Return of the Welfare Queen

The Romney campaign has “gone there.”

A recent ad accuses the Obama Administration of “gutting the work requirement” that was part of welfare reform. The charge isn’t even remotely true–Politifact gave it a “Pants on Fire” rating, and reporters have noted the chutzpah of criticizing Obama for granting a request by Republican governors for more flexibility to try innovative job placement programs. Charles Blow of the New York Times noted that in 2005, Romney himself, and 8 other Republican governors, had signed a letter requesting even more flexibility than the administration has now granted.

So the ad is an outright lie, but that isn’t the point. The point is to play on white working-class resentment of the lazy, unproductive (black) moochers  who are living high at the expense of hardworking Americans. Those resentments, racial and economic, are closer to the surface in bad economic times, and let’s face it–the people who harbor them are much more likely to believe the charge that a black President  is enabling “those people.”

Resentments don’t respect facts, unfortunately. Most welfare recipients are white, and a majority are children. Another large subset are disabled. Of recipients who are working age, most work–and most of those work 40 hours a week. They simply work at jobs that don’t pay a living wage.

My biggest gripe with the folks who get bent out of shape about welfare, though, is different. It’s their definition and lack of consistency.

By far the largest recipients of welfare are corporations–the special interests whose lobbyists have successfully argued for favorable tax breaks and lucrative subsidies. Huge and highly profitable corporations like GE pay virtually no taxes. Obscenely profitable oil companies like Exxon continue to receive immense subsidies. (As E.J. Dionne wryly noted a few months back, evidently giving money to the rich gives them an incentive to produce, but giving money to the poor makes them dependent.)

We’ve only seen one year of tax returns from Mitt Romney, but in that one year, he took advantage of tax preferences–aka corporate welfare–that reduced his effective rate to 13%.

We have heard very little from Mitt Romney about his policy proposals. We are told we have no business seeing his tax returns. All we know is that he wants to be President so badly that he is willing to say or do anything–including flat-out lying and appeals to social and racial resentments.

References to Welfare Queens worked for Ronald Reagan, but Reagan had other things going for him. I do not think they will work for Mitt Romney.


  1. I sure hope you’re right, Sheila, that welfare queen references won’t work for Romney. Unfortunately, the crowd who watches Fox believes everything Fox tells them, and Romney’s ad fits in perfectly with their view of President Obama.

  2. Thank you for educating folks about who welfare recipients are on both ends of the financial spectrum.

    I’ve often wondered if anyone has done a cost comparison of how welfare for the poor stacks up against welfare for the rich. That would be a major project, but very interesting.

  3. I find far too many that prefer to live with a lie that justifies their lack of concern for others than to face the truth that we are all in it together.
    I guess too many good folks are locked into preaching to the choir so I am beginning to believe that the only answer is to bring in more choir members.

  4. Divide and conquer. It has worked forever. And with Fox news in the game it works even better… almost flawlessly, actually.

  5. In regard to the political stance of your post, it’s a tit for tat. No different than saying Romney’s responsible for Joe Blow’s wife dying of cancer. It’s a push. One side stirs up resentment against moochers, the other side stirs up resentment against people who work. It’s not a new game. Romney’s playing on the fact that Obama’s executive order has effectively shut down the agencies in charge of border patrol creating an open season, the number of welfare recipients has risen in the past few years, etc. I certainly don’t recall Romney using race in any way, shape, or form during these ads. Unfortunately, when people like to imply things being racist that aren’t, it does more harm than good to any reasonable dialogue. It allows people who actually ARE racist to operate freely. Kind of like the “war on (insert cause here).” It’s overplayed and underjustified.

    What’s always fascinated me is this wanton dislike of oil companies. It’s neat how their profits are “obscene” but their profit margins are a tenth of the average silicon valley company. Furthermore, the good or product being provided is significantly more viable than Amazon (who makes more money selling YOUR private information to data aggregators than they do selling books), Apple (that short of a planned obsolescence timeframe is unscrupulous in my book), etc. For Pete’s sake, has anyone ever actually looked at how Monsanto makes money? Really? And we’re going after oil companies? Oh brother. To suggest that oil companies have been the primary beneficiary of policies for the past ten years is ludicrous. How about the bailouts of GM, the banks, and all these failed green businesses?

    This is about who donates to which campaign, message control, and people who are naive enough to buy into a carefully distributed narrative. Come on folks, we need to be better than that.

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