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Gov. Barbour Tries To Retool “Welfare Queens” Meme

BMW apline wrecked car

BMW apline wrecked car by Kingfisherblue2009 Liz Callan, on Flickr

Mississippi Governor and probably presidential hopeful Haley Barbour is a real piece of work. With his Boss Hogg good looks and his penchant for idolizing Jim Crow groups like the Citizens Council (who enforced an economic apartheid on Southern Black citizens)  but thus far that has not stopped him from looking like he might be a viable candidate.

Still the level of mendacity and crypto-racism from the Deep South Governor is not something I think will play in the larger election. Sure whoever the Republican candidate is will be going up against an African American in the general election and the racist minority in this nation is going to be wanting to line up behind anyone (who is white) who will run against him, but the vast majority of the nation is not going stand for that kind of thing.

Still Gov. Barbour can’t seem to help himself when it comes to making statements that are not only false but also laced with more than a hint of racism. At the recent governors conference Barbour was front and center in trying to get the Federal Government to relax the requirements for coverage in Medicaid that went with the stimulus money which boosted the state coffers.

He went so far as to say:

“We have people pull up at the pharmacy window in a BMW and say they can’t afford their co-payment.”

When arguing that States should be allowed to make Medicaid recipients pay for some of their medication. If that statement sounds familiar to you, it did to me too. It is right along the lines of the infamous story of the “Welfare Queen”.

For those who have heard the term but forgotten the story, let me refresh your memory. It was President Reagan who told the anecdote about one woman who defrauded the welfare program for $150,000 dollars, and driving a Cadillac. The only problem with this story is that it was $8,000 not 150K, and the woman went to jail on fraud charges.

Still this story got out there in the public’s mind. Beyond the idea that someone was getting rich on the government’s largess the racist undertone was clear. The implication was the most welfare recipients were black and they were living it up on the hard working, tax paying whites.

It seems that along with Union Bashing Gov Hogg, er, I mean Barbour, is going to try to re-boot the Welfare Queen meme. After all he did work in the Reagan White House in the Office of Political Affairs, so who knows; maybe it is old home week.

The good news is that today is not 1985, and statements like that are routinely fact checked. Glenn Kessler over at the Washington Post took a good hard look at this and found that there unlike the Gipper’s story that was wrong but at the very least based on a real story there is no supporting evidence that this is has any relationship with reality.

Mississippi is a state that is often held up by Republicans and Conservatives as an example of what a “State open for business” should look like. It has some of the most lax regulations in the nation, consistently is in the bottom educationally, and has high levels of poverty.

To qualify for Medicaid in the Magnolia State, a working couple with one child has to make a combined total of $8,150 a year. Yeah, you read that right. Now maybe Gov. Barbour doesn’t know it but BMW even crappy old used ones don’t generally sell for prices that someone making less than $700 a month can afford.

In his fact checking Mr. Kessler takes this attempt to restart a pernicious meme apart at the seems. He concludes his article with:

Given that you have to be rather poor to get on Medicaid in Mississippi, it seems highly unlikely the state has many Medicaid recipients driving around BMWs, even used ones. Note that Barbour said “we have people” — suggesting this is not a rare event.

The failure of Barbour’s aides to provide any documentation for this claim is rather suspicious. At least Reagan’s anecdote was based on a real, though poorly remembered, newspaper article. We would welcome further explanation from Barbour, but until then this qualifies as a whopper.

That earns the Mississippi Governor four pinnocchio’s the highest rating for flatly making up stuff. The reason I am posting about this today is that the Might Republican Wurlitzer that is Talk Radio and Faux News is likely to repeat this meme going forward.

They don’t care if it is true or not, they just care that it helps a Republican and bashes both the poor and the ACA requirements. You should be ready to refute it as hard and as often as you need to with your more conservative and gullible relatives. Look for this thing to turn up in e-mail chains and around the water cooler wherever the Wingnuts and Tea-hadists gather.

The floor is yours.

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for Govtrak.org

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