Newt Gingrich reeks of desperation. Or, it might just be the smell of red herrings. In a last ditch attempt to be the "anybody-but-Mitt" candidate, he's doubled-down on his argument that African Americans should "demand pay checks and not be satisfied with food stamps." During Monday's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, Gingrich once again defended his recent comments on food stamps.
When in trouble, cue a Republican politician's favorite political villain, the welfare queen. You know the stereotype. The single African American mother whose full-time job is having more babies to increase her welfare benefits. The illegal Mexican immigrant that steals an American's job and uses the public emergency room as his primary care provider. (Insert anyone else who speaks a different tongue, has a slightly darker skin tone and wears funny clothing) who collects food stamps because they are too lazy to get a real job.
But, before my conservative friends criticize me for playing the race card, let me be clear: I don't think it's racist to oppose handouts. I agree. Handouts and entitlements are destructive to America's innovation, personal success and individual happiness. However, the worst welfare queens aren't the petty offenders that collect $133 per month in food stamps.
The real welfare queens are the upper-class college students, who take out federally subsidized student loans for a Master's degree in art history. The investment banker that collects a seven figure salary just after depositing TARP funds. The middle-class homeowner who maxed out her home equity line of credit and now needs a government-backed loan modification. The union auto worker whose "Cadillac" healthcare plan is subsidized by government bailouts of the Chevy Volt. The agribusiness that collects billions of dollars every year in direct and indirect farm subsidies.
And the "historian" who received $1.6 million in taxpayer funds to consult for Freddie Mac. No, I'm sorry, that would be $1.6 million in government handouts to tell a government agency that handouts are bad. I'm sure plenty of food stamp recipients would love to trade their handout for Gingrich's.
It would take the average recipient of food stamps more than 1,000 years to match Newt Gingrich's Freddie Mac contract.
Let me put that in terms even a historian would understand. If you wanted to match Newt's Freddie Mac handout, you'd have to go back to the first millennium, sign up the Viking explorer Leif Ericson for food stamps, and continue paying him benefits today.
The minority welfare queen stereotype is a myth. The government doesn't keep ethnic or racial information about food stamp recipients, but as many as 70 percent of food stamp recipients are white. And the revisionist history about who receives food stamps isn't the only misleading claim about welfare.
When you compare food stamps to other government handouts, it's far from the worst government welfare program. Fannie Mae's $112 billion bailout could fund 70 million people on food stamps for a year. Newt's former bosses at Freddie Mac have received $71 billion in government welfare, enough to annually support more than 44 million people on food stamps. According to ProPublica's bailout report, the $647 billion in recent financial and auto bailouts of 926 institutions could have supported 405 million food stamp recipients.
45.8 million people, one in seven Americans, or 15 percent of the country are on food stamps, by no means, a figure to celebrate. Opponents of bailouts, handouts and welfare should remember their history, and who really benefits from entitlements. The real welfare queens are college students, investment bankers, union workers and farmers, not single mothers.
Follow John Hrabe on Twitter: www.twitter.com/johnhrabe