One of the few things Mitt Romney and Newt
Gingrich agree on is that President Obama is turning America into
a "European-style welfare culture."
In his standard stump speech, Romney charges Obama with creating a
nation of dependents. "Over the past three years Barack Obama has been
replacing our merit-based society with an entitlement society."
Gingrich calls Obama "the best food-stamp president in American history."
What's their evidence? Both rely on federal budget data showing
direct payments to individuals shot up by almost $600 billion, a 32
percent increase, since the start of 2009.
They also point to Census data showing that 49 percent of Americans
now live in homes where at least one person is collecting a federal
benefit -- Social Security, food stamps, unemployment insurance, worker's
compensation, or subsidized housing. That's up from 44 percent in 2008.
Finally, they trumpet Social Security Administration figures showing
that the number of people on Social Security disability jumped 10
percent in Obama's first two years in office.
They argue our economic problems stem from this sharp rise in
"dependency." Get rid of these benefits and people will work harder.
But they have cause and effect backwards. The reason for the rise
in food stamps, unemployment insurance, and other safety-net programs is
Americans got clobbered in 2008 with the worst economic catastrophe
since the Great Depression. They and their families have needed whatever
helping hands they could get.
If anything, America's safety nets have been too small and shot
through with holes. That's why the number and percentage of Americans in
poverty has increased dramatically over the past three years, including
over a third of families with young children.
That's the real scandal. For example, only 40 percent of the
unemployed qualify for unemployment benefits because they weren't
working full-time or long enough on a single job before they were
canned. The unemployment system doesn't take account of the fact that a
large portion of the workforce typically works part time on several
jobs, and moves from job to job.
Republicans also object to Obama's health-care law, which covers 30
million more Americans than were covered before. That law still leaves
over 20 million without health insurance. They'll get emergency care
when they're in dire straights -- hospitals won't refuse them -- but we
all end up paying indirectly.
Regressive Republicans pretend they're about opportunity. In reality
they're back at what they've been doing for years -- promoting Social