For the second time recently, I have seen a car with a few similar bumper stickers on the back. Something like "Got Medicare? Thank Democrats." "Got Social Security? Thank Democrats" And even "Got Equality? Thank Democrats."
It is easy to see what they mean. They mean legislative votes. They are claiming that it was primarily Democrats who designed and voted for these things - and let us leave that part of the argument aside for the present - and you wouldn't have them otherwise.
But that leaves out entirely the more important meaning of those words. Do Democrats pay for those programs all by themselves? Certainly not, and they would never claim so. But it is fascinating that the deeper who-to-thank question does not even occur to them. They go through all the trouble and cost of discussing, designing, ordering, and distributing these stickers and no one says "Hey wait. There's a problem here we might not want to be associated with. If you've got Medicare you should really be thanking all Americans, don't you think?"
I find these mental slips enormously revealing. People say what they really mean, often unwittingly, if you let them go on long enough. The implication that the lawmaking part is almost the whole deal, with the money-finding part a rather distant consideration is exactly how they do think about such things. The government action is all, the action of the people nothing. (See especially Al Gore, considering the government permissions to be the key to inventing the internet, and the government mop-up the key to Love Canal.)
I will predict, in fact, that even if confronted with being busted as government centered narcissists they will still not be able to really see what the problem is. They will still see the voting for legislation as not merely one necessary aspect of the thing happening, but almost the entire show. That the blood, toil, tears, and sweat of many others is involved will be regarded as "well yes, technically, but..."
I always thought those "If you can read this, thank a teacher" and similar sentiments were badly overstated and inaccurate. But they are enormously more justified than this new offering from the Strafford County Democrats.