Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 2, 2011

WELFARE QUEENS FOR A NEW GENERATION.... In the face of ongoing budget problems, Republican governors want to cut more low-income families off the Medicaid rolls, and that mean ol' Obama administration won't let them. But GOP governors keep making their case anyway.

Take Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), for example. The likely 2012 presidential candidate wants low-income families to pay more for prescription medications, arguing, "We have people pull up at the pharmacy window in a BMW and say they can't afford their co-payment."

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's because, as Adam Serwer noted this morning, Barbour's rhetoric is awfully similar to Ronald Reagan targeting "Cadillac-driving welfare queens" in 1976. (Reagan pointed to a specific woman to bolster his case at the time, but his anecdote was proven to be a rather ridiculous lie.)

What's more, Glenn Kessler took a closer look at the substance of Barbour's claim, and concludes that the far-right governor is just making stuff up.

Mississippi provides some of the lowest Medicaid benefits to working adults in the nation. A parent who isn't working can qualify only if annual family income is less than 24 percent of the poverty line. Working parents qualify only if they make no more than 44 percent of the federal poverty level. Seniors and people with disabilities are eligible with income at 80 percent of the poverty line. Pregnant women do better -- they're eligible with income up to 185 percent of the poverty level.

Translated from the federal poverty guidelines, that means a working Mississippi couple with one child could earn no more than $8,150 a year and still qualify for Medicaid, seniors and people with disabilities could earn no more than $8,700, and a pregnant woman could earn no more than $20,000 a year.

Meanwhile, the German-engineered BMW is a pretty fancy car. Edmunds.com says that new BMW car prices range from nearly $30,000 to more than $120,000. That seems out of the price range of someone making $8,000 a year.

Checking used BMWs worth less than $5,000 in Mississippi on Yahoo Used Cars finds 10 available within 300 miles of Jackson, the state capital -- but all carrying lots of miles. Four grand, for instance, would get you a 1996 BMW 328i with 237,000 miles on it. But even that, for many of Mississippi's Medicaid recipients, would be half a year's salary.

In other words, when Barbour claims "we have people" who pick up prescriptions in Mississippi in a BMW -- as if this is somehow common -- he's lying. Indeed, when Kessler asked the governor's office to bolster the anecdote, they blew off two days of inquiries.

But I suspect Barbour doesn't much care. The point of a quote like that one isn't to draw attention to a legitimate policy concern; it's to appeal to right-wing voters on an emotional level.

Indeed, it's not dissimilar to Barbour whining that "some people on the left" don't like "conservative Christian Republicans from the Deep South," as he did this week.

Steve Benen 10:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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My question to Gov Barbour would be, what was jamie diamond and the rest of the top bankers wearing or driving when they got that 900 billion dollar welfare check?

Posted by: allamr18 on March 2, 2011 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

I'll admit I don't care for Southern yahoo culture. But I wouldn't see much point in simply making up crap about them. For some odd reason, conservative Christians seem unbothered by their tendency to slander other people.

Posted by: walt on March 2, 2011 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

BMWs aren't all that special.

I was stationed in Germany and live on the economy in a small town south of Stuttgart. A local farmer in overalls would sell his farm fresh eggs from the trunk of his late model 5 series BMW.

Of course, that was in socialist Europe where every resident is a welfare queen with government health care.

Posted by: arkie on March 2, 2011 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe Barbour's saying that Mississippi Medicaid participants are all car thieves?

Posted by: K in VA on March 2, 2011 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I don't like Christian Conservative Republicans from anywhere and that fucking accent that boss hog has just grates on my nerves, so yes he has a point, a point which most likely means we won't be saying hello to president Barbour anytime soon.

Posted by: SW on March 2, 2011 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Or maybe someone let their gardener borrow the car to pick up asthma medicine.

Posted by: Danp on March 2, 2011 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Probably a Driving Miss Daisy situation and Hoke was picking up his own prescription while running errands for Miss Daisy.

Posted by: martin on March 2, 2011 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Dammit, Dnap beat me too it while I was looking up Hoke's name;>

Posted by: martin on March 2, 2011 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

We all know the old saying about "money talks, bullshit walks." Or the variation on the Golden Rule: "He who has the gold makes the rules." And yet I'm constantly amazed at the number of people who are convinced that the people with the least money have the most power in this country. That's not to say there's no fraud at all, but if it were nothing but fraud there'd be no poor people in this country. Yet census figures and other data all indicate that the number of people in poverty is continuing to grow.

So the only conclusion we can draw is that if people really are picking up checks in BMWs it means that an awful lot of rich people are stealing from the poor. And the solution to that problem is to arrest the crooks and make sure aid is distributed properly -- not to eliminate aid completely.

Posted by: AndrewBW on March 2, 2011 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

My dad grew up in MS and my mother still spends time there so I have spent a fair amount of time in the state over my 40+ years and I can honestly say I don't see too many fancy cars - no matter who is driving them.

I know his comment was a "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" implying it was black people in BMWs but likely it was white.

Posted by: ET on March 2, 2011 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that the answer is not to cut medicaid, but rather to tax people that drive BMW's more.

Posted by: Gridlock on March 2, 2011 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

barbour probably saw it with his own eyes while he was at that mlk rally in yazoo city...

Posted by: me on March 2, 2011 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

This goes back a lot farther than the 1970s. In 1947, A.J. Liebling wrote a column entitled "Horsefeathers Swathed in Mink" which is a wonderful takedown of this "welfare queen" chimera.

You can read it here: http://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2010/12/horsefeathers-swathed-in-mink.html

Liebling wrote some terrific critiques of the press (as they were known back then) for the New Yorker that are dismayingly relevant today. Those essays were published in a book called "The Press," which is well worth reading. "The Press" is in print as part of the Library of America series, in a Liebling omnibus called "The Sweet Science and Other Writings."

Posted by: jvwalt on March 2, 2011 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

I know a welfare recipient who drives a Cadillac - a 1976 Cadillac. A typical American made gas-hog piece of shit that is the only car she could afford to buy.

Posted by: Ten Bears on March 2, 2011 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Indeed, it's not dissimilar to Barbour whining that "some people on the left" don't like "conservative Christian Republicans from the Deep South," as he did this week

Speaking as someone "on the left," I don't like you either, you miserable son of a bitch, and this is a prime example of why. Christian, my ass.

Posted by: Death Panel Truck on March 2, 2011 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

"...if people really are picking up checks in BMWs it means that an awful lot of rich people are stealing from the poor."
Posted by: AndrewBW on March 2, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Well, sure.
But, as other commenters here have pointed out, the "if" clause there is pretty superfluous.
Even before the recent unpleasantness -- the near-collapse of the entire world economy due to massive, systemic, and blatant fraud; the fact that (to my knowledge) not one person has yet been charged (let alone convicted) of any malfeasance in same; and the record payouts to not just the same profession, but many of the selfsame individuals who brought on the near-collapse paid in part with taxpayer dollars -- long before any of this happened, it was abundantly clear to anyone actually paying attention that "an awful lot of rich people [had been] stealing from the poor" and the middle-class for a very long time.
And no, it's not just the Publicans. The repeal of Glass-Steagal (the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) and the choice to leave CDOs, MBOs, and all the other "exotic instruments" (now more accurately referred to as "toxic") completely unregulated (the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which by-the-by also allowed Enron to create the electricity "shortages" in California after that state privatized its power supply) were signed into law by that great Democrat Bill Clinton, after his economic team (now Obama's, of course) had pushed for their passage in Congress.
And all of this is before we even think about...
...the radical shift in much of the tax burden from the wealthy and corporations to the middle and working classes;
...the concerted attack on organized labor, of which the current Publican bs is just the latest / most blatant manifestation;
...the decades-long bi-partisan eagerness to allow immense numbers of undocumented immigrants to compete with citizens for what used to be well-paying jobs;
...bi-partisan passage of NAFTA and other "free trade" agreements that have no supports for labor or the environment...
...and I'm pretty sure there are a few more that I'm forgetting for the moment. They'll come to me eventually.

Posted by: smartalek on March 2, 2011 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Hailey Barbour is a walking insult to any sense of decency! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 2, 2011 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Well, ya gotta give Barbour points for getting at least something right. I'm a Christian Democrat person "on the left" from the North and I can't stand conservative person Christian Republicans from the Deep South!

Probably for much the same reason I dislike the Three Stooges and Benny Hill.

Posted by: Chesire11 on March 2, 2011 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans on medicaid cuts: death panels are just fine, for the poor that is.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on March 2, 2011 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

I think we're all missing the dog whistle here.

*coughcoughblackdrugdealersruiningourstatecoughcough*

Posted by: slappy magoo on March 2, 2011 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

A BMW on $8K per year? Only if Wall Street can figure a way to package worthless car loans into worthless securities and then get the rating agencies to stamp them AAA.

Posted by: Rasputin22 on March 2, 2011 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Barbour was trying to make us angry over US decline and long for the good old days when welfare queens drove American made cars.

Why even poverty pimps wouldn't be caught dead in a ride made by government motors.

I applaud Kessler (today and often). But I want more. I want him to keep asking Barbour's office and keep reporting on their replies or the absense thereof.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on March 2, 2011 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

No surprise that barbour is a lying sack of crap but,,, when he says

"some people on the left" don't like "conservative Christian Republicans from the Deep South,",,,

that may be a slight understatement
but it's no lie because
he's talking about me.

Posted by: cwolf on March 2, 2011 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know if it is still true but it used to be that if your car was worth more than a couple thousand dollars you did not qualify for any assistance. This was also true if you had life insurance that was worth more than four thousand.

But hey, that dog whistle works even after all these years.

Posted by: thebewilderness on March 2, 2011 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Does Rush Limbaugh fill his scrips in Crackersippi now?

Why would someone trying to fill a prescription tell the pharmacy they can't afford the co-payment? The pharmacy tech would simply tell them to fuck off (or offer some advice about assistance while politely refusing to fill the prescription).

Absent the existence of some leftist freak pharmacist with deep pockets, I am confident there is no pharmacy in Crackersippi that hands out free drugs to those who show up and say they don't have cash or credit for the co-pay.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on March 2, 2011 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

"But, as other commenters here have pointed out, the 'if clause there is pretty superfluous."
--Posted by: smartalek on March 2, 2011 at 11:59 AM

I totally agree with you. I was just pointing out how absurd Republican arguments are even if you accept the "facts" they're based on.

Posted by: AndrewBW on March 2, 2011 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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