During the debate in South Carolina last night, Newt Gingrich blew his racist dog whistle so loudly that even Fox News commentator Juan Williams heard it. The audience certainly did. They hooted and hollered like they were at a circus instead of a sober discussion about the country's future.
While there were plenty of clowns on the stage, Gingrich took the center ring as he sparred with Williams about food stamps, work ethics, and the “elites” in the country:
It tells you everything you need to know about the difference between Barack Obama and the five of us: that we actually think work is good (applause). We actually think saying to somebody “I’ll help you if you’re willing to help yourself” is good (applause). And we think unconditionally efforts by the best food stamp president in American history to maximize dependency is terrible for the future of this country (applause).
The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history (applause). Now, I know among the politically correct you are not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable (more applause and laughter).
Gingrich went on to say that he was going to continue to “find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job, and learn someday to own the job.”
Gingrich also derided the “elites” who “despise earning money.” Um…. is Gingrich implying that he and his fellow candidates are somehow NOT “elites” in this country?
How many middle class Americans have $500,000 credit accounts at Tiffany's, maintain offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands, own 11,000 square foot vacation homes, and made their fortunes through insider real estate deals?
Most Americans struggle just to get by – the working poor more than anyone else. Gingrich's assertion that the poor just need to get jobs and learn a work ethic is laughable if you look at actual, you know, facts about the working poor. From a 2006 report on working families:
Contrary to popular myth, adults in low-income working families worked 2,552 hours per year, as measured in 2006, the equivalent of almost one and a quarter full-time workers per family. Despite working hard, many American families are struggling to get by, advance to the middle class and provide a secure future for their children.
A 2010 report (PDF format) found:
Many formerly middle-class families have fallen below the low-income threshold because of pay cuts, reductions in work hours, or involuntary moves to part-time employment. Middle-class incomes were in decline even before the recession, but the economic downturn exacerbated this trend.
Even as Gingrich and others decry the number of people receiving food stamps & try to reduce unemployment benefits, they're hell bent on pushing policies that increase unemployment. It's a neat trick. Insist on fiscal policies that put people out of work and then blame the President when the unemployment rate doesn't fall fast enough.
Will it result in a win for the GOP in 2012? It's a big gamble. NPR asked this question this morning:
Are middle-class voters feeling more resentment toward the rich or toward taxes that pay for programs, like food stamps, intended to help the poor?
Gingrich and Mitt (people envy me) Romney are obviously betting on the latter. But many middle class families are hurting and scared as they watch family members and neighbors lose their jobs, homes, and hope for the future. The constant GOP whining about “class warfare” rings hollow when it's becoming clear that there is a war and the guys at the top are winning BIG.
This is a bet the GOP is going to lose in 2012.