Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Racists Who Hear "Racial Dog Whistles" Are All Democrats

The Romney campaign criticizes the Obama administration for gutting welfare reform, and the Democratic chorus sings the familiar refrain: “Racist!” Leading the choir is tingly countertenor Chris Matthews of MSNBC: “When you start talking about work requirements,” he thundered at Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, “you know what game you’re playing, and everybody knows what game you’re playing: It’s a race card.” This judgment was immediately confirmed by Thomas Edsall of the New York Times and Timothy Noah of The New Republic, among others.

There is racial politics at work here, and, as usual, it is a Democratic initiative.

Before proceeding to the question of Democratic race-baiting, it is worth paying a moment’s attention to the substantive policy question here. As Mr. Noah disingenuously puts it, the Obama administration says it has the authority to give waivers to states “allowing them to experiment with alternative ways to meet the work requirement” imposed by the Clinton-Gingrich welfare reforms. One of the ways in which states could be allowed to “meet the work requirement” is by not meeting the work requirement, i.e., by sending out welfare checks without requiring that nearly half the recipients perform 30 hours of work-related activities (which is not a particularly burdensome standard to begin with). This is important because, as Jim Manzi and others have shown, work requirements are one of the only policy innovations that have been shown in real-world trials to be effective in moving people from welfare to work. Undermine the work requirement and you undermine welfare reform in toto.

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