Political Animal


October 18, 2012 10:54 AM “The Welfare” Get a Fresh Spanking

By Ed Kilgore

I might not even mention this if I didn’t fear it was the first sign of a theme that’s about to show up in Romney/Ryan ads, but that fine legislator Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama requested a special CRS report on “the welfare”—a new compilation of all federal and state spending on means-tested programs (other than those benefitting veterans, of course, indicating Sessions’ malevolent intentions towards the subjects of the “study”).

Naturally, Sessions produced blaring headlines about runaway “welfare” spending, without noting such rather basic facts as the invariable climb in such spending during a deep economic recession (means-tested programs have typically been designed to be “counter-cyclical” in effect), and the major percentage of “welfare” costs (especially in Medicaid, far and away the largest “welfare” program) that target not the idle jobless of conservative myth but the elderly and disabled, not to mention the working poor and many millions of children.

That’s worth keeping in mind when you hear Sessions whining about “the welfare” via The Daily Caller:

It is time to restore — not retreat from — the moral principles of the 1996 welfare reform. Such reforms, combined with measures to promote growth, will help both the recipient and the Treasury.

Note the planted axiom that the federal government is “retreating from” the “moral principles” of welfare reform—presumably an allusion to the lie that the Obama administration has abolished work requirements for receipt of TANF funds, a very small proportion of what Sessions defines as “welfare.”

I don’t know where Sessions is heading with this; perhaps he wants to propose work requirements for nursing home patients or very small children. They can surely do something to pay for their keep, eh? But I’m sure he will continue to fight hard against the federal government’s disproportionate assistance to the people of his own state (though it’s kept as low as possible in the programs where the state sets eligibility or benefit levels), which he resents to no end.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Perspecticus on October 18, 2012 11:01 AM:

    Remember, Ed, we have already heard, in fits and starts, arguments questioning the rationality of child labor laws. And the fact we are not hearing those arguments at this exact moment is not an indication that the questions have been answered to the questioners satisfaction.

  • jsjiowa on October 18, 2012 11:09 AM:

    Jon Cohn has a couple of smart articles at TNR on the stinginess of red states when it comes to welfare programs.

    His conclusion is stirring: "Advocates for the red-state approach to government invoke lofty principles: By resisting federal programs and defying federal laws, they say, they are standing up for liberty. These were the same arguments that the original red-staters made in the 1800s, before the Civil War, and in the 1900s, before the Civil Rights movement. Now, as then, the liberty the red states seek is the liberty to let a whole class of citizens suffer. Thatís not something the rest of us should tolerate. This country has room for different approaches to policy. It doesnít have room for different standards of human decency."

  • Mikhail on October 18, 2012 11:15 AM:

    This always confuses me. We (I live in MA) are *giving them money*. It's a much-proven fact that the blue states pay more in taxes than they consume in government spending, and Alabama gets more money from the Federal government than it takes.

    Why do they have a problem with this?!?

  • boatboy_srq on October 18, 2012 11:18 AM:

    God's Own Party: proudly moving the US into the (early) 19th century.

    I swear sometimes I think the GOP reads Dickens as instruction rather than criticism.

    And weren't "the moral principles of the 1996 welfare reform" something akin to "no taxpayer dollars for 'no-good, worthless, lyin' niCLANGs'" (H/T Fannie Flagg and Fried Green Tomatoes)?

  • T2 on October 18, 2012 11:28 AM:

    "I donít know where Sessions is heading with this" .......I do. The Conservatives (who also happen to be overwhelmingly White) want to do away with any program that takes taxes from "their" people and gives the money to "those" people. Sessions is one of the most blatantly racist GOPers, and he's also an idiot.

  • Brian on October 18, 2012 11:39 AM:

    Ahh... 'Jefferson Beauregard Sessions,' the name says it all -even if he no longer wears the Klan attire.

  • Joe Friday on October 18, 2012 11:42 AM:

    A FAR better return can be had, both morally and to the treasury, if we addressed the massive amounts of Corporate Welfare.

  • c u n d gulag on October 18, 2012 11:49 AM:

    Ah yes, another Christian politician, citing "moral principles."

    I suppose in his version of the Bible, in 'The Miracle of the loaves and fishes,' Christ and his disciples took the food, and, after telling the multitudes to "GO AND FECK OFF!!!," ate it in front of them, and brought the leftovers to the Moneychangers.

    And when the Moneychangers feces from the food trickled down the sewers to the multitudes, they could use it as fertilizer.
    And, if the e-coli didn't kill them, well, then Christ fed the multitudes the Conservative way - instead of giving them food directly, he maintained their dignity by telling them to "Eat sh*t!" and letting them fend for themselves!

    New, more, and better, Christian politicians, please!!!

  • c u n d gulag on October 18, 2012 11:51 AM:

    On 2nd thought - make that last line say, "NO MORE CHRISTIAN POLITICIANS!!!"

    Thank you.

  • Gandalf on October 18, 2012 11:55 AM:

    It's always easy to pick on the weak and powerless. Where I come from we have a name for people who do that.

  • Brian on October 18, 2012 12:02 PM:

    Joe Friday; thank you for stating that.
    I really like this item -I know people who work in defense in particular, at companies that manage to avoid paying income tax... yet these people complain about Obama 'stealing their money and giving it to people that don't want to work.' Defense contractors; the biggest snout at the government trough.


  • schtick on October 18, 2012 12:03 PM:

    I'd like to repeat something that a guy said to me that has come on tough times after losing a job he worked at for over 25 years.
    "There are no jobs out there for me close to home. I finally found one with good pay and good benefits but I'm starting at the bottom and driving at least 130 miles a day to get there and back. In winter it's taking me more time to get there and back with weather and road conditions so I'm spending my time going to work, working, coming home, eating dinner and going to bed to start all over again the next day.
    I'd like just one of those people in Congress to trade places with me for a month and live off the unemployment I got inbetween jobs and see how they would fare. I don't think I could stand the crying. They get seven figure salaries and don't even work half a week, but are always looking for more. They need to live like the real people and see it as we do. We aren't leeches, they are because they get all their money, benefits, pensions and perks from our tax dollars."
    He's right.

  • Renai on October 18, 2012 12:08 PM:

    Sessions is an ass. He comes from a state that has no jobs, and he harps on welfare?

    Sessions needs to get off his obstructionist butt and start working on the forward solution to welfare, decent jobs.

    Just before I had to leave my home in AL to find work in another state, the last job I "interviewed" for was a measly 20 hour per week, no benefit job at Books-A-Million where I'd be required to force feed customers those ridiculous "discount" cards. The manager said she got 60 applications for that job. How many of those 60 do you supposed was on some sort of welfare?

    While Sessions sits in his fancy office, people in his state who really want to work can't find a job, and get welfare to feed their kids, just to hear Sessions bitch about them.

    Top notch asshole.

  • Peter C on October 18, 2012 12:19 PM:

    Sessions is a vile human being. Tommy Thompson should be asked what HE thinks of this.

    Even with a vibrant 50-state strategy (which we need but DON'T yet have), there will be states which lag. Alabama is one such state. Realistically, we're stuck with these awful people in our highest legislative body.

    When Senators from those lagging states open their vile mouths, we need to pin their mean-spiritedness on the colleages in the Republican Party. We need to make endangered Republicans either embrace or denounce the people they've chosen to associate with. "What do YOU think of this despicable move, Mr. Thompson?"

  • martin on October 18, 2012 1:24 PM:

    I donít know where Sessions is heading with this;

    He's not heading anywhere with it. He just a pig who enjoys making people suffer.

    And I swear to god my Captcha is: reducing idiopathic, which is pretty much how I feel about Sessions.

  • efcdons on October 18, 2012 1:56 PM:


    You were a part of this. Do you think "ending welfare as we know it" was going to quite these reactionary pigs? Now they can say they are acting in the spirit of bi-partisan welfare reform whenever they move to slash benefits. The moral argument is powerful and you and the DLC helped create and nurture the idea that the poor are lazy leeches, but that we can help them by weaning them off their dependency.

    I always find it funny whenever you act aghast as the GOP parrots arguments the DLC used 20 odd years ago.

  • sparrow on October 18, 2012 1:59 PM:

    I recall from Schlinder's List that young kids' fingers are perfect for polishing the inside of shell casings. That could prove useful in fostering patriotism and responsibility to a work ethic in our youth when the Republicans decide to wage a new war with Iran.

  • Doug on October 18, 2012 6:29 PM:

    efcdons, the only time I recall when the poor WEREN'T stigmatized as being "shiftless" or "lazy" was during the Great Depression when it was obvious that just wasn't the case.
    If I understand the reforms done during the 1990s, they were predicated on an expanding economy - which was taking place at that time. The trouble developed when the economy quit expanding during the first decade of this century and then all but collapsed in 2008; a situation the welfare "reforms" were simply not designed to deal with.
    If you have any complaints about how poor people are treated NOW, I suggest you turn your attention to the Republicans in Congress and those controlling various governorships and state legislatures.
    You're welcome.