They're only "welfare queens" if they're black

Ronald Reagan rode to the presidency in part by repeatedly telling a fictitious story about a “Chicago welfare queen”:

Over a period of about five years, Reagan told the story of the “Chicago welfare queen” who had 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards, and collected benefits for “four nonexisting deceased husbands,” bilking the government out of “over $150,000.” The real welfare recipient to whom Reagan referred was actually convicted for using two different aliases to collect $8,000. Reagan continued to use his version of the story even after the press pointed out the actual facts of the case to him.

The powerful image Reagan painted was of black women getting rich ripping off honest white taxpayers.

Even if the story had been true, the implicit claim that the story was typical was a sham. Taxpayers weren’t being abused by blacks stealing their income taxes. In fact, taxpayers were — and still are — being abused primarily by whites stealing their income taxes.

These white people cleverly hide behind facades (called “corporations”) and profit unfairly from massive tax loopholes they’ve paid Congress and the president to write into law for them. They profit unfairly from sweetheart deals to provide shoddy services at inflated prices (Halliburton, Blackwater) or produce extremely expensive, extremely profitable things we don’t need (Raytheon, Lockheed Martin). They profit from massive government subsidies (Archer Daniels Midland). And they profit from extremely low royalty rates to extract natural resources from U.S. government land… and then pay only a fraction of what they owe (Chevron, BP; see: Public Citizen and

The Cato Institute, a conservative think tank, found:

The federal government spent $92 billion in direct and indirect subsidies to businesses and private-sector corporate entities — expenditures commonly referred to as “corporate welfare” — in fiscal year 2006…. For the purposes of this study, “corporate welfare” is defined as any federal spending program that provides payments or unique benefits and advantages to specific companies or industries.

$92 billion is 920,000 welfare queens each ripping off taxpayers $100,000 a year!

I’d like to believe Americans fell for Reagan’s canard due to stupidity. We just can’t see the forest of white-collar welfare when presented such a vivid story about a (perhaps apocryphal) black woman stealing our tax dollars.

But our eagerness to rationalize much larger welfare by white people suggests it’s a race/class issue. Large government handouts to rich white people are somehow acceptable, perhaps deserved. Conversely, tiny government handouts to poor black people are unfair and dirty.

Here’s an example:

But for one important detail, Stephen Fincher could be a perfect “tea party” candidate: a gospel-singing cotton farmer from this tiny hamlet in western Tennessee, seeking to right the listing ship of Washington with a commitment to lower taxes and smaller government.

The detail? Fincher accepts roughly $200,000 in farm subsidies each year….

Fincher and his wife, Lynn, received about $2.5 million in subsidies between 1995 and 2006. But Fincher said that without that money, his farm would have shut down years ago.

Since he rationalizes millions in subsidies as keeping his farm from failing, I guess he’s a big fan of capitalism too? “Capitalism,” that is, like the big banks believe in. Capitalism where they privatize any profits and taxpayers cover any losses.

A few Tea Partiers “get” the irony of electing a welfare queen to cut government spending:

Jim Tomasik, a leader of the Mid-South Tea Party in Cordova, Tenn., is heading perhaps the most organized effort to portray Fincher as a welfare-farmer who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from other subsidy-receiving farmers.

“If Republicans are going to complain about subsidizing General Motors, that’s a drop in the bucket to farm subsidies,” Tomasik said. “But they’re backing candidates who are taking large amounts of money from the federal government. That’s hypocritical.”

But Fincher has raised almost a million dollars and has strong support, from people who like his opposition to expanding healthcare to cover more (poor and black) people:

Fincher’s supporters are drawn to his social conservatism, including his antiabortion stand, and his commitment to opposing new taxes (he signed the no-tax pledge of the group Americans for Tax Reform)….

“He is for the Constitution,” said Lucy Overstreet, an organizer with the Jackson Madison County TEA Party who is supporting Fincher. “He is for getting the budget balanced. He does not want this health care. He is right in line with the views we are holding true to.”

Fincher promises to balance the budget without new taxes. How does he plan to do that without bankrupting his farm? I guess he intends to cut off those 920,000 welfare queens!

Unfortunately, even $92 billion is a tiny fraction of the $2 trillion annual deficits America is now running. I’d suggest slashing the $1.2 trillion we’re spending each year on the Department of “Defense”, much of which gets absolutely wasted on G.I. Joe toys we don’t need (e.g., tens of thousands of nuclear missiles, dozens of nuclear submarines, thousands of fighter jets we never use). That’s where the real welfare queens can be found.

Posted by James on Monday, April 05, 2010