uno itinere non potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum -- Q. Aurelius Symmachus, 384 C.E.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The 'Incredible Story'

You've probably heard by now that President Obama won re-election because most of the country now wants to receive government handouts and doesn't want to work for a living.

No, you haven't heard that was the reason? Then you haven't been listening to the Right, where this narrative has been ubiquitous since Obama won Ohio and thus the election.

Fox News' lead host Bill O'Reilly bloviated that people "want stuff," and included a bit of racist hand-wringing in with it: "It's a changing country. ... It's not a traditional America anymore. And there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it. And he ran on it. ... Whereby 20 years ago President Obama would have been roundly defeated by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney, the white establishment is now the minority."

Meanwhile, right-wing screamer Ann Coulter had a similar moment of despondence on Laura Ingram's show, lamenting that the country now has "more takers than makers."

Both of these sentiments echo the disdainful (and factually incorrect) remarks by Mitt Romney at a May fundraiser about the "47 percent" that landed him into trouble late in the campaign.

And like Romney's remarks, they're from Never-Never Land.

Some stats: As to food stamps (the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), only 15 percent of households in 2011 were considered in"food insecurity," and only 57 percent of those participated in SNAP. That's 8.5 percent of households. Of those receiving SNAP, most households include a vulnerable member of the public (children, the elderly, the disabled) -- that's 76 percent -- and this number makes up a whopping 86 percent of all SNAP benefits; i.e., not lazy "welfare queens," but vulnerable people who need it.

Speaking of "welfare," or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families: this accounted for 2.9 percent of U.S. households in 2010. This program, the one reformed by the GOP and Clinton in 1996, has work requirements and time limits, but leaving that aside, this is a small number of the population.

Regarding unemployment insurance (which isn't really the same thing but let's just cover it anyway), only 5.1 million people were on it as of Oct.20.

So, do you see how idiotic this narrative is? Even if there were no overlap on all these people and they all went for Obama, does anyone really think he won the election with this 12-15 percent of the population (not even accounting for the differences between the voting population and the household populations in the stats)?

It's nonsense. It is, as Jon Stewart pointed out last night, an "incredible story to tell yourselves." Especially when those spinning this yarn are, as Stewart brilliantly put it, "the self-sufficient, white, Medicare retirees and upper class tax avoidance experts."

That conservative commentators don't even bother to use code anymore, but will explicitly state that they think the minorities of this country are free-loaders, perhaps explains why they performed so poorly among minorities at the polls -- and will probably continue to do so.

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