In these troubling economic times those that wish to defend the establishment are scrambling for a demographic to scapegoat. Naturally, they have landed on the poor.
Recently, a young conservative, Christine Rousselle , demonstrated the point in her essay “My Time at Walmart: Why We Need Serious Welfare Reform”. In this short article she manages to make use of several clichéd right-wing attacks on the poor. She mentions the term “welfare queens” repeatedly, claims that the state is running out of money due to welfare programs for the poor, and she complains about proles committing “massive amounts of welfare fraud and abuse”.
This article touches on the three things that you must believe in order to be an establishment conservative in America:
- Americans stricken by poverty are unethical parasites sucking this country dry
- The Middle and Upper class stand on their own merits (they aren’t heavily subsidized by the state)
- Corporations like Wal-Mart and Goldman Sachs are bastions of the “free market” and need to be protected from the vicious classes
There are some glaring contradictions that arise when conservatives blame the poor for America’s economic plight. First off, the poor are not the biggest recipients of government loot. Secondly, this misdirected anger causes people to overlook the real thieves that are running this country. It’s easy to blame the powerless, but average conservatives are only shooting themselves in the foot when they side with the ruling class and attack the proles.
Poke your head into enough Midwestern conversations and you’ll eventually hear middle-class conservatives deriding poor people that take advantage of the welfare system. What irony considering that the middle class is the top recipient of welfare. Many conservatives are prolific welfare cases without realizing it; they would be shocked to learn that the majority of Federal subsidization (welfare) goes to the non-poor.
Ask yourself who benefits the most from mortgage interest deductions, farm subsidies, Amtrak, student loans, art grants, Social Security, and Medicare? It’s certainly not the poor. In reality, the funds that actually make it to the poor are but a pittance, so excuse me if I find this narrow criticism of the welfare state a bit disingenuous.
In 2012, only about 25% of all entitlement spending will go to the poor. Meanwhile, most of the remaining Federal budget will get distributed to upper and middle class Americans. Clearly, aid to America’s poor is not a top priority. In fact, if all the money spent on social welfare programs was solely spent on the poor, each needy person would receive more than $35,000 a year, it would be the end of American poverty!
In a response to criticisms of her article the author further clarified her position:
“I was condemning those who make a career out of welfare…. I was condemning those who are essentially stealing taxpayer money …. People should be upset about this.”
I agree, people should be upset, but they shouldn’t be upset at the poverty stricken single mother down the block… because those with actual political power have contributed much more to the current economic decline. If the author really wants to condemn those “who make a career out of welfare and “those who are essentially stealing taxpayer money” she should redirect her attack towards America’s elite. More appropriate targets for Christine Rousselle’s disdain would be the administrators of government welfare programs, the politicians that worked to create them (the poverty peddlers), the wealthy businessmen that lobby for subsidization, and the middle class that resists means-testing and even pushes for the expansion of their New Deal entitlements. It would serve conservatives to further scrutinize the powerful non-poor that are making a “career out of welfare”.
The petty schemes that the poor use to extract welfare benefits pale in comparison to the legal embezzlement that occurs in the Welfare State’s bureaucratic process. Government bureaucrats take 70 cents out of every welfare dollar spent on the poor! This type of overhead is nearly unheard of in privately run charities. Since they are living at the taxpayers’ expense over-compensated government employees should also qualify as welfare queens
Incidentally, corporate welfare also seems to consistently escape conservative wrath. Various special interests are propped up by the Federal Government, like the Texas mohair industry, which cost the taxpayer about $100 million a year to create a product that nobody wants. Whether it be subsidies to big oil, big pharma, etc… these corporate handouts should be seen as a type of welfare.
Congressmen and Wall Street bankers are also making “a career out of welfare” by “essentially stealing taxpayer money”. There is a dubious amount of multi-millionaires in Congress, and insider trading has long been fairplay for them. Of course Congressional salaries are taxpayer funded, but what is less well-known is the fact that Congressional pensions are extremely generous, with 80% of retirement funds coming from the taxpayer.
Sometimes it seems like there are more conservatives complaining about food stamp fraud than about the trillion dollar swindle going on right under their noses; they are being robbed from above and they don’t even realize it. Politically connected banks are getting rewarded after they created trillions of dollars in toxic assets. These banksters are getting bailouts on top of bailouts, diverting public funds. Those with connections inside the Federal Reserve System can tap the money spigots harder than anyone else, and often in secret. Since its inception, the so-called “lender of last resort” has been subverted by special interests.