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Is discouraging voting by the poor and welfare recipients a good idea? (Matthew Vadum, American Thinker)

Over at the completely inaccurately-named American Thinker, Matthew Vadum offers "Registering the Poor to Vote is Un-American" [1]. Promoting himself as a controversialist appears to be one of his goals [2] and the article has worked wonders in that regard for him, even if most of the attention has been negative [3]. But, it's worth discussing his cry for attention anyway because many in the further reaches of the GOP agree with him, especially those in the tea parties.

He writes:

Why are left-wing activist groups so keen on registering the poor to vote?

Because they know the poor can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians. Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery.

Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country -- which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote.

...Encouraging those who burden society to participate in elections isn't about helping the poor. It's about helping the poor to help themselves to others' money. It's about raw so-called social justice. It's about moving America ever farther away from the small-government ideals of the Founding Fathers...

...Registering the unproductive to vote is an idea that was heavily promoted by the small-c communists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven...

He later clarifies [4]:

Of course those who are legally qualified to vote should be allowed to vote but our tax dollars shouldn’t be used to underwrite the destruction of the republic.

By "our tax dollars shouldn’t be used" I assume Vadum means two things: a) there shouldn't be government funding for voting drives targeted at poor people, and b) politicians shouldn't be able to buy poor peoples' votes by promising them benefits. I'm sure he's against the first and he's arguing against the second. Such ideas aren't new in the U.S. Obviously, the groups of people eligible to vote has expanded since the U.S. was founded. And, in the 1930s, a Republican group tried to prevent paupers and WPA employees from voting [5].

Some notes:

1. Regarding the idea that the poor are "nonproductive" and "burden society", in 2009 10.4 million U.S. residents were "working poor" [6]. It's not exactly clear what Vadum means by "the poor" and "welfare recipients", but those 10.4 million were below the poverty line so they're probably what he'd consider "the poor". Yet, they and others just above their level aren't "nonproductive": they're working dirty jobs, working at fast food restaurants, and so on. Some might end up going off to fight in one of our many wars. Millions more people receive one form of welfare or another, and keep the lights turned on in the U.S. in one way or another. Certainly, there are large numbers of those dreaded Welfare Queens, but Vadum isn't really proposing an effective solution that would reduce their numbers (aside perhaps from starvation).

2. If we restricted voting to the middle class and above, those groups would vote their own interests, just as the poor would. Poorer members of the middle class would probably vote to redistribute money downwards from the upper middle class and the rich to fund things like schools. And, politicians would promise that they'd help with that. In other words, we'd have the same scheme that Vadum complains about, it would just involve the lower and middle middle classes "stealing" (as a Randroid would say) from those who are richer. Even if we restricted voting to just the upper classes, the lower upper class would "steal" from the megarich, such as by voting for politicians who'd help build a marina in their neighborhood. Unless voting were restricted to, say, just ten people of equal wealth who didn't want anything from politicians, Vadum's vote-limiting scheme wouldn't work: someone would always be "stealing" from someone else.

3. If we restricted voting to the middle class and above, many of them would vote with little regard to those below them economically, unless it directly impacted them. They'd vote down welfare increases for the poor and the like. Only when it directly impacted them - such as through increased crime, or starving kids begging for food in their neighborhoods - might they be moved to do something. Things would get better for the middle class and above, but parts of the U.S. would move closer to, say, parts of Brazil. On the plus side, jobs could be created as the money the upper middle class saved on taxes could be spent on hiring armed security guards.

4. Speaking of which, Vadum's scheme is itself Cloward-Piven. To an extent, welfare is a pay-off: richer people pay poor people not to riot. Reducing welfare benefits combined with trying through various means to reduce the number of poor people voting, would result in millions (perhaps tens of millions) of people in the U.S. who would feel even more powerless and disenfranchised than before. That's a recipe for revolution, specifically a socialist revolution. It's not difficult to imagine a fiery socialist demagogue gaining a large number of supporters among the poor, resulting in some form of violent action. By being anti-American, un-American extremist "patriots", those in the tea parties sphere might bring about the one thing they claim to oppose: socialism.

5. On the other hand, if more poor people voted and then voted for even more benefits to them, that might cause the GOP and others to consider another option: reduce the numbers of poor people. Poor people would cost GOP voters a lot of money, and they vote. So, if they couldn't take their vote away they might be forced to adopt pro-American policies that would reduce the numbers of poor people in the U.S. Instead of supporting massive immigration to benefit agribusiness and banks, the GOP et al. might be forced to oppose massive immigration in order to free up jobs for Americans. The GOP might be forced to, instead of vilifying the poor as Welfare Queens and thinking of them as lesser beings, work with them to improve their lot. Obviously, the chances of the GOP adopting a pro-American stance on the poor is slim.

6. And, of course, the Democratic Party not only supports poverty because they want "clients", but they work very hard to import poverty through massive immigration. That's aided or enabled by the GOP, the teapartiers, and other conservatives in varying ways and degrees. Obviously there are some exceptions, but most conservative leaders (both very broadly defined) aren't strong against massive/illegal immigration or don't have it as one of their top issues. As mentioned above, the GOP generally supports massive and/or illegal immigration to benefit their benefactors. The teapartiers have mostly ignored immigration for two and a half years, and the real leaders of the teaparties (Dick Armey of Freedomworks and the Koch family) are on the completely wrong side of the issue. If the GOP and the teapartiers wanted to they could fairly easily reduce illegal immigration. Only part of the reason they don't is due to incompetence; much of it is due to lacking a will to do so.

7. Overall, Vadum's piece is itself un-American and anti-American: it isn't "we're all in this together, and we need to work together and get along". It's "I've got mine, and f--- anyone else." Instead of taking steps to lift people out of poverty, he thinks he can just shove them aside. Obviously, that isn't going to work, and it's just going to make the situation in the U.S. worse.

[1] americanthinker . com/2011/09/registering_the_poor_to_vote_is_un-american.html
(Note that I got banned from their site for criticizing them on this site.)

[2] Vadum re-tweets twitter.com/johnrguardiano/status/109740265715138560, which tends to suggest that getting attention is one of the goals of the article: Despite his kind & agreeable manner, @vadum may now be the conservative the Left hates most! He also re-tweets twitter.com/kellabeck/status/109697241840754689: Ah, no publicity is bad publicity, eh @vadum you selfish #RW bastard? I insult you and you retweet it. Asshat is too good a term for you.

[3] Some responses: link. Note that Robert Stacy McCain is one of his supporters: theothermccain . com/2011/09/02/
I was banned from that site too, by one of McCain's contributors. For more supporters, see the comments there and at American Thinker.

[4] electionlawblog.org/?p=22569

[5] Google Books has part of 2000's "The right to vote: the contested history of democracy in the United States" by Alexander Keyssar. See also jstor.org/pss/30010162 .

[6] bls.gov/cps/cpswp2009.pdf

Sat, 09/03/2011 - 14:09 · Importance: 4