Public-assistance bills put Oklahoma GOP members in a tough spot

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: March 10, 2013
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WHEN worlds collide:

The Republicans who control the Legislature have introduced a slew of bills to ensure that people getting public assistance aren't gaming the system. Yet Americans are wary of the perceived Republican indifference to the plight of the truly needy.

Based on anecdotal evidence about “welfare queens” and such, who hasn't been frustrated by stories about the “needy” finding ways to soak benevolent taxpayers? But based on scientific polling, taxpayers aren't so keen to pull the plug on welfare programs. And they don't think Republicans show enough compassion.

An Associated Press roundup of legislation found nearly a dozen bills filed by Republican Oklahoma lawmakers to modify public-assistance programs. These include work requirements, means-testing and denying benefits to people with drug convictions. House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, summed up the mood with his comment that compassion should be defined not by the number of people getting assistance but by the number of people leaving the public dole because they've bettered themselves.

It's hard to disagree with this, but advocates for social programs tend to put all welfare reforms into one mean-spirited basket. They demonize Republicans for proposing them. In this effort they have support from the folks who pay for welfare programs with their tax dollars.

Arthur C. Brooks, president of a free-enterprise think tank, points to polls showing that Republican candidates don't connect to many voters. They're perceived to care only about “the wealthy.” In a television interview last Sunday, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney blamed his defeat in part on a failure to connect with less-prosperous voters.

His opponent made the connection between Romney and “the wealthy” quite clear. This may have been the single most important factor in getting a second term for a president whose disastrous management of the economy has affected the poor disproportionately. Class envy works for The Great Divider. It was the main thing this underqualified candidate had going for him in 2008.

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