Shame. Shame. Shame.

I’m sure many of you have seen this image going around:

kentucky

The idea of this, (and similar images, memes and tweets going around), is that the USA already has programs like the ones that the political right are calling “socialist”; and that the politically right states that protest against “socialism” are often the highest beneficiaries of those social programs.

This has been shown to be true- most recently in a study by WalletHub . States that lean right tend to be poorer, have more people on welfare and medicare, and receive more in federal funds than they put into the system.

But there’s something else happening in this meme- something subtle and insidious- it’s shame. By calling out welfare recipients, by implying that they are “too stupid” to vote in their best interests, it reinforces stereotypes. It shames these people for being on welfare, for being a “drain” on the system, for taking more than their “fair share” of federal funds.

And in that way, it says exactly the opposite of the message Basic Income is trying to send; that everyone deserves a dividend of our nation’s wealth, that by being a citizen -regardless of your employment status- you are worthy of having a stable financial floor that keeps you from falling into extreme poverty.

Yes, it is important for us to push back against the “ZOMG SOCIALISM!” boogieman; to point out that we already have collectively funded services, that every other developed nation with a functioning government (ie, not Venezuela) has working, robust social service programs paid for out of common funds that uplift the entire nation.

But it is also important for us not to uphold the image of people on social programs as second-class citizens, or that utilizing social programs is somehow a personal failing or lack.