Rush Limbaugh did his usual thing today, and one of the issues he addressed was “people” on welfare:
(BTW, I created a symbolic portrait of Rush, which can be found here.)
That mean-spirited diatribe of his got me to thinking of a couple of related issues: (1) In a political context, what does “welfare” mean? (2) Citizens United. After all, corporations are people, the SCOTUS says, and they too receive welfare.
My computer’s built-in dictionary defines welfare like this:
statutory procedure or social effort designed to promote the basic physical and material well-being of people in need
The free online legal dictionary describes it as
Government benefits distributed to impoverished persons to enable them to maintain a minimum standard of well-being.
OK. So how is that accomplished? In concrete terms, which federal programs qualify as part of our nation’s “welfare system”? We’re talking about federal assistance for primary and secondary education, subsidies of college education, unemployment disability insurance, subsidies for eligible low-wage workers, subsidies for housing, food stamps, pensions for eligible persons and health insurance programs that cover public employees. We’re talking about Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. (Draws on Wikipedia — but not without double- and triple-checking!)
Rush Limbaugh implies that anyone benefiting from any such program doesn’t really deserve to vote. Of course that would eliminate most of the U.S. population, wouldn’t it.
But wait! There’s more! Don’t forget what Mitt Romney said in response to a question about Citizens United: “Of course corporations are people!” That means programs designed to enhance the “material well-being” of corporations also qualify as welfare. That includes, say, the $billions given each year in subsidies to Big Oil, the wealthiest “persons” on the planet.
Singer-songwriter Anne Feeney says it far better than I could: