Smart people know that who gets food stamps and covered by Medicaid has nothing to do with race and everything to do with poverty. Unless, of course, you're a Republican candidate looking for whatever wedge issue you can dredge up to distinguish yourself from all the other candidates in the final moments of the first big contest of the 2012 season.
It's not that the others would shy away from doing what Rick Santorum did Sunday. That was to raise the specter of African Americans leeching off the taxpayers when they should be getting jobs. You can't exactly call it a dog-whistle since the message was loud and clear to everyone.
In Sioux City at a campaign stop Santorum told a mostly white crowd that he wants to give black people "somebody else's money":
"It just keeps expanding—I was in Indianola a few months ago and I was talking to someone who works in the department of public welfare here, and she told me that the state of Iowa is going to get fined if they don't sign up more people under the Medicaid program," Santorum said. "They're just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote. That's what the bottom line is."
He added: "I don't want to make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money."
"Right," responded one audience member, as another woman can be seen nodding.
"And provide for themselves and their families," Santorum added, to applause. "The best way to do that is to get the manufacturing sector of the economy rolling again." ...
This was not the first time racial remarks have rocked Santorum's campaign. Over the weekend a 2011 video surfaced showing Santorum criticizing Obama's abortion record on the basis of his race.
"I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say 'now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people,'" Santorum said.
In June 2009, with millions of Americans having lost their jobs in the previous eight months, food stamp usage soared to a record 36 million. With the economic "recovery" still unable to unstick high unemployment two and a half years later, the most recent count of food stamp recipients is 46.3 million. That's what happens when you get long-lasting post-Great Depression records for being out of work. The food stamp program is doing what it was intended to do, help people keep food on the table in hard times. Nearly half the bellies the program feeds are children's. Another 8 percent are those of retired people.
As Santorum obviously knows, the majority of recipients are white people, the vast majority only get food stamps until they are back on their feet financially, and the vast majority of long-term adult recipients—black, white and brown—are the working poor. As in they have jobs, part time or full time, when there are jobs to be had. As Santorum also obviously knows, people aren't enrolled in Medicaid for the hell of it.
But acknowledging any of this would wreck his message and maybe cost him a few caucus votes that he otherwise might get. But then we already knew what Santorum means when he talks about moral values.
One thing Santorum says is certainly true. The United States needs to rebuild its manufacturing base and put Americans of all colors into decent paying jobs. What's his prescription for that? An industrial plan? Repairing, restoring and rebuilding infrastructure? Nah. Cut the corporate income tax to zero. What's the evidence that previous cuts in the corporate rate have generated more jobs? Zero.