America Needs More Emily’s and Fewer Julia’s

In the fight for America’s future there are more battles than just those taking place in Washington DC over government policy. Those are important, but equally as important are the twin battles taking place in American culture. So while Washington fights over whether to expand or shrink government, a culture war is being waged to warm American’s toward greater government dependency while eroding the long-held American belief in personal responsibility.

The most recent volley on this front was the Obama campaign’s Life of Julia ad, which promoted a cradle-to-grave welfare state and government programs not merely as a safety net, but as a desirable benefit – and one worth celebrating – for all Americans. Recent years have also seen an explosion in use of food stamps and, perhaps more troubling, a reduction in the social stigma once associated with consistent dependence on government. But this effort didn’t begin under Obama. It was the Bush administration which moved the program to less conspicuous plastic cards for the deliberate purpose of removing the program’s stigma and changed its name to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in a rebranding effort to erase the negative connotation of “food stamps.” The Obama administration and its supporters then took this trend and ran with it, exemplified by Jesse Jackson’s recent declaration that it’s “an honor to be a food stamp president.”

Once upon a time, Americans resented having to rely on government, and even when forced by circumstance to accept such help took it as a point of pride to do so no longer than absolutely necessary. Today we revel in and glamorize our dependence, while politicians exploit it to grow government along with their power.

I’m happy to report that the effort to instill in America a culture of dependence is no fait accompli. As this new video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity shows, there are young people like Emily O’Neill, the video’s narrator, who reject dependence and internalize the great American tradition of self-reliance.

The move toward reliance on government isn’t new. While Obama has accelerated the trend, it began in the early 20th Century with programs like the New Deal and the Progressive exploitation of the Great Depression to train people into accepting government not just as a potential backstop, but as a replacement for personal responsibility. But today we seem to be approaching a tipping point. Eventually we will become another Greece and have far more moochers and looters than producers. Unless, that is, more Americans begin acting like Emily instead of Julia.

Brian Garst

Brian Garst

Brian Garst is the Director of Government Affairs for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a non-profit think tank dedicated to preserving tax competition and free markets. He also blogs at

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