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Hating on the welfare queen

May 29, 2013

Ronald Reagan knew what he was doing when he ran against the welfare queen. The image of someone qualifying for government benefit from poverty rankles right-wing sentiment in a way few other things do. That seems to derive from a moral judgment of the recipients. Insuring that only the “deserving unemployed” get benefits is why Texas is following Florida in requiring some beneficiaries to submit to drug tests, despite that the Florida law cost more money than it saved, and that its civil liberty implications left Florida struggling to defend it in court. The Kansas legislature is trying to follow suit, though some lawmakers there dug for a bit of truth around motivation by proposing an amendment to test also the officers of businesses getting government contracts. See, that’s different. Corporate officers are good people, and shouldn’t be subject to that kind of thing. Which goes a long way to explaining why Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee can criticize welfare as the government “stealing” money, while he collects millions in farm subsidies. And why his constituents forgive him that. Taxation is theft only when it goes to those the speaker disapproves. It explains why the above law succeeded in the Texas legislature, while a law legalizing some direct auto sales died. When you use wealth and status as measures of moral standing, government contractors and subsidized farmers and owners of car dealerships seem more deserving than the unemployed or the poor. And that matters, when people view policy decisions as a kind of moral judgment. That notion — that policy decisions are moral judgments — explains why so many on the right think Obama hates the rich. They wrongly think liberals are approaching these issues from the same cognitive frame as they themselves do.

Pablo Pantoja, former head of the Florida GOP’s Hispanic outreach, once a rising star in the GOP, has decided to quit the party. Running from the attitudes above. And latent nativism.

But no, The Onion isn’t really calling it quits.

The photo shows the undercarriage of a Tesla Model S, with battery and motor. Tesla posted its first profitable quarter, and paid off its government loans early. Its direct-to-consumer sales model still is illegal in Texas. Where car dealers and the state legislature are safely Republican.

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