Boehner's Weird Idea for a Safety Net

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Speaker of the House John Boehner wipes his eyes as outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi prepares to hand over over the Speaker's gavel following his election in the House chamber January 5, 2011 in Washington, DC.

So my new piece on John Boehner is up online. Boehner I think is not long for our political center stage. He might be the biggest target, punditry-vitriol-wise, that I’ve ever seen occupy a major position of power in this country (of course that’ll only be true until Michelle Bachmann becomes Vice President or Speaker of the House).  After Boehner’s press appearances yesterday I got a string of phone calls from friends, all asking the same thing: Is that guy drunk? Or is he just brain-damaged?

Boehner’s slurry/weepy speech has been a topic people have been chuckling over in DC for years. There’s even an occasionally-updated website devoted to tracking the topic (I like the Boehner-themed “Speaker of the Sauce” decorative Christmas stocking they came up with ).

Anyway, more interesting than his peculiar rhetorical delivery were Boehner’s comments yesterday that he believes in a “social safety net” for “those who can’t compete,” while not believing in one for those who “won’t compete.”

Now, it’s bizarre enough to hear a Republican congressional leader endorse a social safety net of any kind. But it’s even weirder to hear one lay out this vision of conditional socialism so clearly – the idea that state aid should somehow be dependent upon the intent of the recipient, i.e. you don’t get it if you’re not actually trying to get by without state help. Now I’m sure that if pressed Boehner would say he was talking about people who are perennial welfare recipients, families who live off food stamps and programs like TANF for years on end, generation after generation, a life strategy which definitely sucks, no doubt about it. If he’s just talking about the notion of temporary aid as opposed to perpetual aid, then that is understandable (that is to say, I at least understand what he means).

But what’s odd is this whole notion that there actually exist people, in Boehner’s mind, who “can’t compete.” In the conservative vision, who falls under that category? Is he talking about the disabled? People who lost their car keys and can’t drive to the job counseling center? I thought this was a free capitalist country full of opportunity, where if you’re unemployed, you suck it up and figure it out! To quote the great philosopher Patrick Bateman, get a goddamn job, Al!

 Anyway, would definitely like to hear more from Boehner on this topic – would love to understand just what exactly the Republican vision of a safety net is. More on this from last night’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

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