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Government By Scapegoats

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In the last fifteen years there has been a disturbing trend among politicians and pundits to behave in a punitive manner. Not just in dealing with criminals but in the over all attitude in policy. Like the worst high school teacher who punishes the whole class because one person misbehaves, systems are now geared towards treating everyone as if they are out to cheat the government.

They make a great deal of noise about the few people who have abused social programs, while conveniently ignoring the many who don’t. Programs that were designed to make life easier for life’s unfortunates; welfare, government disability programs, employment insurance, and refugee status, have gone from taking each case on its particulars to assuming that everybody applying is trying to cheat the government.

Whilst corporations rack up huge profits and pay little tax, and individual executives receive salary in tax-exempt stock options, politicians claim to be protecting the interests of taxpayers by vilifying those easiest to blame and least able to defend themselves. Welfare mothers, refugees, the disabled, and the unemployed are the ones who will rob you blind if you give them half a chance.

Since aside from refugee claimants these people have all contributed to the tax pool and employment insurance programs (in Canada you can’t apply for employment insurance unless you have worked a certain length of time and contributed a certain amount of money) shouldn’t they be given the same consideration as those the government is trying to protect? Or does applying for any sort of assistance automatically make you suspect?

Have you ever heard a politician worrying about taxpayers when corporations are applying for tax credits to establish a business? Five years latter when they move the plant to a country with out a labour code or environmental laws does anyone mention abuse of the system?

Corporate Welfare Bums (the term was coined by Canadian politician David Lewis back in the seventies in reference to the ridiculously small amount of taxes paid by corporations and their executives) don’t seem to incur the rancour of political parties in the same way that a single mother does. Well look at all the good corporations do. They provide jobs and stimulate the economy by producing goods that people will buy thus increasing our tax revenues.

But if they are paying no taxes and in fact receiving government grants and credits for operating, and they are owned in a foreign country (which in Canada is more often than not) is there any real positive impact on our economy? The employees, unless it’s an auto manufacturer, are usually non-union and making between $10 and $15 per hour without benefits which in today’s world is just about subsistence level. Aside from the essentials like food and clothing, what big contribution to the economy does their salary offer?

If the goods produced by the factory are destined for a foreign market, or if the profits are going into the coffers of a head office in Bonn, Huston, or Tokyo, how many tax dollars do you think our government will see from this venture. Of course that’s not the case for all corporations, in fact I’m probably overstating the case. Sound familiar. It’s exactly the same arguments that are proffered for cutting welfare and making it more difficult for applying to be a refugee or receiving a disability pension.

Every so often there is someone who cheats the system by faking an illness or receiving a welfare check when they don’t merit it. Or perhaps they really aren’t in danger of their life if they are to be sent back to their country of origin, but those people are not even a significant minority let alone a majority of the people who are applying to use the systems in place to help the unfortunate.

Just as most businesspeople aren’t out to fleece taxpayers, neither are the poor. Yet in the past fifteen years the poor and the unfortunate have been blamed for everything from the recession to terrorism. When a person applies for assistance now it is assumed that they are out to try and take advantage of the government, not that they are in genuine need.

Doctor’s warn their patients when they apply for disability that the chances of their being approved in Ontario on their first go are slim (although in fairness this seems to have improved with a recent change in government) The irony is that this doesn’t save the government any money. All applications are retroactive to when first received. So even if it takes three years for you to be approved you will be paid from the date of your initial application.

The only purpose served is to make it as difficult as possible for people to apply. This is meant to cut down on fraudulent applications but in actuality ends up making the legitimate applicant suffer. How many disabled people are able to exert the effort to seek out the legal assistance required to file the appeals and gather the materials necessary for a tribunal hearing?

For a person unable to work appealing a decision in Ontario is like having a full time job. I’m surprised they don’t automatically turn down everybody who manages to make it to the appeals tribunal for that very reason.

Of course this is nothing compared to what refugees have to go through. They have to show there is just cause for them to fear for their well being, or that they will suffer from persecution if returned to their country of origin. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to obtain copies of your arrest warrant when you’re fleeing a country? Or torturers don’t seem to hand out appointment cards that you can use to show that you’re next on their list?

But refugee boards are now demanding paper proof. That may be all right if a government is open and above board in it’s habit’s of persecution, but so many like to put on a good front that they make a point of not advertising their less savoury policies. Even harder to prove are political persecutions, especially if your government is being propped up by the country your trying to gain refugee status with.

Of course today that’s especially true if you are Arabic or Muslim. First, it’s more than likely you’re related to a terrorist or are one yourself. Even if they let you in as a refugee you stand a good chance of being sent back home again to be tortured at the request of the Canadian government because you were caught with a tourist’s map of the city you just moved to.

What’s the best way for a government to make it look they are doing something? First they take a real issue and than they blow it right out of proportion. Next they impose draconian policies that only hurt the innocent, because the real criminals aren’t going to be affected by anything they try and do anyway. Then they give it some pop psychology name like tough love and they look caring and compassionate, not like a bully, and everybody is happy except for those who try to use the system.

I guess it’s an old tradition for governments to create scapegoats for the problems of society. Blame all the country’s woes on them and then set out to deal with the scapegoats instead of the woes. It gives the appearance of action without having to anything real.

When the economy, which no government can affect no matter what they say, changes for the better again they can simply say our plan worked. If it worsens they can look for other scapegoats like healthcare and a humanities education. Both of which are sinkholes for money and provide no bang for the buck in return.

Once upon a time governments actually did things for their populations to try and make their lives better. Now what they do is search out people they can blame society’s problems on and enact legislation that supposedly curtails their activities and solves all out troubles. How convenient.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    between $10 and $15 per hour

    Canadian dollars? Because $15 is not bad and $10 is scraping by if with any kind of family but OK for a single person not in a major metro area.

    You make some great points – and spell “later” wrong to boot ;-) Bravo.

    Blindness is never so acute as when partisanship cuts away “the vision thing.”

  • gonzo marx

    once again gypsyman not only gives us a great Read and shit to Think about

    but he rips the scab from the festering Wound of our north american psyche, dances away from the spurting Pus and forces us to gaze into the Maw unblinking

    scapegoating

    in all of human History, it’s never been a good Thing

    and excercise for the gentle Readers to research, ponder and understand Why

    thanks again g-man

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    We’d be better off if more bloggers did more about it an ran for office.

  • http://www.templestark.com Temple Stark

    Not if they just start fights and run Matt ?????

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Or if they start every press conference by stating their current mood and the song they’re listening to.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    In honor of this article I’m now going to start calling Bush the ‘Scapegoat in Chief’, because what single individual in our current society receives more blame for choices made by our nation as a whole than he does? More than anyone I can think of in recent history, he has become the single focus for accusations when people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own mistakes and bad choices. He’s our whipping boy and boogeyman all in one. Lucky fellow.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    oh Mr Nalle…back to being the Apologist?

    how disappointing

    in Truth, what you are witnessing are the “birds” of this Administrations “choices” coming “Home” to roost

    sorry to be the one to break it to you, but most of what i have seen and read are good Questions revolving around the Administrations decision making on a vareity of topics

    say it as ya like…but i think it is too late to try and distract the Public from asking those Questions and holding the Administration Responsible

    and this is only the Beginning…as i have pointed out (with help from troll among others) in a few other Threads today

    “interesting times” indeed

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    I don’t believe anything in #6 could rationally be described as ‘apologist’. There may be some good questions as you point out, but there’s far more going on in the way of paranoid and completely unfounded allegations.

    It’s fine to have questions or critiques of the president, but the ‘bush is evil’ mentality which you and others exhibit, laying every imagined wrong at his feet and spinning every action into some sort of great conspiracy only makes you look like cranks or partisan hatemongers in the face of facts and reality, and it makes what good points you have appear as invalid as the crazy ones.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    now now, Mr Nalle..when have i EVER described Bush or this Administration as “evil”

    i defy you to find me saying such

    have i said i disliked their policies…yes

    have i shown WHY i find said policies/decisions objectionable to my sense of Ethics?

    yes

    have i put forward any “conspiracy theory” ?

    nope

    have i shown the clearly stated PNAC Agenda, pointed out the signatories and clearly delineated their significance in this Administration and the formation of certain aspects of Foreign Policy?

    yep

    do i give a shit about the Individuals involved or their political affiliations?

    nope

    it’s the ACTIONS that i deplore and talk about …NOT the individuals

    and again, i defy you to find where i have spoken about those people other than to discuss their actions, afilliations and self proclaimed objectives as well as the consequences of those actions

    so nice try attempting to paint me as some kind of “loon”

    i freely admit to being quite crazed on many levels…but i will gladly let the record of my Words stand on their own and be held Accountable and Responsible for them

    just like i hold our elected Representatives Accountable and Responsible for theirs

    try reading and responding to comments #30-34 here
    THAT is the kind of thing i am talking about…and if these Facts don’t concern you, as well as the implications…then i don’t know how to communicate with you effectively

    Excelsior!

  • Bliffle

    Dave: “In honor of this article I’m now going to start calling Bush the ‘Scapegoat in Chief’, because what single individual in our current society receives more blame for choices made by our nation as a whole than he does? More than anyone I can think of in recent history, he has become the single focus for accusations when people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own mistakes and bad choices.”

    Hey, I know how to parry this one, I learned it from my 1st wife who was an expert in it’s use. Goes like this:

    I confess. it’s all my fault. I supported the invasion because of WMDs. I didn’t know. I was too trusting. That’s my big fault: I trust people too much. Sob!

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Of course the POTUS is responsible for everything that happens in the administration and beyond.

    I remember when Bush told the American people “I am responsible” for the failures of the hurricane response.

    He totally fooled everyone, because he didn’t accept an ounce of blame. There is a big difference between fault and responsibility.

    Surely there were some things he could have done better, as is with everyone in the government. They know who they are.

    I’m not gonna deal out blame because I’m not an expert on the hierarchy of federal/state government, or FISA bills, or CIA leaks, or propaganda in the times of war.

    I don’t know where I’m going with this. I guess thsi means my commenting in 2006 is off to a bad start.

  • gonzo marx

    nah Suss, yer off to a great start, IMO

    why? because you are coming at it from the Issues, NOT from any kind of partisan stance, you are willing to Ask the Questions…and that IS important

    my Question on this “theme” is…

    where does the “buck” stop?

    we know Truman’s answer

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    I’m inclined to say it’s not all the President’s fault, because it takes so many people to make a government work and I’m not gonna aim at the executive branch like it’s the hip thing to do this days.

    Of course, in this day in age that makes me a Fox News sheep card-carrying neocon.

    The more and more I think about it, the more and more I am confused on what’s really going on at 1600 Pennsylvania. Maybe that’s what they want, but hey I got a sports section to run.

    And maybe in a few years when I don’t have a travelling job I’ll consider breaking myself into the world of politics as a man who hasn’t been elected to anything since a crossing guard lieutenant in sixth grade.

    But here’s to fewer typos in 2006 comments.

  • gonzo marx

    Suss sez…
    *I’m inclined to say it’s not all the President’s fault, because it takes so many people to make a government work and I’m not gonna aim at the executive branch like it’s the hip thing to do this days.*

    note i have NOT used the word “fault”…instead i say “Responsibility”

    big difference, and i am fairly certain you Know that

    Suss sez…
    *Of course, in this day in age that makes me a Fox News sheep card-carrying neocon.*

    never would i even think something like that about you, or your Opinions that have been voiced here on BS…and allow me to state for the Record, anyone the even tried to make such an Accusation woudl quickly get WTFpwned by yers truly for being partisan Idiots who simply can’t read

    Suss sez…
    *But here’s to fewer typos in 2006 comments.*

    now THAT one this dyslexic mad typist can get behind

    my Best to All this New Years…give yer Missus a kiss fer me, Suss

    ..:::bows, hand over fist:::..

    Excelsior!

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    POTUS? SCOTUS? Boy, what you guys are doing to the titles of the “august” institutions of your country. It’s as bad as what Israelis do to the titles of our own institutions. The High Court of Justice is called Bagá”tz – members of parliament are called Hhá”kim – when you say it it sounds like phlegm you spit in the garbage. Rather fitting, in my opinion.

    Of course POTUS and SCOTUS sound like the fluids coming from a perv’s oprgasm…

    But I digress.

    What I WAS going to mention to you fine folks across The Pond is that it would be nice if governments loaded all of their faults upon a real scapegoat – the goat that carries all of our sins into the wilderness. That is what the high priest (abbreviated to Ka”tz, by the way) used to do back in the ancient days when we actually HAD a Temple here.

    Unfortunately, we appear to be the goats in this picture…

    Awright! Where’s a can I can lick the salt off of and a troll on a bridge to kill?…..

    [and Ruvy stalks off to the bank in anger – fade to black…..]

  • Bliffle

    If a guy seeks a lot of power and pursues it aggressively, then he must be held responsible for the effects of his administration.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    If a guy seeks a lot of power and pursues it aggressively, then he must be held responsible for the effects of his administration.

    Not to mention for every imagined crime, made-up policy impact and natural disaster that happens while he’s in office.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    Nalle sez…
    *Not to mention for every imagined crime, made-up policy impact and natural disaster that happens while he’s in office.*

    and here we are…more distract,distort,deny and destroy

    how about we just hold our elected Representatives Accountable for the things they are Responsible for?

    fair enough?

    now, i am very glad that Ruvy brings up the Fact that the term/Concept of a “scapegoat” comes from Jewish Tradition…he correctly points out that it stems from the ancient Jewish practice of blood Sacrifice…the Priest would claim to place the weight of Sins into the animal and Ritually kill it as an Offering to God in order to cleanse said Sin form the Faithful

    this same Concept is utilized by christian Dogma when it comes to the “Sacrifice of the Lamb”, meaning the Crucifixion, to cleanse the sins from Mankind

    it has since been used quite extensively by political Leaders in western History since then

    they place all the “blame” for whatever ails their People on some minority segment of their population, or whatever Foe they want removed(for whatever reasons) and then proceed to convince the People that if they just remove/kill off those “scapegoats” then all will be well

    my take on what gypsyman was pointing out in the original Post is just this behavior, that many times political Leaders use this tactic to justify and push their Agenda, some of which often has nothing to do with the original stated Intent

    and THAT is something we, as a free Society, shoudl always be alert for…it is also one of the things that our Constitution is designed to PREVENT…by clearly delineating the Power of Government, establishing “checks and balances” and by being constituted in the Rule of Law rather than the whim of the “Majority” or the desires of our elected Representatives alone

    way…too…heavy, for this early in the day

    mebbe i am the Crazy one here in that i WANT that System to work as intended, that i despise and abhor those that would try and circumvent that System “in the Name of (insert scapegoat here)”

    me, i don’t want to give the terrorist bastards the kind of Power that would allow U.S. to forget the Principles of our Constitution and the Rule of Law just to make it more “convenient” to fight against our real Foe

    but what the fuck do i know, eh?

    Excelsior!

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    and here we are…more distract,distort,deny and destroy

    how about we just hold our elected Representatives Accountable for the things they are Responsible for?

    That would be fine, gonzo. Convince people out there not to blame Bush for the Tsunami, global warming, the Clinton recession, ‘tax cuts for the rich’ and Katrina and I’ll be right there with you.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    Bush fascinating…i don’t know of anyone blaming for many of those things…his Response to them, and policies concerning them…THOSE he should be held Accountable for…

    don’t you Agree?

    Excelsior!

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Gonzo wrote,

    “now, i am very glad that Ruvy brings up the Fact that the term/Concept of a ‘scapegoat’ comes from Jewish Tradition…he correctly points out that it stems from the ancient Jewish practice of blood Sacrifice…the Priest would claim to place the weight of Sins into the animal and Ritually kill it as an Offering to God in order to cleanse said Sin form the Faithful

    this same Concept is utilized by christian Dogma when it comes to the ‘Sacrifice of the Lamb’, meaning the Crucifixion, to cleanse the sins from Mankind.”

    That is not quite what I said. Maybe you needed ANOTHER a cup of coffee before trying to do the interfaith stuff here.

    THIS is what I wrote. “it would be nice if governments loaded all of their faults upon a real scapegoat – the goat that carries all of our sins into the wilderness. That is what the high priest (abbreviated to Ka”tz, by the way) used to….”

    There were (and will be in the future) TWO goats at the Yom Kippur service. One is sacrificed to gain forgiveness for the people. The other, the scapegoat, is presumed to carry all the sins of the people off to the wilderness.

  • gonzo marx

    thanks for the clarification Ruvy..much appreciated

    sometimes stream of consciousness ain’t as accurate as i would like…but i am always willing to stand corrected and learn stuff

    and yer right about the coffee

    Excelsior!

  • Bliffle

    Dave: “If a guy seeks a lot of power and pursues it aggressively, then he must be held responsible for the effects of his administration.

    Not to mention for every imagined crime, made-up policy impact and natural disaster that happens while he’s in office.”

    When a guy siezes too much power he stifles the autonomy of his underlings and lieutenants and so he is stuck with some responsibility for THEIR inattentoins and mistakes.

    Conversely, a good leader nurtures his peoples independence and autonomy and secures their position so they CAN assume responsibility, even for failures.

    But if his only purpose is to dominate, then he is just a control-freak who will castigate his underlings and end their initiative and he’ll just use his power to defend his power. He’ll fail, eventually, but may hurt a lot of people first.

    Since the feds couldn’t act in NOLA until GWB got personally involved, it suggests the second case to me: he looks like a control freak.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    Most people who study the administration seem not to think that Bush is a control freak – rather the opposite. He depends enormously on advisers, and that’s a lot of the problem as many see it.

    Dave

  • Bliffle

    We all hear different things.

  • Bliffle

    GWB replaced the rogueish Paul O’Neill with the compliant Jack Snow, and colin Powell with C Rice.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I want to get bhack to the bsic concept laid out by Gypsyman – that the governments round the world are acting as if the victims of poverty, discrimination, or of government or economic policy are the the ones to blame.

    In other words the screwor – big business or government – gets to act as if IT is the victim and the screwees are actually the ones putting the screws to the poor victimized representatives of the people and men of good will trying to develop an economy.

    Which idiot in Washington is or isn’t a control freak is a pleasant blood pressure raising diversion but way off the point.

  • Bliffle

    Shifting The Blame is so popular a sport they should make it an Olympics event.