outline the candidates’ divergent worldviews.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,” Romney said of those who pay no income tax. Mother Jones magazine released Romney’s off-the-record comments, captured by a hidden camera at a Florida fundraiser last May. “There are 47 percent who are with him [Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

Romney wishes that he had answered more delicately a donor’s question on who would and would not support his candidacy. But Romney did highlight the 76.1 million Americans whose income tax is $0.00. Many of them also consider Big Government their great provider. Some feel squashed by a flat-tire economy that thumps along at 1.7 percent GDP growth. Others have become seduced by an ever-expanding state that caters to their every craving.

“Economic freedom is the only force that has consistently succeeded in creating sustained prosperity,” Romney wrote in Tuesday’s USA Today. “The dreamers and the entrepreneurs, not government, built this economy, and they can once again make it strong. My course for the American economy will encourage private investment and personal freedom. Instead of creating a web of dependency, I will pursue policies that grow our economy and lift Americans out of poverty.”

Romney envisions an enterprise model that would revitalize a nation of thriving, independent citizens.

Conversely, Obama sees government as the transmission that propels society. It sucks funds from the pocketbooks of the affluent, pumps them through the omniscient state, and injects them into the pockets of all sorts of people.

Obama said as much on October 14, 2008, when he told Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

It turns out that Obama was echoing his words from almost exactly ten years earlier. In a recently discovered recording of an October 19, 1998, speech at Loyola University, in Chicago, state senator Barack Obama said: “I think that what we’re going to have to do is somehow resuscitate the notion that government action can be effective at all. There has been a systematic, uh, I don’t think it’s too strong to call it propaganda campaign, uh, against the possibility of government action and its efficacy.”

He points to inefficiencies in Chicago’s housing authority and government schools. But then Obama adds: “I think the trick is figuring out ‘how do we structure government systems that pool resources and, hence, facilitate some redistribution?’ Because I actually believe in redistribution — at least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.”

Judging by President Obama’s policies, “a shot” did not mean the limited but reliable safety net that virtually every American favors, to care for the infirm and temporarily assist the distressed. Rather, “a shot” is a lifelong relationship between subjects and a government that satisfies their every need, like a feudal lord minding his vassals.

The Obama-Biden campaign website describes Julia, an imaginary woman whom government nurtures from infancy to retirement. At age 3, Julia is on Head Start. At 17, her high school consumes federal Race to the Top funds. At 18, the American Opportunity Tax Credit helps Julia finance college. At 22, Obamacare helps her remain on her parents’ health plan. At 25, Julia enjoys federal controls on student-loan interest rates. At 42, she scores a Small Business Administration Loan. At 65, she joins Medicare. And at 67, Julia collects Social Security and volunteers at a community garden.

For Obama, “a shot” does not mean a rifle delivering targeted assistance to, say, a penniless Harlem teenager requiring prenatal care. Instead, it’s a blunderbuss through which 31-year-old Georgetown Law School graduate Sandra Fluke can get free birth-control pills via her medical plan. So can every health-insured American female, regardless of income.

For Obama, “a shot” does not mean offering federal school lunches to relatively few needy students, but to every government-school pupil in Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. — and every state in 2014. Why? If all students eat subsidized lunches, poor ones will not feel stigmatized.

For Obama, “a shot” does not mean tailoring Food Stamps to people at or near the poverty level. He has not reversed previous rules that expanded eligibility from those at 130 percent of the poverty level to 200 percent. Some 46.7 million Americans now receive Food Stamps, up from 27.8 million in fiscal year 2008, a 68 percent hike.