I Want to Be Dependent

At the Republican National Convention two weeks ago, Texas senatorial candidate Ted Cruz, after outlining some of the problems faced by our country, said, “Government is not the answer. You are not doing anyone a favor by creating dependency, destroying individual responsibility.” Having earlier described how his father fled Cuba to Texas “not speaking English, with $100 sewn into his underwear,” Cruz continued, “Fifty-five years ago, when my dad was a penniless teenage immigrant, thank God some well-meaning bureaucrat didn’t put his arm around him and say let me take care of you. Let me give you a government check and make you dependent on government.” The sharp contrast between self-reliance and dependence drawn by Cruz was echoed throughout the convention. As New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote in response, “Speaker after speaker celebrated the solitary and heroic individual,” illustrating the “rampant hyperindividualism” he sees ascendant in the Republican Party. The Republicans are not alone, however. According to the 2012 Atlantic/Aspen Institute American Values Survey, seventy percent of Americans agreed with the statement that “with hard work I can accomplish anything,” and forty-four percent agreed that “the ability to pull oneself up by the bootstraps” is an important factor contributing to America’s success relative to other countries. As Brooks points out, however, “The fact is our destinies are shaped by social forces much more than the current G.O.P....

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