Why Are the Right-Wing Media Obsessed with an Imaginary Woman's Success Story?
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Conservatives talk a lot about "dependency," but it's not clear that they know what the word means. Consider, for example, the right's bizarre reaction to a rather benign online campaign the White House pushed briefly earlier this year called “ The Life of Julia,” a slide-show featuring a fictional Everywoman that was meant to highlight how Obama's policies might improve the lives of average Americans.
It follows the Julia character from age 3 through her retirement. She's self-sufficient, hard-working and entrepreneurial; the embodiment of what conservatives are supposed to applaud. Although she isn't born into a wealthy family, her perserverence is ultimately rewarded with success.
If you're not a consumer of the conservative media, you may not have even heard about Julia, but the right is obsessed with her to an extent that's kind of creepy. Rush Limbaugh described the campaign as “a perfect illustration of liberal cradle-to-grave care for every citizen with the government making every decision, making everything possible, and leaving nothing to chance.” At Hot Air, Ed Morrissy bemoaned “the cradle-to-grave, government-supported existence of 'Julia.'” A diarist at Red State called it, “cradle-to-grave socialism for America.” There are thousands of columns and blog-posts decrying Julia's supposed “dependency” on the government. Perhaps the American Power blog summed up the right's reaction best: “What we are left with is a celebration of a how a woman can live her entire life by leaning on government intervention, dependency and other people's money rather than her own initiative or hard work.”
They've come to believe that Julia is dependent on the government, but nothing could be further from the truth: as a child, Julia is dependent on her family; after she graduates college, she is dependent on nobody but herself. The point of the campaign – and something that should be obvious to anyone – is that good governance affords her opportunities to carve out a better life for herself.
Let's look at the “Life of Julia campaign,” and see how it compares with the prevailing view of the campaign on the right.
Age 3: Julia goes to preschool. It's not mandatory preschool; no goons are threatening to whisk her mom away to a FEMA camp if she isn't enrolled. It's an option.
Age 17: Julia is enrolled in a decent public high school. Tyranny? OK.
Age 18: Julia decides to go to college, and she's able to do so because of subsidized student loans available to low-income students. Nobody forces her to attend college; she has an option that she wouldn't otherwise have, and she takes it.
Age: 22: While in college, Julia requires surgery. She's happy to be eligible to stay on her parents' private insurance plan until age 26 – a popular provision in Obamacare.
Age 23: Julia gets a job as a graphic designer, and thanks to the Lily Ledbetter Act, she can sue her private employer for gender wage discrimination – wages she'll make working for a living. Is she dependent on the government? No, but she's probably happy to get the same pay for the same work as that dude sitting at the desk next to her.
Age 25: Julia makes all her student loan payments on time. She pays lower interest because of legislation passed in 2010 that cut out corporate middlemen who were ripping off American taxpayers.
Age 27: Julia is working, and has private health insurance. (Despite the overblown rhetoric on the right, if she chose not to carry health insurance, she'd have to pay a tax maxing out at $695 per year – which covers the costs of being uninsured so the rest of us don't have to.) Because of Obamacare, her plan (which, again, she pays for) covers preventive healthcare.