There's a phantom quotation that one often hears cited by those on America's political right, the gist of which is that democracy survives only until people realize that they can vote themselves an income:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can
only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves
from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes
for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury
result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy,
always followed by a dictatorship.
Conservatives frequently bring this position up with the implication that it's the masses of poor people who will eventually line up to the polls and demand a share of all of our money. It'll be redistribution, and middle America will suffer the same fate as the kulaks!
The funny thing is, they're at least somewhat right. There is a group that lines up at the polls every election day to make sure that no one takes away their God-given right to gummit freebies. Trouble is, it's not exactly the poor. Let's look at the way that our heroes of small government treat two entitlements in particular: Medicare and Medicaid. About fifteen years ago, Newt Gingrich proposed scaling back Medicare. The geezers smacked him down hard (because if there's anything that the old have a right to, it's the livelihood of the young), and that was the end of the Republican Revolution. Fast forward to the 2010 election. The Republicans talked a whole lot about cutting "government spending," but at the same time, Representative Mystic Tan promised that in no way would he touch Medicare, since, after all, he was only going to go after government spending. As for Medicaid? Well, let's look to the Lone Star State:
Some Republican lawmakers — still reveling in Tuesday’s statewide
election sweep — are proposing an unprecedented solution to the state’s
estimated $25 billion budget shortfall: dropping out of the federal Medicaid program.
Okay, so Medicaid is government spending that needs to be cut, but Medicare is, well, something, but certainly not government.
[Edit: Here's where I take my anger and a post turns into a rant. I think that, given some polling data that was pointed out by SNK in the thread, that it might not be an entirely accurate statement. It's exactly why I try to avoid posting on things that piss me off too much.] Of course, it's not just Medicare. If we look at the decade-long stem cell debate, the loudest and most vocal voices have been the withered husks of the boomers demanding their immortality potion made of ground up embryos. And if there's anything that is the perfect representative of the role of old people, government, and society, it's the demands of old people to stave off death for another couple of months by feasting on unborn children.
The quote up there about people voting themselves and income? It certainly holds true. Just ask Boehner and Gingrich.