COMMENTARY | As political pundits scramble to analyze how the Welfare Queen of 1976 is faring in the 2012 Republican primary speeches, her identity gets pretty slippery. She could be the face of the nation's poor, foisted onto food stamps instead of given jobs -- courtesy of President Barack Obama, if you listen to Newt Gingrich, CNN noted. Or she could one of the folks Rick Santorum didn't mean to call "black people" when he told Iowans, "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them someone else's money."
But an involuntary welfare queen doesn't drive the same emotional punch as one who deliberately takes advantage of American taxpayers. The Welfare Queen of 1976, you may remember, helped push Ronald Reagan to success at the polls. As CNN described this mythical moocher, "she has 12 Social Security cards, mooches on benefits from four fake dead husbands, and collects food stamps while driving a Cadillac. She rakes in about $150,000 a year in welfare benefits and, of course, people assume she must be African-American."
While the Welfare Queen described by Ronald Reagan was primarily mythical, with a few composite
details borrowed from the stories of much less dramatic Aid to Family with Dependent Children program abusers lending credibility to her identity, there really are welfare queens in American society. And while just as conniving as the Reagan's Welfare Queen, the welfare queens of 2012 have changed their methods. What does a welfare queen portfolio look like in 2012? Today's welfare queen (using the term in a genderless fashion), instead of multiple social security cards and a string of ex-spouses, dead or alive, trades in influence peddling, consulting contracts, tax breaks, subsidies and a leveraged buyout here and there.
Salon presumably would probably offer up the 2012 crown to Mitt Romney. It says Romney accumulated the lion's share of his wealth at Bain Capital by redistributing wealth from taxpayers to his investors and partners. Generous tax breaks, extensive subsidies, leveraged buyouts in which massive debt is written off to avoid taxation- these are the tools of what Salon calls "vulture capitalism," and that's how Romney got to where he is now, with $20.9 million income from investments in 2010, as reported by the Jakarta Globe, along with a net worth that may be as high as $250 million, according to the Washington Post.
But Romney isn't alone in the world of welfare queens. Gingrich amassed his riches by using his influence to generate support for Congressional dishing out of corporate welfare, the Washington Examiner noted. Gingrich, with a net worth exceeding $6.7 million, reported earnings of $3.1 million last year, much of it from passive investments. He amassed $1.6 to $1.8 million in fetid Freddie Mac consulting fees over eight years, Reuters reported, while Freddie's victims lost their homes.
Santorum likewise fits the welfare queen profile. He cashed in after leaving Congress, becoming a sudden millionaire with lucrative consulting and lobbying contracts. His income went up by more than a factor of six since he left Congress; he reported $1.3 million income in 2010, the Washington Post noted. His efforts to bring corporate welfare to campaign donors while he was in office apparently paid off when he left office, as described by the New Republic in a piece outlining Santorum's K Street connections.
The Welfare Queen of 1976 reaped peanuts by contrast.
- Politics & Government
- welfare queen
- Newt Gingrich
- Rick Santorum
- Ronald Reagan
- Mitt Romney
- President Barack Obama