Welfare Queens, Freeloaders, and the Marxist Muslim

| September 21, 2012 | 5 Comments

Recently, sixteen-year-old Alyssa Douglas of Clarksville, Ohio, tweeted her fervent wish that someone would kill President Barack Obama: “Someone needs to assassinate Obama…like ASAP #DieYouPieceOfShit.” A fatwa in under 140 characters. Of course, people have been wishing death on their leaders for centuries, and even successfully carrying it out. And it should come as no surprise that adolescents will often distill their parents’ beliefs to ridiculous hyperbole. However, there is something about the hate for this president that is unprecedented.  He has been accused of being not just un-American, but foreign, by birther wingnuts, like Donald Trump who keeps promising a big reveal that never happens. Some of the claims against Obama even contradict themselves: how many Socialist Muslims do you know?
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Obama is frequently accused of “hating America” as if he were some Manchurian Candidate who operates on behalf of America’s enemies to bring her to her knees economically and spiritually. One would expect these kinds of outrageous claims to be found in conspiracy-laden and factually flimsy emails sent to you by your elderly aunt, but these sentiments are also being expressed on the air by conservative pundits, politicians, and even by Governor Romney himself. Conservatives are fond of saying that Obama apologizes for America, yet they’re incapable of providing actual examples of Obama doing so.
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Romney likes to talk a big game of defending American interests, and often takes aim at Iran, Syria, China, and curiously, Russia. But when given his chance to fight alongside his countrymen in the Vietnam War, he instead received a deferment for being a Mormon missionary in France for two and half years. (Incidentally, Romney seems to have been as successful converting the French to Mormonism as he has been converting Obama haters to Romney lovers.) But just before he left for France in 1966, he counter-protested at an anti-war demonstration at Stanford University: He was picketing in favor of the draft. So while his countrymen — braver men than he — slogged it out for their lives in foreign jungles, Mitt picnicked and rode his bicycle all over France. Given Romney’s ease in sending other Americans to fight wars from his comfortable perch, one could argue that it’s actually Romney who hates America.
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At the very least, he dismisses nearly half of America as freeloaders. In the recently leaked video from Mother Jones magazine, Romney tells the roomful of donors that the 47 percent of Americans “who pay no income tax” and that support President Obama:
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“believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
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This video has permeated the airwaves all week and the talking-head Cassandras predict the demise of the Romney campaign because of these so-called shocking revelations. But is it so shocking, really? An out-of-touch plutocrat who made a living buying failing companies, loading them up with debt, cashing out, and leaving the business and its workers in ruin, doesn’t see much value in low income people. “My job is not to worry about those people,” he said. Clearly.
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Romney is correct in saying that 47 percent of Americans do not pay federal income tax. Most, however, do pay some combination of payroll, state, local, sales, fuel, and property taxes. The problem is that they don’t earn enough income to actually pay federal income tax. More than half of the 47 percent are those filers earning less than $16, 812 per year. And nearly one third are those filers earning between $16,812 and $33, 542. The remaining 13 percent are people earning between $33,543 and $59,486 and are typically middle class families whose deductions eliminate the income tax that they owe.
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No doubt about it, these people with their child tax credits are beneath contempt. How dare they work such low-paying jobs!
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And then there are those tax breaks that the elderly get just for being old. If they are poor enough, those scheming seniors get off without paying a dime in income taxes. I mean, who cares if the Greatest Generation is eating cat food in order to pay for their heart medication? They need to get off their arthritic asses and get a job.
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However, I think we can all agree that our military men and women are the biggest slackers of all. Did you know that combat pay is non-taxable? That’s right people, it’s one big Champagne and caviar vacation in Afghanistan, and we are footing the whole bill. And what are they giving in return, I ask you?
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Romney seems to imply that if these 47 percent just worked harder they wouldn’t be so poor, and might have the dignity to not ask their government to provide them with food and shelter. His statement is not only insulting, it’s blatantly misleading. Anyone listening to these comments would assume that 47 percent of Americans were on welfare — and that is precisely what he wants his wealthy donors to believe. But that is not the case.

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The truth is, only 4.1 percent of Americans collect welfare. And yet, with that scathing dismissal, he denies the integrity of Americans who work whatever jobs they can find in order to keep a roof over their family’s heads.
Using the word “entitled” as he did in the video, is a code word in conservative-speak for welfare, and Romney voters share his disdain for welfare recipients.
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To many conservatives, the word “welfare” conjures up images of a single mother cruising in her Cadillac crammed with children from multiple fathers on her way to collect her government check. Oh, and she’s black. Romney knew exactly what racist undertones he was hitting when he lied about Obama eliminating the welfare work requirements. The black president is siphoning money away from hardworking white people and funneling it to lazy black people! Grab your pitchforks, villagers!
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People imagine welfare recipients piling their shopping carts with steaks, beer, and cartons of cigarettes, and living the sweet life as ghetto Kardashians, while they themselves work thankless jobs to pay for someone else’s fancy dinner. The reality is quite different however.
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Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides aid to disadvantaged families and was established as a block grant from the federal government to the states. The block grant was set at $16.6 billion in 1996 and has not increased since then, so the real value of the grant has actually fallen by about 28 percent. TANF provides cash relief for up to five years in an individual’s lifetime and the average recipient is on welfare for less than two years. So no, there are no career welfare recipients. There are work requirements that must be met while an individual receives assistance. Obama has not eliminated those, as Romney would have you believe; he has simply given the states more power to decide what those requirements are.
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And for the record: the percentage of blacks and whites receiving welfare is roughly equal, with black recipients at 39.8 percent, white recipients at 38.9 percent and Hispanic recipients at 15.7 percent. However, the National Poverty Center reports that in 2010, only 12.4 percent of white children were living in poverty, while 38.2 percent of black children, and 35 percent of Hispanic children were living in poverty. So proportionally speaking, TANF greatly favors whites, and yet the racist stereotype survives.
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Because states set their own eligibility standards, TANF benefits vary widely. Southern states tend to be far more meager in their dispensation of benefits than Northern and Western states. In 2011, cash benefits ranged from a low of $170 per month for a single-parent family of three in Mississippi to a high of $753 per month for the identical family living in New York. Also, states are not required to accept any applicant who meets the qualifications; it is up to the discretion of street-level bureaucrats whether the system accepts a family or not.
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However, anyone who qualifies for food stamps can receive them. Currently, 15 percent of Americans receive food stamps on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program has seen a rise of participants since the 2007 recession, and particularly in areas that suffered the greatest in the housing bust, yet still that is a long way off from “47 percent of Americans.” A family of four can expect up to $500 a month in food stamp benefits. A single person can expect an average of $133 a month. Incidentally, that won’t buy a family of four a lot of steak, and it certainly won’t buy any cigarettes or alcohol, since only food — and cold food at that — is permitted.
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According to a 2010 report by the USDA, of all the heads of households that were enrolled in SNAP, 35.7 percent were white, 22 percent were black and 10 percent Hispanic. Think about that the next time you side-eye a poor African American family in line at the grocery store. Most of the whites that participate in SNAP are in rural areas, across Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, the Deep South and along the Texas border —areas most likely to vote for Romney. But will Romney’s dismissive “47 percent” remark sour those voters on the Republican Party in November? Not likely, as they will still stick with the G.O.P. on their conservative social values and their fear of Obama as the “other.”
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It’s ironic that Republican voters howl the loudest over entitlements when a sizable number of their base accepts them. Or, if we were to include Social Security and Medicare into those entitlements (as they certainly are), then that would include the vast majority of their base. But hey, we’re not going to cherry pick entitlement programs, are we?
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If we’re going to grouse over supporting freeloaders though, let’s take it to a macro level. Some states receive more in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes; others receive less. It is notable that, overwhelmingly, it’s the “red states” that are the moochers.
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From 1990 to 2009, Mississippi paid $115.7 billion in federal taxes, but received $316.6 billion in federal spending. On the other end of the spectrum, tiny little Delaware paid $211.1 billion in federal taxes and got $86.4 billion of it back in federal spending. Hey, West Virginia, it’s time you got off the government teat! Montana, get a job! Hey Alabama, Minnesota and New Jersey just bought you dinner. You could at least leave the tip! In fact, the only red states that aren’t sponging off of the federal government are Nebraska, Texas, Georgia and Arkansas. Swing states that pull their own weight include: Ohio, Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
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Let’s put all of this spending into perspective. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that the federal government spends about 5 percent of the entire federal budget on the nonworking poor, a total of $235 billion, the bulk of which is SNAP. Meanwhile, $689 billion was spent on Social Security, and $519 billion was spent on Medicare. The bank bailout cost us $700 billion. Who are the bigger moochers?
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Corporate welfare — tax breaks, tax incentives, and bailouts — is estimated to cost us $100 billion annually. Romney, himself made good use of the tax breaks awarded to companies that Bain Capital purchased with borrowed money that the company, not Bain Capital, had to pay back. Here’s how it goes: the target company is saddled with debt from its own purchase by Bain Capital, that it then writes off against its taxes. The significant tax savings means the company has increased short term revenues (at the expense of long term debt), which Romney then immediately awards to Bain investors as dividends, and to him and his partners as management fees.
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Demonizing the poor is Romney’s way of distracting voters from the real redistribution of wealth happening from the middle and lower classes to the very wealthy. According to this month’s Forbes magazine, the average net worth of the 400 wealthiest Americans rose to a record $4.2 billion, up more than 10 percent from last year. At the same time, we have a record number of people needing government assistance to eat. Unfortunately, poor people can’t afford a team of lobbyists to negotiate bigger loopholes for them. Nor can they afford public relations firms or marketing experts to make themselves more appealing to Republican voters.
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Meanwhile, the Romney campaign is in overdrive with their misleading editing of Obama’s speeches, painting a picture of a president who denigrates small business owners (“You didn’t build that”) and who plans to ransack the struggling middle class to pay for more welfare steaks. But worse than that, it is playing to the ugly underbelly of American history: racism.
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This week, there was a news story of two homeowners (one in Virginia and another in Texas) who had each strung up an empty chair from a tree in their front yard. The chair was in reference to Clint Eastwood’s amusing speech to an invisible Obama at the RNC. But hanging the chair from a tree by a single rope is reminiscent of a very dark time in American history when African-Americans were lynched for daring to assume that they had equal rights as white folks. The image would be disturbing enough if it represented a white president, but the representation of a black president hanging from the tree is horrifying in its historical context.
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For those people who might argue these are isolated incidents of hate, I give you this video.
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Romney is playing from Nixon’s Southern strategy handbook here with his race-baiting ads and speeches that don’t just bend the truth on welfare, they completely, and willfully, lie about it. More than anything, however, these tactics indicate a desperation on Romney’s part. If you can’t win on your ideas, then win any way you can. As we get closer to the election, it is looking less and less like Romney can win and the G.O.P. knows it.  Even Republican Joe Scarborough knows it:
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“If we want to win the battle of ideas in the long term, we should be willing to face the fact that Mitt Romney is likely to lose — and should, given that he’s neither a true conservative nor a courageous moderate. He’s just an ambitious man.”

 

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  1. M Fry says:

    Excellent piece.

  2. Kynthia says:

    I am not a welfare queen, Marxist or any of those. I am a disabled soldier living on 1200 a month. I may be unable to work, but between mittens and I, only one of us has served their country HONORABLY.

  3. Peter Sheetz says:

    Wow…..very powerful and insightful story.

  4. Birgit says:

    How DARE Mittens talk about people with such obvious lack of respect. Veterans who risked life and limb – and many lost them, being chalked off as Second or even Third class citizens. How DARE he talk about people not paying taxes , when HE HIMSELF is sheltering his money in non taxable Swiss and Cayman Island accounts.
    Oh THIS infuriates me. He has NO grounds to talk about welfare recipients.
    There is a video on FB about a great-grandmother sharing with him WHY she isn’t paying taxes… (because she isn’t generating enough income and because she’s spent upward of 60 years taking care of children and grandchildren….. LET’S not forget that MRS. MITTENS isn’t working either,and merely has the great fortune to have a “financially savvy” scoundrel for a husband…. How is HER OWN Social Security account situated…??)
    What a disrespectful Bafoon….(and don’t even get me started on the spray-tan issue……)

  5. Bonnie French says:

    What a great article! You put it into words that even the slowest minded Teabagger could understand.

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