(CNN) – She’s out there, lurking in the 2012 presidential race like a horror movie villain who refuses to die.
She has 12 Social Security cards, mooches on benefits from four fake dead husbands, and collects food stamps while driving a Cadillac. She rakes in about $150,000 a year in welfare benefits and, of course, people assume she must be African-American.
President Ronald Reagan gave America a sunny “Morning in America” optimism, but he also gave it the “Welfare Queen,” an infamous character who has re-emerged in this year’s presidential race.
Critics have accused the three leading Republican presidential candidates of resurrecting Reagan’s Welfare Queen by calling President Obama the “food stamp president,” implying that blacks live off other people’s money, and by declaring that America is moving toward an “entitlement society.”
Yet few people have examined the story behind the birth of the Welfare Queen. Did she really exist? Why do people still talk about her when welfare ended 15 years ago? Can her story still swing voters at a time when the great recession has forced more whites to rely on government assistance?
For some, the Welfare Queen is an epic political lie. Reagan invented her, and Americans keep buying the lie.
“It’s one of those persistent symbols that come up every election cycle,” says Kaaryn Gustafson, author of “Cheating Welfare: Public Assistance and the Criminalization of Poverty.”
“This image of the lazy African-American woman who refuses to get a job and keeps having kids is pretty enduring. It’s always been a good way to distract the public from any meaningful conversations about poverty and inequality. ”
FULL STORY HERE
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