The ‘Ode to the Welfare State’ and Snopes’ cluelessness
At some point in your travels on the Internet, you may have run into the ‘Ode to the Welfare State’ forward. It is an image of a page from the New York Daily News from November 4, 1949:
I found the poem to be striking, instructive, and eerie in its prescience, and in an effort to verify its authenticity before posting it, I did a Google search that led me to a Snopes entry on it.
Snopes has a notable left-wing bias, which can often be seen even when they (in the person of Barbara and/or David Mikkelson) are forced to verify something that is inconvenient to their political alignment. Such is the case with this Snopes entry.
The “tell” comes right at the beginning of their explanation.
The poem is a response to a speech from Harry Truman given the day before, to which Snopes links and provides a pertinent excerpt. Preceding that excerpt is this short paragraph:
On 3 November 1949, President Harry Truman appeared in St. Paul,Minnesota, in conjunction with that state’s Truman Day Celebration, and that evening he delivered an address on the subject of opposition to Democratic efforts to promote the general welfare, stating (in part)…
Snopes is forced to describe this as “Probably true,” though based on the facts that they themselves subsequently provide, it is almost certainly true (and if it had confirmed their biases rather than offending them, they probably would have done the last little bits of research required to deem it fully true). Instead, they slide in a little dig—did you catch it?
“opposition to Democratic efforts to promote the general welfare”
Awwww, poor Truman and the Democrats—all they were doing was trying to promote the general welfare, and these mean ol’ Republicans made a nasty poem about them.
This use of the term “general welfare” is either ignorance or a calculated and pernicious attempt to warp people’s understanding of that term. The truth is actually easy to describe:
The “general welfare” refers to the GENERAL welfare; in other words, things that benefit EVERYONE GENERALLY. That is what the Framers of the Constitution meant. They were talking about public goods like roads and the military.
What Truman and the Democrats were trying to do was create specific welfare; that is, welfare that benefits certain people who meet certain criteria, paid for by other people who meet other criteria. Whatever you may think about the idea of the that kind of welfare, it is NOT what was meant by the phrase the “general welfare.”
This is done by people on the left all the time. They consider the use of the phrase “general welfare” in the Constitution to be their best justification for the notion that the Framers would have approved of the kind of welfare state that they seek. Of course, nothing in the words, private or public, of any of the Framers would indicate that. To the contrary, even the most statist among them would have been appalled by what the left proposes and has created. But that does not stop the left from using this justification on a regular basis. Some of them do it out of naivety and ignorance. Others know darned well what the Framers meant by the phrase, but intentionally misuse it, dishonestly hoping to confuse you.
One wonders into which category Snopes falls.
Ardently devoted to the cause of human freedom, he has worked at the confluence of politics, activism, and public policy for more than a decade. He co-wrote a ten-part series of video shorts on economics, and has film credits as a researcher on 11 political documentaries, including Citizens United's notorious film on Hillary Clinton that became the subject of a landmark Supreme Court decision. He is the founder of several activist endeavors, including AnyStreet.org (now a part of Western Free Press) and Liberatchik.com. He is currently the managing editor of and principal contributor to WesternFreePress.com.