Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Citations Needed, Episode 26: The 'Welfare' Dog-Whistle

In Donald Trump's 2011 book, Time To Get Tough, his ghostwriters Wynton Hall and Peter Schweizer - both Breitbart editors - wrote:
Kids who grow up in homes where a magic check appears each month from the government believe there's nothing wrong with sitting at home doing nothing while taxpayers bust their humps working to fund them. For an entire generation, government welfare programs are eradicating the virtues of responsibility, hard work, and self-reliance that built America.
Of course, stigmatizing those who participate in social safety net programs is nothing new, and is often coupled with coded, racist language meant to paint all recipients of government support as lazy black and brown people - undeserving moochers getting handouts from "hard-working Americans."

Indeed, the term "welfare" itself is thrown around so casually in political speeches and media coverage we hardly notice it anymore. CNN reports that “GOP will tackle Medicare, Medicaid, welfare in 2018," while The Washington Post insists that “Trump recently called on Congress to move to cut welfare spending after the tax bill.” CBS News tells viewers that “Washington eyes welfare reform," as The Wall Street Journal warns that "After Push on Taxes, Republicans Line Up Welfare Revamp Next."

But what do these outlets and the Republican Party actually mean when they talk about "welfare"? What programs are they referring to? The exact definition of "welfare" – which supposedly ended over 20 years ago – remains unclear.

While the word "welfare" and the welfare state has a positive connotation in Europe, in the United States it's more often than not a malleable propaganda term meant to dog-whistle programs for African-Americans and Latinos while signaling to whites that their checks and corporate handouts will remain untouched.

In this episode, we dig into the racist history of anti-welfare crusades, the political purpose of pathologizing poverty, and the meaninglessness of phrases like "welfare reform," with guest Sarah Jaffe.


The Show


The Guest

Sarah Jaffe is a reporting fellow at The Nation Institute and an independent journalist covering labor, economic justice, social movements, politics, gender, and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Atlantic, The Guardian, In These Times, The Nation, Truthout, The American Prospect and many other publications. She is the co-host of Belabored, a labor podcast hosted by Dissent magazine, and the author of Necessary Trouble: Americans In Revolt.


Citations Needed is available on iTunes, Soundcloud and LibSyn (here’s the RSS feed). You can also check us out on Twitter and Facebook.


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Citations Needed is a media criticism podcast, hosted by Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi, political commentators and media analysts working to call bullshit on (usually corporate) media’s ubiquitous reliance on and regurgitation of false and destructive narratives, tropes and stereotypes.

Citations Needed is produced by Florence Barrau-Adams. Our Production Consultant is Josh Kross. The theme is ‘Nonphenomenal Lineage’ by Grandaddy.


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