The Fox News “War On the Poor” made a return to the network on September 28, when a guest proclaimed his support for the latest proposal to shame welfare recipients. The proposal, made by the mayor of Lewiston, Maine, is to publish the names of those on welfare in the local newspaper. Of course Fox host Steve Doocy thinks it’s a wonderful idea.
Fox and Friends featured a segment called “Entitlement Nation,” which is the title they trot out whenever they are about to engage in poor shaming. Joining Doocy for the conversation was Rebecca Vallas from the Center for American Progress and Seton Motley, from Less Government, which Doocy identifies only as a “D.C. based non-profit.”
Doocy turns to Motley first and asks him to explain a statement about shame being a “powerful motivator.” Motley replies that we know it is because the left uses it to get people to pay their taxes. Right away you can see where the conversation is going. Motley apparently thinks there is some moral equivalent between pressuring the well off to pay their fair share and making public the names of those who are receiving a few hundred dollars a month in public assistance.
Motley doesn’t even defend his argument very well. He says that government does a poor job of tracking where its money is spent. Then he says that by publishing the names of welfare recipients, we could track that spending. But those names would come from the welfare rolls and those rolls are maintained by the government.
Motley claims his interest is in protecting taxpayers from people who “abuse the system.” That’s a common complaint about welfare from people on the right. It’s Reagan’s “welfare queen” myth, that says that people are getting rich by collecting welfare. They drive expensive cars, have the best new cell phones, buy lobster and expensive cuts of steak, etc, etc. It’s totally false, of course. A 2013 report from The Atlantic, says that families receiving public assistance spend less on everything they buy than the rest of us do.
But actual numbers mean nothing to the “don’t confuse us with facts” crowd. Every conservative argument against welfare starts with the words “I know somebody who…” This is exactly what publishing the names of welfare recipients would promote. Instead of identifying actual welfare fraud, which is rare, local welfare agencies would be swamped with calls from people complaining about this person or that person, who they don’t think deserves welfare benefits.
When he turns to Rebecca Vallas, Doocy asks a question that indicates that this whole issue has very little to do with identifying fraud and a lot to do with shaming those who need public assistance:
There are some people, you know, we all know abuse the system, they go on it for years. But there are others, you know, who run into a tough spot and they might have to go on public assistance for a while. What’s the matter with putting the list out there of the people who are winding up with money out of the taxpayers’ pocket?
Vallas responds that by raising the minimum wage, we could move many people off welfare. Of course Motley doesn’t like that idea. “Yeah, once again let’s shame the people who are creating jobs rather than, you know, shaming the people who are sitting on welfare,” he says.
Space doesn’t permit a discussion about everything that is wrong with Motley’s statements, but that one is easy to debunk. People by and large do not “sit” on welfare. There are work requirements that come with benefits, and Motley surely knows that. But hey, what fun is it to tell the truth about people on welfare, when you can come up with ideas like shaming them by printing their names in the paper? After all, like the song says, “Everybody’s gotta have somebody to look down on.”
Here’s the video, via Raw Story:
Featured image via PhotoBucket