" I have heard terms like 'self reliance' and 'self empowerment' used by people who are doing so denigrating others. There are a ton of people in this country, including a lot of the tea party types, who make out like they have to pay for everyone else, they get nothing from the government, are 'self reliant' and when you look under the covers you can see outright the hypocrisy behind that"
I think many times, people hear certain phrases and it evokes emotions that makes them assume what is being said, different than the context that others hear. From your post, it appears that you hear, "tea party," and instead of hearing what I think is their main message, "Stop spending. You are going to bankrupt the country, be fiscally responsible," you focus on the hypocrisies that you think are being offered up as policy. Whether I agree with other messages being put up by individuals and local groups or not, I appreciate that they have loudly talked about the deficit. Though it may not have done much good, seeing as the all important deficit commission offered some interesting solutions that were immediately ignored.
When I hear about self reliance and self empowerment, what it means to me is that no matter your background in this country, you can make decisions that shape your future. It has nothing to do with "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" or doing it by yourself, or ignoring the contributions that others have made towards your benefit. It means that you have control, that you can achieve whatever you choose, your life is in your hands. If you don't like something, change it. You are not powerless, paralyzed by, "I can't do this because of reason A, B, or C." That often only you can choose to make things happen to improve your life. I don't see that as a negative or selfish way of thinking at all, and I'm sure that people who do not feel they are powerless and victims of circumstance are far happier than those that do.