US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Gutter politics: Romney, taking a page from Reagan, blames the poor

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Ronald Reagan once won an election in part with a promise to take on "welfare queens," the alleged legion of poor women who were having children to cash in on allegedly rich welfare benefits. (It took a later Democratic president, Bill Clinton, and a GOP Congress to bring the hammer down.) Despite the fact that the biggest welfare queens nowadays--at least in terms of taxpayer subsidy--are the Pentagon and people who make most of their income in capital gains (and therefore pay a paltry 15 percent rate thanks to a tax code written to favor the rich), candidate Romney has decided to attack the president for relaxing some work rules for those receiving the meager public aid still available.

While it's unbelievably rich for an unbelievably rich person who has taken advantage of every possibly loophole to avoid paying federal taxes to blame a "culture of dependency" for our nation's troubles (ginormous banks, anyone?) his newest approach shows how out of touch with American reality this entire presidential campaign has become--and how broken our political system is. The need to relax work requirements seem obvious to me: Jobs are scarce, especially for those who have few skills. The very poor are in a rock-and-a-hard place situation here: You have to work to get assistance, but there are almost no jobs to apply for.

This targeting of the poor--in the House budget, even in bipartisan long-term deficit reduction--is the absolute opposite of the requirements of Catholic social teaching, which over and over demands that public policy should keep as its first priority the needs of the poor and vulnerable. I find the president's meager proposals unsatisfactory; Romney's I find morally offensive.

I must admit that, along with Morning's Minion at Vox Nova, I personally can find absolutely no reason as a Catholic to support Mitt Romney at this point, especially in his embrace of the Paul Ryan budget. (I refuse to cast a ballot in his favor because of his recent lip service to opposing abortion; nor will my choice for president be based on a debate over whether a tiny minority of the population should be permitted to marry under civil law.) Blaming the poor is just icing on the cake.

UPDATE: It looks like the Nuns on the Bus sisters over at NETWORK are having a similar reaction to Romney's welfare shenanigans.