'Deserving' Public Spending, Fiscal Conservativism, and the New Welfare Queen

A while ago, I made the following observation in "A Nation of Deluded Dependents" about how many who receive government assistance don't even realize (or perhaps admit) that it's government assistance:

This seems a case of willful ignorance by definition. Government aid is for lazy slackers, for 'welfare queens', and, in some people's minds, for those people. Decent, hard-working people don't receive government aid, even when they do. In other words, any program that helps middle-class people, people like themselves, is, by definition, not aid, because government aid is inherently pejorative.

Amanda Marcotte, writing in The Guardian, makes the following observation about why conservatives view Planned Parenthood as a fiscal and not 'social' issue (italics mine):

The reason the conventional wisdom is wrong on this comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding of the term "fiscal conservatism". The belief is that fiscal conservatives are merely debt-averse and want to cut spending, while the fact that these so-called fiscal conservatives routinely elect Republicans who drive up the deficit is ignored. But I would argue that fiscal conservatism has nothing to do with the deficit, and is, instead, about who conservatives believe is and isn't deserving of government largesse.

It is and always has been about excluding from the social contract poorer people, unmarried women, gays, liberals, pointy-headed intellectuals and, especially, people of colour, and keeping all government spending aimed at white, conservative Christians - the richer, the better.

Planned Parenthood has become a symbol of the kind of government spending that fiscal conservatives reject. The clientele of Planned Parenthood is the intersection of many groups that are considered unworthy by fiscal conservatives: lower-income, female, assumed to be unmarried and/or queer....

In the 1980s, Reagan was able to catalyse the resentments of fiscal conservatives into the image of the "welfare queen". The stereotype was of a black woman who takes taxpayers' money and uses it to buy herself Cadillacs and other such luxuries. Reagan claimed to have evidence that such a woman existed, but it was never presented or found.

Essentially, what has happened on the right is that this image has been updated to what I'd call the "welfare slut": a low-income woman who is screwing on your dime, while you're out there working and your own sex life leaves much to be desired. (They can probably count on this resentment because most people would get laid more if they could.)

Amanda concludes:

So, for those wondering how it can be that something as minor as the funding of Planned Parenthood could be the dealbreaker that threatens a government shutdown, I would say that it's not minor on the right. It's a symbol of everything they believe about who and who isn't deserving of government spending. This is about sending a strong message to the base that Republicans take seriously the mandate to cut off everyone not considered, to borrow Sarah Palin's phrase, a "Real American".


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Excellent article. It reminds me of an excellent book titled something along the lines of Why Americans Hate Welfare. The gist(forgive me if you've already read it) is that while Americans respond positively to the idea of social safety nets and similar programs, they turn hostile any time they perceive that the program might benefit "undeserving" people. Typically this means minorities.