Media Matters: Savage: “Why should a welfare recipient have the right to vote? They’re only gonna vote themselves a raise”

Media Matters

Savage: “Why should a welfare recipient have the right to vote? They’re only gonna vote themselves a raise”

Summary: On his radio show, Michael Savage asked: “Do you think a person on welfare has the right to vote? I don’t.” He later added: “Why should a welfare recipient have the right to vote? They’re only gonna vote themselves a raise.”

Comment from Left Field: Two Dog Whistles (UPDATE)

Comment from Left Field

Two Dog Whistles (UPDATE)

I say all of this because through the course of the day I let two potentially racial dog whistles blow right past me and I didn’t even notice.  From someone who claims to be hyper-sensitive to this kind of thing, I was a little ashamed.

The first is that of “socialism”.  If you’re going, “huh?” right now, don’t fret, I was also not too terribly long ago.  There’s no denying the fact that the latest and greatest tactic from the McCain campaign has to paint Obama as a socialist, or that he is prescribing socialism for this country, or that if he is elected we will ultimately become a socialist country.

I’ve never really thought much about this whole tactic in racial terms.  This seemed to me to be the usage of two different mechanisms at once; neither of which having much to do directly with race.  On one hand, it drudges up the old cold war anxieties that continue to plague this nation on all things socialist and communist.  As I’ve discussed with at least one old friend in the past (who will for now remain nameless), despite the belief outside of this country that socialism in some form or another is acceptable, inside this country due to lingering cold war apprehensions, generations will come and go before any kind of meaningful socialism movement could take root here in earnest (caveats: I am myself a capitalist, and there is the possibility that the current economic crisis could hasten socialisms progress towards acceptability in this country).

But as I would come to find out, the label, “socialist” actually does have a more direct racial implication.

J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI from 1924 to 1972, used the term liberally to describe African Americans who spent their lives fighting for equality.

Those freedom fighters included the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who led the Civil Rights Movement; W.E.B. Du Bois, who in 1909 helped found the NAACP which is still the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization; Paul Robeson, a famous singer, actor and political activist who in the 1930s became involved in national and international movements for better labor relations, peace and racial justice; and A. Philip Randolph, who founded and was the longtime head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and a leading advocate for civil rights for African Americans.

Now this is direct historical context that takes my second approach to the socialist label, the indirect racial relation to otherize Obama, and sort of flips the concept on its head.  It’s been done directly in the past specifically in a racial context.

Still, I am initially unwilling to go as far as the author of the post excerpted above in condemning the usage of the label as a definitive dog whistle on the merits of his historical argument alone.  After all, if I didn’t know that socialism could be a racial dog whistle until today, then there are going to be plenty of people out there that still don’t know.

But there is a crack in this wall of logic that begins with one aspect of the Republican ticket, namely that while I’m not old enough to have personally experienced this specific dog whistle, McCain is.  I’m still not completely sold at this point in the argument, but there is a far greater probability for McCain to understand the full context than there is for me.

What makes this a credible candidate as an honest to goodness racial dog whistle is that it ends up dovetailing with another term that has been used an awful lot on the trail, “welfare.”

Now, I really am ashamed at not having my racist alarm going off once the McCain camp started dialing up the welfare rhetoric specifically because I know that welfare is a racial dog whistle.  It’s used stereotypically, for instance in the term “Welfare Queen,” just as that stereotype can be used to generate racial tension among white people who feel that these so-called welfare queens are leaches on hard working taxpayers.

The message that this sends to voters for whom race will play a larger factor is also pretty easy to pick up on: You think black people are getting a free ride now?  Just wait until they elect a black president.

But to see how these two dog whistles work in concert, I’m going to turn things over to Rachel Maddow who shows how “socialist” and “welfare” dovetail with a possible attempt to manually instigate a Bradley Effect.

(ed note: I’m having a difficult time getting the player to run properly, so please go watch the video here)

WashPo: The Power of Two Myths

Washington Post

The Power of Two Myths

As its days dwindle down to a precious few, the McCain campaign is giving new life to old myths. In an attempt to suppress minority voting, it has conjured up the specter of voter fraud, though there is no evidence that voter fraud exists. Even more impressive is its attempt to resurrect the welfare queens against whom Ronald Reagan used to fulminate, though the stories Reagan told about them had no basis in fact, either. Welfare was pretty much abolished in the mid-1990s, of course, but an increasingly desperate John McCain is transporting us back to the wedge issues of yesteryear.

To do so, he is accusing Barack Obama of bringing back the discarded policies of welfare by calling for a tax cut that will apply to all taxpayers, including workers who pay payroll but not income taxes because their earnings are too low. A tax break for the working poor — janitors, waitresses, employees of Wal-Mart and McDonald’s — becomes, in McCain’s telling, a subsidy from all the Joe the Plumbers to undeserving people who live off the dole.

Back in Reagan’s day, the whole point of attacking welfare recipients, of course, was to rally susceptible white voters to the Republican column by stoking their animus at African Americans whom they (wrongly) believed comprised the majority of welfare recipients. It enabled Reagan and his right-wing crew to play the race card without actually having to make racially specific characterizations. Which is precisely the tack McCain is taking as he makes a last-ditch attempt to pull every possible vote out of Appalachian Ohio and Pennsylvania.

National Journal Hotline: Blogometer

National Journal Hotline


OBAMA II: The Prince Of Welfare?

Many conservative bloggers are arguing that Obama’s proposal to cut taxes for 95% of Americans will result in welfare for Americans who don’t pay income taxes. Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel recently made this argument:

“…Mr. Obama will give 95% of American working families a tax cut, even though 40% of Americans today don’t pay income taxes! How can our star enact such mathemagic? How can he ‘cut’ zero? Abracadabra! It’s called a ‘refundable tax credit.’ It involves the federal government taking money from those who do pay taxes, and writing checks to those who don’t. Yes, yes, in the real world this is known as ‘welfare,’ but please try not to ruin the show.”

  • NRO‘s Cliff May: “OK, so we all know that taxation without representation is a form of tyranny. But as Kimberly Strassel and others have been pointing out, ‘40% of Americans today don’t pay income taxes.’ What if, not implausibly, in the next administration that number rises to 51% or more? At that point, the majority of Americans not paying taxes would elect leaders who decide how much the minority must fork over to the government — to be redistributed to the majority through government programs and services. A majority of American would enjoy representation without taxation. This is probably not a form [of] tyranny that [Thomas] Jefferson[James] Madison,[Benjamin] Franklin et al. envisioned.”
  • NRO‘s Andy McCarthy: “Cliff, I actually think it’s exactly the form of tyranny the Founders feared. As an increasingly sizable majority pays no taxes, the minority’s representation becomes ever more illusory. The minority will be taxed, its property rights will be eroded, and it will have no meaningful say in the matter. A tyrant is a tyrant, whether he’s a king or a block-voting majority of dependents. As Obama and his ACORN friends used to say when he was a community organizer signing up half of Chicago, ‘It’s a power thing.'”

Liberal bloggers are rebutting this argument by pointing out that “a worker can be a ‘taxpayer’ whether or not they owe any income tax”Obsidian Wings‘ hilzoy writes: “How can you cut taxes for people who pay no income taxes? Magic? Welfare? Or maybe — just maybe — people who pay no income taxes pay some other kind of tax. I know, I know: how could there be any sort of tax other than the (federal) income tax? I have heard that in distant lands there are strange, exotic taxes, like the ‘sales tax’, the ‘property tax’, ‘state and local income taxes’, the ‘capital gains tax’, ‘use taxes’, ‘permit fees’, other fees, the ‘severance tax’, the ‘occupational privilege tax’, the ‘estate tax’, the ‘gift tax’, the ‘federal excise tax’, and even the fantastically named ‘generation skipping transfer tax’. But surely we have no such outlandish customs here! We who live in a country that has only one sort of tax, the federal income tax, can only stare in wonder at those benighted countries where people actually pay taxes whenever they buy a shovel or realize capital gains. Oh. Wait.”

National Review Online: Obama’s New Tax Welfare

National Review Online

Obama’s New Tax Welfare

Barack Obama says he plans to cut taxes for 95 percent of American workers. That sounds terrific, but there are three problems. One, it is meant to draw attention from the real core of the Obama tax plan: proposed increases in every major federal tax. Two, the structure of the cuts will create perverse incentives. And three, many of the people receiving “tax cuts” don’t pay taxes to begin with, meaning they’ll be in effect getting welfare.

The first point requires but a simple list. Obama proposes to raise the top two individual income tax rates by 25 percent or more, through both explicit rate increases and the phaseout of personal exemptions and all itemized deductions for upper-income earners. He’ll increase the capital-gains tax rate by 33 percent, the tax rate on dividends by 33 percent, and the top payroll-tax rate by 16 to 32 percent. He’ll create a new payroll tax for national health insurance, estimated at 7 percent. He’ll reinstate the death/inheritance tax, which is being phased out under current law, with a new top marginal rate of 45 percent. He’ll increase the corporate tax burden by 25 percent “by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens.” He’ll even increase tariffs through his protectionist trade policies.

Besides the $500-per-worker credit, Obama proposes a slew of income-tax credits targeted toward low- and moderate-income people, also refundable. Obama proposes such tax credits for child care, education, housing, retirement, health care, welfare, etc.

Though the people receiving these credits will spend the money, the programs will probably hurt the economy on net, because the credits will be phased out at higher income levels. This, in effect, constitutes yet another marginal tax on high-income earners, and thus another blow to their incentives to be productive. 

These programs alone would cost $1.3 trillion over ten years. I call it The New Tax Welfare.

LA Times: McCain says Obama wants socialism

LA Times

McCain says Obama wants socialism

The Republican says his rival would turn the IRS into a giant ‘welfare agency.’ The Democrat calls McCain out of touch and says his middle-class tax cut would benefit only working people.Obama has said that his plan would cut taxes for 95% of working Americans, including Wurzelbacher. McCain has said 40% of Americans don’t pay income taxes, either because they are elderly or don’t make enough money.

“In other words, Barack Obama’s tax plan would convert the IRS into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington,” McCain said in his radio remarks.

Strategists for the Arizona Republican see Obama’s spread-the-wealth comment as a major gaffe — providing an opening on an issue that has worked to the benefit of the Democratic nominee amid the nation’s financial crisis.

Socialist theory calls for collective ownership of most private enterprise and for an egalitarian society. Karl Marx argued that socialism was a transitional phase between capitalism and communism.

Democratic Strategist: The New “Welfare Queens”

Democratic Strategist

The New “Welfare Queens”

Throughout this long presidential campaign, there’s been endless discussion of race as a factor. But until recently, such talk revolved around hard-to-assess white fears about Barack Obama’s racial identity, along with efforts to conjure up the ancient hobgoblin of the Scary Black Man via images of Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

Now, in the wake of the ongoing financial crisis, racism has entered the campaign conversation from an unexpected direction. In the fever swamps of conservatism, there’s a growing drumbeat of claims that the entire housing mess, and its financial consequences, are the result of “socialist” schemes to give mortgages to shiftless black people whose irresponsibility is now being paid for by good, decent, white folks.

Some of this talk is in thinly-veiled code, via endless discussions on conservative web sites (though it spilled over into Congress during the bailout debate) attributing the subprime mortgage meltdown to the effects of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which was aimed at fighting the common practice of mortgage “redlining” in low-income and/or minority areas (basically, a refusal to make any mortgages, regardless of the creditworthiness of individual applicants, in such areas).

In truth, the CRA didn’t require lending to unqualified applicants (though it did provide that applicants’ credit-worthiness could be established through means more sophisticated that standard credit scores), and in any event, CRA doesn’t even apply to the non-bank lenders responsible for the vast majority of bad mortgages. (Sara Robinson has a very useful primeron CRA at the OurFuture blog).

A closely associated and even more racially tinged element of the conservative narrative on the financial crisis focuses on lurid claims about the vast influence of ACORN, a national non-profit group active in advocacy work for low-income Americans. Among its many activities, ACORN has promoted low-income and minority homeownership, mainly through personal counseling. More to the point, though it’s unrelated to any of the claims about ACORN’s alleged role in the financial crisis, the group worked with Barack Obama back in his community organizing days on the South Side of Chicago.