“The Welfare” Get a Fresh Spanking

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.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.