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“Makers and Takers:” They’re Projecting Again!

I found a segment on MCNBC’s Up With Steve Kornacke show revealing for what it did not say. The segment started off with a clip from a recent town hall of John McCain’s. Senator McCain took a question from a woman who said, with more than a little emotion.

Woman: ‘It kills me every time i hear senators, especially republicans, talk about those takers. they’re just taken. the takers. I paid taxes for over 30 years and i have a rare illness and now I’m disabled. the state of arizona raised the eligibility for a program that was paying $100 a month for my medicaid to 3.4%. consequently, I was cut off. $100 a month, which meant (breaks down) I could no longer go to physical therapy. Do it intentionally to cut as many people as they can for as long as they can from benefits that are desperately needed and it’s just not right. We’re the takers.’

McCain walked slowly over to the woman and said in a consoling and emotional voice:

McCain: ‘I thank you, you’re not a taker. You’re not a taker.’

Kornacke comments on the clip: ‘That was amazing to watch because to me what i thought was i watching there is somebody, we talked earlier about the media bubbles, the media bubble on the conservative side where that rhetoric of makers versus takers. Paul Ryan talked about it and Mitt Romney had had the 47% tape that came out last year. That, to me, is somebody who has heard that and doesn’t live in that bubble and sort of looked at themselves and had a powerful, emotional reaction and here’s a public office holder and said, no, ma’am, you’re not a taker.’

Then Sam Seder added:

‘McCain walking over to her and say you’re not a taker, you’re not a taker. It’s absurd. It’s gotten to the point of absurdity when the Republicans have to justify to say to a person like that, you’re not a taker. This is still going on. Again, this is the same problem the Republicans have and this is why I think they ultimately so want the democrats to cut social security and medicaid and medicare down the road because they don’t want to have to own this. I mean, just last week fox news had had a two-hour special on how people on food stamps are takers.’

The Republican strategist on Kornacke’s panel then offered the insight that “anecdotal cuts both ways.” And Seder replied

‘I understand. but the reality is that guy who is getting $200, if that’s going to be the leverage point to deny this woman the benefits to get physical therapy, the republicans are going to have a problem. and they are feeling this. they are feeling this’”

Whereupon, Krystal Ball capped the political implications with:

‘And it’s easy to talk about the numbers and put it in this big context, where you’re not seeing the those human faces. and I think that interaction that you just played is the Republican Party problem in the nutshell. When people actually hear the rhetoric and it occurs to them, they’re not talking about some faceless other. They’re talking about me. They are never going to vote for a party that sees them as a bunch of mooching takers.’

This, of course, was a very direct point. But I wondered what happened to the other side of the makers/takers issue? Namely, that the people who call the rest of us takers, delight in all the largesse they bestow on the FIRE sector, the pharmaceutical industry, the private health ensurers, the big energy companies, the telecommunications industry, the hedge funders, the corporate leverage buy-out raiders, and the most wealthy among us, in general. Even when their actions are illegal, as they are with the mortgage fraudsters, they are allowed to take with impunity, and they take far, far more than any of the people they so callously call “takers.”

They take trillions that they do not earn in an honest day’s work. They crash the world economy and destroy the savings of many hundreds of millions. They take jobs, and dreams, and health, and education, and human happiness, and a sustainable environment from people. And they are helped by our politicians and officeholders who serve as their handmaidens and take great rewards from their financially more well-off masters. So, these are the real takers, the ones who despoil society and create a desolation in the name of order and neoliberal profit-taking.

The Republican and Democratic masters of the universe are right that this is about the makers and the takers. But they are projecting when they do not look into the mirror to find out who the takers are. And when Krystal Ball says: “. . . they are never going to vote for a party that sees them as a bunch of mooching takers”, she needs to add “while at the same time they “take, and take, and take beyond imagination through political power, fraud, trickery, and deceit.”

That’s the point the DC/New York “villagers” don’t want to talk about very much. They’ll credit people with not being likely to vote for people who label them “moochers,” but they won’t credit people with understanding that the real “takers” are not themselves, but the very people who are projecting that insult onto them.

Maybe that’s because the villagers don’t intend to talk about who the real takers are. But I think that people are smart enough to come to understand that anyway. And when they do, there will be hell to pay for those who guilt-tripped them in order to distract them from the reality of the real takers and their outrageous takings.

Cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives

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Joseph M. Firestone, Ph.D. is Managing Director, CEO of the Knowledge Management Consortium International (KMCI), and Director and co-Instructor of KMCI’s CKIM Certificate program, as well as Director of KMCI’s synchronous, real-time Distance Learning Program. He is also CKO of Executive Information Systems, Inc. a Knowledge and Information Management Consultancy.

Joe is author or co-author of more than 150 articles, white papers, and reports, as well as the following book-length publications: Knowledge Management and Risk Management; A Business Fable, UK: Ark Group, 2008, Risk Intelligence Metrics: An Adaptive Metrics Center Industry Report, Wilmington, DE: KMCI Online Press, 2006, “Has Knowledge management been Done,” Special Issue of The Learning Organization: An International Journal, 12, no. 2, April, 2005, Enterprise Information Portals and Knowledge Management, Burlington, MA: KMCI Press/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003; Key Issues in The New Knowledge Management, Burlington, MA: KMCI Press/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003, and Excerpt # 1 from The Open Enterprise, Wilmington, DE: KMCI Online Press, 2003.

Joe is also developer of the web sites,,, and the blog “All Life is Problem Solving” at, and He has taught Political Science at the Graduate and Undergraduate Levels, and has a BA from Cornell University in Government, and MA and Ph.D. degrees in Comparative Politics and International Relations from Michigan State University.