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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Old memes never die, they just get burned into the public consciousness
Posted by Jill | 5:45 AM
Of all the things Ronald Reagan did to bring us to our current state, perhaps his most egregious offense was the manufacture the meme of the welfare queen in the Cadillac.

Here's how Reagan described her (NYT link to abstract, PDF linked from there:
She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran's benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She's got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.

This particular "welfare queen", a figment of Reagan's colorful imagination, was apparently based on one Linda Taylor, who was convicted in 1974 of using an alias to collect about eight thousand dollars in fraudulent payments.

But the myth of someone getting what they don't deserve persists. It's the same mindset that says it's better to disenfranchise millions than risk one person voting who shouldn't. It's the same mindset that says it's better to risk the lives of tens of thousands of women every year than to risk just one having a late-term abortion for a reason other than health. It's the same mindset that says it's better to let a million children go without health care than to risk just one getting Medicaid whose parents make one dollar over the limit. As the middle class gets screwed ever more, the clinging to the idea that the poor are somehow getting away with something persists.

When Newt Gingrich talks about Barack Obama being the food stamp president, he's hearkening back to Ronald Reagan's mythical welfare recipients who dine on foie gras and prime steaks and live in luxury apartment penthouses on the public dole. He probably never even saw the movie, but he's thinking of Mo'nique's devastating portrayal of just such a Republican stereotype in Precious. So I question whether ultimately, Mitt Romney's blithe dismissal of the poor yesterday is going to hurt him all that much with people who would vote for a quarter-billionaire in the first place.

I work in an industry that pays quite well, for those of us fortunate enough to still have jobs in an industry that's rapidly consolidating. Most of my colleagues have some sort of advanced degree, and most are fairly liberal, or at least tolerant of views regarded as liberal. And yet when people talk about public assistance, particularly those who came to the US from other countries, they have this idea that an average food stamp budget buys the same kinds and quantities of food that they purchase from their local Whole Foods; and that Section 8 housing features the requisite granite-and-stainless in safe suburban neighborhoods. The myth dies hard.

Last night Rachel Maddow showed just how Mitt Romney would "fix" the safety net, as he said after he got caught sounding like the preposterously, wealthy out-of-touch, craven panderer that he is:

And yet, the American public is curiously selective about who it regards as "deserving" and "getting something for nothing." Here are Lawrence O'Donnell and David Cay Johnston on how Mittens has been able to pass along $100 million of his money to his children without being subject to the limits for gift taxation that the rest of us are.

I guess if you're lucky enough to be born to a quarter-billionaire, you're entitled to money you didn't earn in a way that those who, due to lack of access to quality education, lack of nutrition, and lack of opportunity aren't.

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Blogger Carol Ann said...
"Here are Lawrence O'Donnell and David Cay Johnston on how Mittens has been able to pass along $100 million of his money to his children without being subject to the limits for gift taxation that the rest of us are."

Link, please?

Blogger Jimbo said...
The current state of the Republican Party, at this point, is so morally depraved and corrupt that it should be declared a criminal conspiracy against the Republic. The Mittster is regarded as a moderate hedge against the Teahadists but really he stands for nothing at all, which would make him far worse as a President since he would be so easily manipulated by the madmen

Blogger Pangolin said...
Let's just cut to the chase. What Republicans think when Newt and Mitt say that shit are "those n---gers are getting my money for doing nothing while I still have to mow my own lawn."

And by "n---=-rs" they include people with on-the-job-injuries, people with mental health issues, drug addicts, alcoholaics, handicapped, anybody with PTSD (it's not just for veterans anymore) and those who just don't have a freaking clue.

They have to wake up to a commute they hate to go to a job they hate to support the house they hate to clean so by god everybody else has to be miserable too. Even if it kills them.

They don't want to pay more than the price of a cup of coffee to get their lawn mowed either.

Blogger Big Guy said...
Just like the rich, the poor do not have to pay taxes upon their municipal bond interest, and only pay 15% federal income tax upon their corporate stock dividends.

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
Anatole France,

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The real welfare queens in America are the rich and corporations who socialize their costs and privatize their benefits.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
What's striking to me is the implied notion that one person honestly collecting benefits wouldn't bother anyone. Reagan had to come up with an absurd hyperbole with 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 cards, and 4 fake husbands.

These days though, even just one card, one name, and one address done honestly and within the law is too much. That's how much things have shifted.

Blogger Jill said...
Carol Ann: I just posted the link. Sorry about that.

Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...
What? Republican Racism.

Just before his Iowa Showing Sick Rantorum commented, "I don’t want to make --black-- people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money.”

Santorum did mumble (stumble?) around the word "black", but listening to his speech it's clear what meme Rick was man-on-dog whistling.

What Santorum really was saying (cue Ronnie Raygun impression), 'My Fellow White Americans we must stop those Big Muscular Young Bucks from eating Steak and then jumping into their Welfare Queen's Cadillac all on your dime.' CBS News offered up the statistic that 84% of the Iowans on food stamps are "white", while 9% are "black" over a 9-to-1 ratio.

American Capitalism is Socialism for the Rich. Privatize the Profits Socialize the Losses.