Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, March 6, 2014 7:57 pm

The effort to help the poor that even the GOP could love, once, is now in their sights

Tim Noah:

President Obama’s new budget increases spending on and expands eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit, the largest and most successful government assistance program for the working poor.

The much-praised House GOP tax reform introduced last week would cut the EITC, even though a House GOP report excoriating most federal assistance to the poor singled out the program for applause.

This new partisan difference over the EITC – a program that in the past has been a rare source of bipartisan agreement – speaks volumes about Republicans’ newfound ambivalence toward the working poor.

The EITC was created back in 1975 by Sen. Russell Long, who–despite being the son of populist Louisiana Gov. Huey “Every Man A King” Long – was fairly conservative. The idea was to use government assistance to reward work rather than indolence among the poor; you only got the money if you could show that you had worked.

This conceit had obvious appeal to President Ronald Reagan, who expanded the program, and later to President Bill Clinton, who expanded it much further even as he eliminated “welfare as we know it,” i.e., long-term, no-strings cash assistance to the poor. (The EITC was further expanded under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.)

Welfare reform should have ended the partisan scrimmage over welfare dependency. Instead, it merely shifted the goalposts. Previously, the GOP had praised the “deserving” (i.e., working) poor even as it derided the “dependent” (i.e., welfare-collecting) poor. But with Clinton’s abolition of long-term assistance and imposition of work requirements, it became more difficult to isolate a class of nonworking, government-dependent poor that Republicans could reliably scapegoat. So they gradually came to rebrand as “dependent” any low-income person who collected government assistance, even if that person also had a job. In effect, conservatives broadened their definition of “welfare” to the breaking point, including food stamps (most of which go to people with jobs), Medicaid (a benefit you collect only if you get sick), and even Pell Grants.

I don’t think the Republicans are “ambivalent” toward the working poor. I think they actively want to kick them harder. They may say otherwise, but by their works ye may know them. North Carolina already has killed its own version of the EITC because our legislature is controlled by sociopaths.

UPDATE, 9:37 p.m.: Forgot the link. It’s there now.


  1. The budget is DOA.

    The Sociopaths are out of power in Raleigh for the first time in 100 years and they and their media buddies are whining and behaving badly. As BHO told GOP leaders in 2009, ” Elections have consequences. I won.. you lost. Get used to it ”

    Point of accuracy

    Ronald Reagan didn’t make up the welfare queen.. she was real

    [ (In) stump speech after stump speech, Reagan regaled his supporters with the story of an Illinois woman whose feats of deception were too amazing to be believed.

    ]“In Chicago, they found a woman who holds the record,” the former California governor declared at a campaign rally in January 1976. “She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.” . . .
    Many accounts report that Reagan coined the term “welfare queen,” and that this woman in Chicago was a fictional character. In 2007, the New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote that “the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen [was] a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews says the whole thing is racist malarkey — a coded reference to black indolence and criminality designed to appeal to working-class whites. . . .
    Though Reagan was known to stretch the truth, he did not invent that woman in Chicago. Her name was Linda Taylor, and it was the Chicago Tribune, not the GOP politician, who dubbed her the “welfare queen.” It was the Tribune, too, that lavished attention on Taylor’s jewelry, furs, and Cadillac—all of which were real. . . .
    When I set out in search of Linda Taylor, I hoped to find the real story of the woman who played such an outsize role in American politics—who she was, where she came from, and what her life was like before and after she became the national symbol of unearned prosperity. What I found was a woman who destroyed lives, someone far more depraved than even Ronald Reagan could have imagined. In the 1970s alone, Taylor was investigated for homicide, kidnapping, and baby trafficking. The detective who tried desperately to put her away believes she’s responsible for one of Chicago’s most legendary crimes, one that remains unsolved to this day. Welfare fraud was likely the least of the welfare queen’s offenses. . . .
    Read the whole thing at Slate. Some of the Chicago Tribune reporting cited by Reagan was done by Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Bliss, and her crimes were reported by the New York Times: with the headline “Welfare Queen Loses Her Cadillac Limousine.” In other words, this wasn’t an obscure case and Reagan didn’t make it up. The Welfare Queen was both real and notorious]
    Will Krugman, Matthews and other liberals apologize for smearing Ronald Reagan? Don’t hold your breath.

    Comment by Fred gregory — Thursday, March 6, 2014 8:44 pm @ 8:44 pm

  2. Fred, what in the pluperfect HELL does ANY of that have to do with the merits of the EITC or GOP opposition to it?

    Comment by Lex — Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:04 pm @ 10:04 pm

  3. Lex,

    You and Noah make it sound as if Reagan was enamored with programs that were rife with fraud . Wrong. I told the story of the welfare queen to put that canard to bed. Sorry you didn’t get my point , which may have been shrouded in sarcasm and mockery.

    Okay you don’t like what the evil Repupublicans want to do ( strave children and the elderly ) about EITC in Washington and Raleigh. Sociopaths kicking the working poor. Shesh. Can you say hyperbolic demagoguery , The ” Kingfish ” would be proud. .. Every man a king and share the wealth , ya know all too well.

    Here are some things I should have pointed out in my first comment.

    Cost of Improper Earned-Income Tax Credits: $10 Billion

    “Improper claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit continue to cost the government more than $10 billion a year, and there’s not much more the IRS can do about the problem with existing methods, a new report said.

    The EITC is among the federal government’s biggest anti-poverty programs of any kind. It often wipes out federal income-tax liability for low-income working families, and frequently provides a cash payment of several thousand dollars over and above that.

    Unfortunately, it’s also a case study in the problems that can occur when Washington delivers benefit programs through the individual tax system.

    The EITC’s complex rules help lead to high error rates by taxpayers and even paid preparers. It’s also vulnerable to fraudulent claims, despite some elaborate safeguards that have been built in over the years. The payments paid out improperly for 2012 were at least 21-25% of all payments, according to the latest report from the IRS inspector general. The report estimated that improper payments totaled between $11.6 billion and $13.6 billion for 2012, out of total EITC claims of $55.4 billion.”

    The Earned Income Tax Credit Fraud

    ” WHAT.., massive fraud in another government entitlement program ?? Well, the Washington Post is too coy to use the F word. No, that’s not fraud, simply “improper payments.” We’re talking about the Earned Income Tax Credit, whereby a person can earn up to $43,000 per year and get a tax “refund” of up to $5666, depending on number of children (loosely defined).

    We know the program is a wonderful one. Just look at this testimonial: “Mark Everson, who served as IRS commissioner under President George W. Bush, called the EITC ‘one of the government’s most successful anti-poverty programs.'”

    The program has been plagued with “improper payments” for years — decades actually: “The General Accounting Office (GAO) verified the vast scale of the fraud, reporting that ‘…the IRS estimated [it is] between 27 and 32 percent of EITC dollars claimed.'” And that was during the terror that was the reign of George W. Bush.

    Have things gotten better under President Obama? According to an inspector general’s report, at least, 21% of EITC payments in 2012 were “improper” ($11.6 billion), by far the highest fraud rate in any government entitlement program.

    But in 2010 President Obama signed the Improper Payments Elimination Act, which “requires federal agencies to reduce erroneous payments to a rate of less than 10 percent.” Ten percent fraud is surely a modest goal; what private business would be content with such a rate? And how’s the IRS doing? In the two years since Obama signed the law, improper EITC payments have increased by 22%.

    Oh, but the IRS wants to comply: “The reduction of improper payments is a top priority for the IRS, and we are making progress in this area.” Yes, a “top priority.” So a 22% increase in improper payments is “making progress.” One wonders what the IRS would deem a fail.

    The IRS cannot possibly reduce its fraud rate below $11.6 billion, yet a cut of $669 million to the FAA’s budget forces the agency to furlough air traffic controllers in order to create 3 to 4 hour lines at airports. Talk about a rigid, inflexible, sclerotic bureaucracy.”

    I can hardly wait for the IRS to manage the ACA. God help us !

    Comment by Fred Gregory — Saturday, March 8, 2014 1:35 pm @ 1:35 pm

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