Normally, I’m a fan of Ben Shapiro. He’s a brilliant writer and a staunch conservative. He also (like so much of the conservative puditocracy) has a nasty habit of making unfortunate comments that hijack productive dialogue. Such was the case yesterday:
Now, I have been cautioned to take this comment in context. Apparently, Shapiro was responding to a comment that Kamala Harris made on how many Americans have more than one job. And as usual Harris had her stats wrong. I’ll also concede that taking one comment from a 2 hour broadcast and raking someone over the coals for it is just making a problem worse.
So, why am I writing this? Because it points to a pet peeve I have with so many conservatives these days. If someone brings up an issue that is a genuine concern in America today, liberals rush in with an offer of more government to solve the problem. “Free taxpayer money for everybody” seems to be the #1 plank in the Democratic party platform these days.
But the conservative response seems to be “Tough luck, you loser. You should have made better life choices.”
I don’t find either of these to be particularly helpful. The government should not be the solution to all of our problems. But it should be able to at least improve some of them. And mockery of those who are hurting is particularly vile because you’re not helping AND you’re antagonizing people rather than winning them over to our side.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the debate over student loans. I have written at length about my own struggles with student loan debt. When I graduated college, I had to move in with my mother because I couldn’t afford rent. And I STILL had to work 3 jobs trying to pay back my debts. Did I make bad choices? Clearly. But holding out for a better starting salary wasn’t really an option when I had a deferment expiration hanging over my head. My friend who DIDN’T have student loans saved up her money and went back to graduate school (and now earns at least 3 times my salary.)
I had a hard time, but I did what conservatives say I should do: I worked hard and tried to pull myself out of the hole that I admittedly dug for myself. Maybe I don’t deserve praise just for owning up to my responsibilities. But I don’t deserve to be mocked for it either.
Regardless of context, Shapiro’s comment is just wrong. Sometimes, you have to take the job you’re offered. Maybe you were downsized during the recession and you’re overqualified for the job you have now. Maybe you picked the wrong major or are just looking during a bad cycle. Maybe you’re a woman forced back into the workforce after divorce or widowhood. I for one admire the people working multiple jobs to keep food on the table instead of turning to the government for help. Isn’t that what we WANT them to do?
The bigger issue is this: Democrats are falling all over themselves offering up solutions. Just ask Elizabeth Warren. She has a plan for EVERYTHING! And that plan can be summed up as “more government.” The “New Green Deal” was pretty much a pipe dream that had zero chance of going anywhere. But at least someone went to the trouble of putting it all down on paper.
Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to think “no” is their default position on everything. They failed to repeal Obamacare because they failed to come up with a replacement plan even after having 8 years to put it together. We thought the national debt was a growing crisis at one point. Where’s our “new deal” to reduce it? You don’t think Bernie’s proposal to grant amnesty to all student loan debtors is a viable solution? Neither do I. But there are some good proposals out there to help with this problem. To my knowledge, Republicans in Congress are doing squat about it. Why not? Is it because Republicans in general are less likely to attend college and even less likely to attend a pricey private college and go into debt for it? Because that’s the vibe I’m getting from a lot of people.
I’ve made this point before: Democrats are offering ideas. They’re BAD ideas, but at least they’re ideas. Conservatives today are mocking the bad ideas that liberals are coming up with, but not offering any good alternatives. Personal responsibility is a hard enough sell in today’s society. Can we at least refrain from mocking those who are exercising it?