I know it isn't original to her, but I was reminded today of something I heard a teacher I know say at a union meeting last year: "as the waterhole gets smaller, the animals get meaner." this comes through more and more clearly as the political landscape, never a place for those with faint hearts or weak stomachs, becomes more a spot where the nastier aspects of our human nature get acted on. when did we return to a culture in which cost benefits overrode basic human benefits? there was an important shift during the great depression when it seemed to dawn on people, ironically at the prodding of a member of the moneyed class who never went for want himself, that it was time to act out the good things we had said for a century and a half that we believed about ourselves: that we were interested in the health and welfare of the other guy and were willing to take less for ourselves or even do without so he and his could get some too. this wasn't some pieinthesky phony altruism, it was a recognition that what was good for the community, and by extension good for america, was good for us. I suspect a lot of us still feel that way but we're afraid to say it out loud and even more afraid of acting on it because we'll look weak and may be the next to fail. the thing we hide from ourselves is that we will fail, it's nearly inevitable that each of us will at some point be in need and it is in our best interests and those of the people dearest to us that we stop imagining that we can't afford government social benefits. the response to "we can't afford it" must be "yes, we can." those are, in fact, the things we can't afford to be without.