The “Dirtiest” word in America?
[From November 5, 2010.]
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
I am about to use a dirty word. It is one of those words that has many meanings in the dictionary, but has evolved to mean only one thing. And, if you subscribe to what seemingly every politician and media outlet wants you to think, it is a nasty, dangerous, pejorative that conjures up one carefully crafted image.
It does not matter if you are liberal, conservative, progressive, libertarian, or mdoerate. I can guess what came to your mind when you read that word. And it isn’t the image from the Preamble. (Or the song from Schoolhouse Rock.)
It was designed to be that way. Politicians and media crafted that script. Even films like “Precious” have followed it.
As “The Welfare Queen Experiment” by Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. says:
“Social psychologists developed the notion of scripts to refer to ‘a coherent sequence of events expected by the individual, involving him either as a participant or as an observer.’ The utility of scripts lies in their ability to distill information, thus aiding in quicker comprehension. Scripts set up predictable roles and actions that, in tune, offer clear indicators of what is most likely to follow from them.”
And, when it comes to “welfare,” we are scripted to see the “welfare queen.” Here’s a little history, a timeline of how that got enshrined in our heads. Gilliam goes on:
“The narrative (or storytelling) script for the welfare queen has two central features. First, it tells us that the majority of welfare recipients are women. Of course, the data shows otherwise. The largest single group ‘on welfare’ is children, about one in every four kids under the age of 18 receives welfare benefits. Nonetheless, given this script, most of the public connects welfare to gender. For instance, the ‘feminization of poverty’ is a common explanation of American poverty rates.
“This script then leads people to the next step in this association, what could be called ‘a gender narrative.’ Poor women choose to be on welfare because they fail to adhere to a set of core American values. From this perspective, single motherhood, divorce, desertion and a failure to hold the family unit together become the causes of their impoverished condition. In short, welfare dependency is a function of the moral failings of poor women. Their unwillingness to adhere to the principles of hard work, family values and sexual control thus deem them as undeserving.
“The second key image that emerges from the welfare queen script is that most women on welfare are Afircan-American. While African-American women do represent more than one-third of the women on welfare, in census data released in 1998 they accounted for only a bit more than 10 percent of the total number of welfare recipients.
“This narrative script skillfully locating the ‘intersection’ of race and gender was given its most public voice by then-candidate Reagan on the 1976 campaign trail. During that election Reagan often recited the story of a woman from Chicago’s South Side who was arrested for welfare fraud. ‘She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names.’ David Zucchino, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, spent a year with two welfare mothers in Philadephia and wrote “The Myth of the Welfare Queen.” According to Zucchino ‘The image of the big-spending, lavish living, Cadillac-driving welfare queen was by then thoroughly embedded in American folklore.’
“The implicit racial coding is readily apprent. The woman Reagan was talking about was African-American. Veiled references to African-American women, and African-Americans in general, were equally transparent. In other words, while poor women of all races get blamed for their impoverished condition, African-American women commit the most egregious violations of American values. This story line taps into stereotypes about both women (uncontrolled sexuality) and African-Americans (laziness).
“It does appear fair to conclude that the welfare queen narrative script has suceeded in imprinting stereotypic racial and gender images in the minds of many Americans.”
How did the media cooperate?
In a study that covered the media from the 1960s through 1992:
62% of poverty stories that appeared in TIME, Newsweek, and U.S. New and World Report featured African-Americans.
65% of network television news stories about welfare featured African-Americans.
Newsmagazines depict almost 100% of the “underclass” as African-Americans.
There is some history. But, look at what we see now in the media and what we hear from “pundits” and other media “experts.” Do you see where the script is going now? It’s expanding to include immigrants. And, in many people’s minds, “immigrants” only means “illegal immigrants.” Any immigrant with non-white skin color is considered “illegal.”
We are being programmed to believe these people are “stealing” something from us. Ignoring all real economic figures, ignoring companies that actually go to these countries and recruit workers (who can then be dumped and deported before they think they deserve higher pay), ignoring what legal and illegal immigrants pay in taxes, sales tax, the money they infuse in local economies by spending on housing, food, and other goods.
The people who write the script know we won’t look at real facts. They’re too good at smoke and mirrors and obfuscation. Get us all riled up about a problem that really has a small impact and then we won’t notice the really obvious theft and malfeasance that is happening right in front of our noses.
Fact: Of all industrialized nations, the United States rates LAST in the percentage of money we invest in the welfare of our children.
We have been programmed to see spending money on our kids as “charity,” not as an investment in our country. And certainly not as the ethical, moral, and “Christian” thing to do for our country.
Why don’t we ever talk about the truly huge amounts of money the United States spends each year on welfare for corporations and businesses? Money that, unlike cash given to individuals on welfare, does not get spent in the local economy. Large amounts of this money goes overseas.
Let’s look at some subsidies. Welfare for corporations. Subsidies redistribute wealth and access. (Socialism much?) These are just a few examples:
Between 2001 and 2006, at least $1.3 billion in farm subsidies was paid to landowners who had planted nothing since 2000. Among the beneficiaries were homeowners in new developments whose backyards USED to be rice fields. (washingtonpost.com 7/2/06)
For the 2005 corn crop, the federal government spent about $4.8 billion to compensate farmers for low corn prices. That was $3.8 billion more than needed to give them the government-guaranteed price. The program has cost taxpayers $29 billion since 1998. “Most smart farmers are cashing in on it,” says one expert. (washingtonpost.com 7/3/06)
A 2002 program aimed at helping those facing a serious drought gave $635 million to ranchers and dairy farmers who had moderate or no drought. Some ranchers got money because they lived in counties declared disaster areas after debris fell from the space shuttle Columbia. The program was created to help a Republican candidate for the Senate. (John Thune. $50 million went to his home state of South Dakota.) It included $34 million for catfish farmers. (washingtonpost.com 7/18/06)
Tens of millions of pounds of surplus powdered milk that was intended for livestock owners in drought-stricken states ended up on the secondary market, generating millions of dollars in profits for middlemen. (washingtonpost.com 7/19/06)
The government spent billions to expand crop insurance coverage and eliminate the need for annual disaster payments. But taxpayers spent about $9 billion for disaster payments anyway — often to the same farmers. Big beneficiaries of the program were 16 private insurance companies. (washingtonpost.com 10/16/06)
Rice is a heavily subsidized business in the U.S. Rice subsidies in the U.S. totaled $11 billion from 1995 to 2006. One producer alone, Riceland Foods Inc. of Stuttgart, Arkansas, received over $500 million dollars in rice subsidies between 1995 and 2006. Former President Clinton now admits that subsidizing the rice producers was “a mistake” and that he has to live with the consequences his actions caused. These subsidies were designed to force Haitian rice producers out of business, making Haitians dependent upon U.S. produced rice. We in the U.S. spend more each year on rice subsidies than we have spent aiding the Haitians after the earthquake.
The president of an anti-spending, third-party political group targeting a West Virginia congressional candidate along with her family have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in farm subsidies, a West Coast newspaper reported.
Sandra Greiner, president of the American Future Fund, a group that supports conservative Republican candidates, and her family have received $935,000 in federal subsidies for their farm near Keota in Eastern Iowa, The Seattle Times said. The fund, a not-for-profit organization exempt from disclosing its campaign contributors, is spending about $325,000 in West Virginia’s 1st District against Democrat Michael Oliverio, who is running against Republican David McKinley of Wheeling.
The federal government provided substantially larger subsidies to fossil fuels than to renewables. Subsidies to fossil fuels—a mature, developed industry that has enjoyed government support for many years—totaled approximately $72 billion over the study period, representing a direct cost to taxpayers.
Anyone remember the giant Savings and Loan Bailout of 1989-1990 under President Bush I? The one that cost us some $160.1 billion?
In 2009, the U.S. spent $60.8 Billion on the Bush Prescription Drug Program.
And what about children and families? “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
The 2010FY budget for Aid to Children and Families (ACF) and TANF (i.e. what we call “Welfare”) is $34.3 billion. This includes all the programs for children and families in need.
I think this shows just how (un)important our neighbors are. A tiny fraction of our budget. But always the first to be targetted when we talk about “cuts.”
When will we all, no matter our party affiliation, stop being scripted and start demanding answers from the obscenely wealthy corporations that receive welfare? The same corporations who pay the politicians and media to perform the script.
What script is being fed to us now?