The Psychology of Obamaism

A new study by the Congressional Research service reports:

Welfare spending has grown substantially over the past four years, reaching $746 billion in 2011—or more than Social Security, basic defense spending or any other single chunk of the federal government.

This does not bother Obama, nor anyone in his administration. In fact, their only response to this (based on their actions) is to keep proposing more spending, i.e. more debt on future generations, more taxes on everyone, particularly the most economically productive.

Leftism teaches us that greed is bad. Yet nobody ever examines or names the greed involved in endlessly increasing government debt, spending and power. It’s supposedly wrong for somebody to care about his or her self-interest, including making a lot of money so long as no coercion or fraud is involved. Yet when government uses force—and not infrequently deceit—to attain its ends, we are trained to uncritically call it ‘noble.’

The report goes on to say:

The steady rise in welfare spending, which covers more than 80 programs primarily designed to help low-income Americans, got a big boost from the 2009 stimulus and has grown, albeit somewhat more slowly, in 2010 and 2011. One reason is that more people are qualifying in the weak economy, but the federal government also has broadened eligibility so that more people qualify for programs.

Again, greed. When Obama promised, back in 2008, to ‘spread the wealth around’ he really meant it. And he’s really doing it. Even the Republican House of Representatives (who write the checks and lift the debt limits) seems unable, or perhaps unwilling, to stop him.

Government was doing this for decades before Obama, of course. Under Obama it has exponentially increased in pace. And under Obama, it has become the undisputed moral imperative of the day: More, more, more. If government is spending or borrowing the money, it’s automatically good and right (at least if it’s not defense spending.) The more government spends and borrows, the more it must spend and borrow. What’s the problem? It’s a good thing, right?

I suspect that a slight majority of Americans (53 percent?) would say, ‘No, it’s not a good thing.’ If Mitt Romney captures all of this group, he’ll win. But when it comes down to concrete reality, I see no evidence of any revolutionary uprising against all this government spending. By ‘revolution’ I simply mean support of candidates who seek to phase out all or most of this government spending. This can be done through our existing system of government. But if we’re honest about it, the people would never allow it.

Why is this? Whenever puzzled by something humans do, I look first to the emotion of fear. Fear can be rational, and even life-sustaining. Rational fear is a call to survival, self-responsibility and mental focus. But more often than not, fear is irrational and destructive. Its causes and reasons usually go unidentified, although they are implied in the emotion itself.

The reason the vast majority of people will not let go of the entitlement ‘spread the wealth’ state is simple. To do so would mean accepting what’s already true with or without the entitlement state. It would mean accepting the fact, ‘I am alone.’

As a therapist, I have learned that many people—perhaps most people, even very self-sufficient and successful ones—are terrified of the prospect of feeling alone. Freud and others have called it a fear of abandonment. There’s something to that. I’m not a Freudian, but I would put it this way: It’s a false belief, ‘So long as I can hold on to the illusion that I’m not alone, I’ll be fine.’ It’s a false belief, but it’s one to which many (I suspect most) people cling to with an infantile-like, unreasoned tenacity.

People do this in their personal lives. They put up with toxic or imposing people they don’t have to tolerate, and even know themselves they should not tolerate. They create monsters by excusing and pretending to be OK with things they are most definitely not OK with. Yes, this may indicate a lack of self-esteem. But it’s ultimately governed by fear. It’s ultimately fueled by the rational and reasonable desire for self-preservation. ‘I don’t want to be alone. If I’m alone, I’m dead.’ The goal of self-preservation is valid, but the premise is wrong. Correction: ‘Being alone doesn’t mean death. I’m an independent entity either way. I can associate with others in any way I choose and find rewarding; but I’m still an autonomous individual.”

‘Autonomous individual.’ This is what I find many people—most, I suspect—cannot stand. This is why they permit things in their personal and business lives they never should permit. They turn their children into helpless and dependent creatures, just like the federal government is doing to more and more of our citizens.

Psychologically, here’s my theory of how it works: ‘So long as the government is ensuring everyone is taken care of, no matter how much it costs, then I don’t have to feel alone. I won’t be abandoned.’ This is how many people feel whether they gain most of their income and benefits from the government, or not. And this is how even some millionaires and billionaires feel. It’s more than leftist guilt, i.e. guilt for one’s own success, although that’s sometimes relevant. The real issue is: ‘I don’t want to be alone. And so long as government ensures the care of everybody, I won’t be.’

I’ll never, ever forget what a client said to me in a psychotherapy session about 15 years ago. ‘Dr. Hurd, don’t you understand? We humans do stupid things because we want to be part of the pack.’

It’s this irrational yet prevalent fear that most politicians cash in on, and Obama more than most. It’s the explanation for why we have a president who never really accomplished a whole lot, yet became President anyway. He knows how to say to people, ‘I will take care of you.’ Sadly, it works.

But it’s the people’s fault, more than Obama’s. The truth would set people free, quite literally. But ‘the truth’ means embracing the fact of our own individual autonomy. Without this, freedom as the United States once knew it will perish as it did elsewhere.


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