Racial Politics

by alexvanbuskirk

Who Racializes Welfare Reform?

By The Editors @ National Review (August 29, 2012)

The Romney campaign criticizes the Obama administration for gutting welfare reform, and the Democratic chorus sings the familiar refrain: “Racist!” Leading the choir is tingly countertenor Chris Matthews of MSNBC: “When you start talking about work requirements,” he thundered at Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, “you know what game you’re playing, and everybody knows what game you’re playing: It’s a race card.” This judgment was immediately confirmed by Thomas Edsall of the New York Times and Timothy Noah of The New Republic, among others.

There is racial politics at work here, and, as usual, it is a Democratic initiative.

Before proceeding to the question of Democratic race-baiting, it is worth paying a moment’s attention to the substantive policy question here. As Mr. Noah disingenuously puts it, the Obama administration says it has the authority to give waivers to states “allowing them to experiment with alternative ways to meet the work requirement” imposed by the Clinton-Gingrich welfare reforms. One of the ways in which states could be allowed to “meet the work requirement” is by not meeting the work requirement, i.e., by sending out welfare checks without requiring that nearly half the recipients perform 30 hours of work-related activities (which is not a particularly burdensome standard to begin with). This is important because, as Jim Manzi and others have shown, work requirements are one of the only policy innovations that have been shown in real-world trials to be effective in moving people from welfare to work. Undermine the work requirement and you undermine welfare reform in toto.

Mr. Matthews’s accusations were, as is his style, presented without evidence or argument, and indeed without anything that might even charitably be called intellectual content. That he immediately connects welfare in his mind with race is of course telling: The majority of American welfare recipients are white…

Democrats’ proprietary attitude toward African-Americans is a disgrace, one that nine in ten black voters unfortunately reinforce at every electoral opportunity. Welfare reform is not about limiting the transfer of money from white taxpayers to non-white welfare recipients, but about ensuring that programs intended to help the poor and ease their transition into the productive economy do not in the end damage the poor, corrupt public institutions, and constrain the economy…

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