In so far as divisive political issues go, welfare is the gift that just keeps on giving. Mainly, that’s because some on the right have done a masterful job of convincing ordinary white people that slothful African-Americans and Latinos are eating at a troth filled with goodies amassed by hard working “salt of the earth” white people.
During the 2012 campaign for president, candidate Rick Santorum said “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money.” Newt Gingrich piled on adding, “I will tell black people to demand paychecks instead of food stamps.” And, of course, President Obama, the first black president, was roundly mocked as the first food stamp president, as the photoshopped image above illustrates.
The is what we call demagoguery, but the only problem is that the facts don’t bear out this rhetoric. There is one fact that blows this whole “Welfare Queen” theory out of the water:
1) According to the New York Times blacks comprise 22 percent of the poor, but blacks only take in 14 percent of government benefits. Conversely, whites make up 42 percent of the poor , but take in a disproportionate 69 percent of government benefits.
Here are a few other facts you should consider as well:
2) Although minorities are disproportionately poorer than their white counterparts, poor people only received 36 percent of benefits in 2007, down from 54 percent in 1979.
3) Wealthy people, who are disproportionately white, receive a higher share of corporate welfare and other tax benefits:
Yet, even with this flow of capital going to the wealthy, including recent revelations that the rich have taken the overwhelming share of recovery dollars post- recession, there are still no jobs. What are the Idle Rich up to anyway?
4). The Republican Party is overwhelmingly white, and according to Bloomberg, Republican heavy counties ate up most of the food stamp growth:
Seventy percent of counties with the fastest-growth in food-stamp aid during the last four years voted for the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data compiled by Bloomberg.
This is not to say that white people are lazy. That would pathologize whites in much the same way that blacks have been pathologized for decades, if not centuries. The point is that data always cuts both ways. The only reason a large swath of whites believe that blacks are slackers with no will to work is because both the media and public have been complicit in allowing biased data to drive the conversation. We should end that.