Blatant Demagoguery

With the mid-term elections fast approaching, President Trump is moving quickly via Executive Orders to appease his political base. This election season the entire Congress is up for grabs for both political parties, and the voting to decide which candidates will run in November—the primaries—begin in most states very soon. Therein lies Trumps chance to offer red meat to the folks who elected him. But his methods and tactics are totally misguided since America’s children are his ultimate victims. Although he may not realize the damage to America’s poor, and even some middle class, kids, it seems that he could care less. His goal is simply to gain more political power as he attempts to prepare for the November mid-term elections.

Most everything Donald J. Trump has done since he was elected President of the United States has been done in the interest of Donald J. Trump. If a demagogue is defined as a leader who uses prejudice, bigotry, tricks, and sleight of hand to gain power, then Trump fits the bill.

Recently, the President—quietly and behind closed doors—signed an Executive Order in which he ordered severe cuts to the Food Stamp program, as well as reducing funds for states to support Medicaid recipients. His aim was to require the poor—many are single-family, head-of-household women—to work harder in order to qualify for government benefits.

But the facts of the matter are difficult to deny. Both through government Census Data and private organizational research, the traditional statements from Republican politicians misrepresent the truth. In an article written for ThoughtCo.com and published in October 2017, Nicki Lisa Cole revealed the results of extensive research conducted under the auspices of The Kaiser Family Foundation.

“The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 39% of all children in America—30.4 million—received healthcare coverage through Medicaid. Their rate of enrollment in this program is far higher than that for adults under the age of 65, who participate at a rate of just 15 percent. The highest rates of child enrollment in Medicaid are concentrated in the South and Southwest.”

Indeed, children are the victims of Medicaid cuts and far outweigh the effects of funding reductions on anyone else, including older adults.

 

Want Food? Work Harder!

Further explanation about the cuts was discussed in an April 11 edition of ‘Moneywatch’.

“In January, officials announced that states would be able to impose work requirements for Medicaid. And they’ve proposed tightening the existing requirement that able-bodied adults who want to receive SNAP [Food Stamps] benefits for more than three months at a time must work in some capacity. The proposal would raise the age limit for recipients who are exempt from the requirement and restrict the ability of states to offer waivers. The Department of Agriculture has been soliciting public comment on the issue.”

Indeed, the proposed reductions are harsh and cruel, especially for those mothers who are already working and cannot afford babysitters, not to mention the notion of waiting in hospital emergency rooms for hours at a time with a sick child. And for those parents who cannot take their children to a doctor under the Medicaid program, the long waits in overcrowded emergency rooms is where they end up. Besides, historically it is well-established that the costs for this treatment model has always been a burden on the budgets of those states in which Medicaid payments from the federal government have been slashed.

The Facts

Substantial findings by the Kaiser Foundation included in Dr. Cole’s article are meaningful points to consider vis-a-vis government support programs for the sick and poor and, yes, even the middle class. The President and his cohorts have attempted to demonize those unfortunate enough to need help. The stereotypical views about welfare are fundamentally sown in the hearts and minds of Republican supporters simply to score political points, and Washington conservative politicians are eager to prey on and exploit that mindset.

Listed below are the most-recent pertinent findings taken from Dr. Cole’s article regarding welfare recipients.

  • Most People Receiving Government Assistance Are Children

As of 2015 almost half of all the children in the country were on some form of public assistance, some 47.6%, according to the Kaiser Foundation. Dr. Cole explains, “The report by the U.S. Census Bureau also shows that children participate for longer durations in these programs than do adults. From 2009 to 2012, more than half of all children who received government assistance did so for somewhere between 37 and 48 months. So when we imagine a welfare recipient in our mind’s eye, that person should not be an adult sitting on a couch before a television. That person should be a child in need.”

  • High Rate of Participation Among Children Largely Attributable to Medicaid

Dr. Cole continues, “The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that, in 2015, 39 percent of all children in America—30.4 million—received healthcare coverage through Medicaid. Their rate of enrollment in this program is far higher than that for adults under the age of 65, who participate at a rate of just 15 percent. The highest rates of child enrollment in Medicaid are concentrated in the South and Southwest, but rates are substantial in most states, with the lowest state rate at 21 percent, or 1 in 5 children.”

Notably, the South and Southwest are states in which many Trump supporters reside. Therefore, either Trump doesn’t know he’s hurting his base, or he believes his base will vote against their own interest. Or, perhaps he just doesn’t care.

  • Far From Lazy, Many Who Receive Benefits Are Working

So, while Trump’s Executive Order requires welfare recipients to work longer, the facts are that most of them already do work either full or part-time jobs. Fully 77% of all enrolles do, in fact, hold down employment.

From the Kaiser Foundation analysis, “It’s worth noting that those who are employed are more likely to be short-term rather than long-term recipients of government assistance. Nearly half of those who are recipients from homes with at least one full-time worker participate for no longer than a year”.

This acknowledgement is critically important to understand that those who are forced onto the public dole are not satisfied being there. Having pride, most folks take no pleasure in “living off the government” as some would have the rest of us believe.

  • Spending On Social Safety Net Programs is Only 10% of the Federal Budget

While programs like Social Security, Defense, Healthcare are provided the largest share of the federal budget, spending on safety net programs such as SNAP (food stamps), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), commonly known as welfare, is relatively small. Of the 3.7 trillion dollars spent on social programs, welfare accounts for only a small portion of that amount. Actually TANF (or welfare) recipients have declined substantially since 1996, but because of the inclusiveness of several other government programs, i.e., housing assistance, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and General Assistance, the category of ‘government help’ has grown.

Indeed, the Earned Income Tax Credit—a middle class tax benefit—is included in the !0% tally. But this minor fact is always hidden in the call for a reduction of government assistance. Of course, the recent tax cuts granted to large corporations by Trump and the Republican Party represent a massive government give-a-way that could be considered as corporate welfare as well.

  • By Race, the Greatest Number of Recipients Are White

The United States Census Bureau recorded the following numbers of welfare beneficiaries separated by race as of 2015: whites, 24.9 million, Hispanics/Latinos, 18.1 million, and African-Americans, 11.1 million, Others, 4.9 million.

Significantly, the numbers are remarkable given the manner in which Trump and others have used them to sway the public. For example, whenever there is discussion concerning cuts to welfare, immediately poor black and brown people come to mind as the lazy sloths on the receiving end—but that is a stereotypical and enduring lie!

According to Dr. Cole, The Kaiser Foundation, and the Census Bureau Data, more than 35 million whites participated in some form of public assistance in 2015. Compare that to the 29 million African-Americans and Hispanics. The conclusions are valid regarding the ongoing stigma of welfare.

Trump’s Silly Season

All of this data points to the fact that these programs are serving their purpose of providing a safety net in time of need. If a member of a household suddenly loses a job or becomes disabled and unable to work, programs are in place to ensure that those affected do not lose their housing or starve.

But the Trump Administration is in the middle of a political season and will no doubt toss more political bombshells to his base of support. However, his supporters fail to realize that Trump is a demagogue, and he has nothing substantive in reserve for anyone except himself and his billionaire cronies.

Americans, especially the children, deserve better.

 

 

Dan is a native Detroiter and a keen observer of politics.

 

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