Demonizing the Poor Emerging as Top Conservative Strategy


Posted by Bob Lord

A few days ago, the NY Times had yet another piece attempting to stoke resentment towards safety net beneficiaries, Behind the Big Increase in Food Stamps. The gist of the piece is that every American family would save $212 bucks or so a year if we just went back to pre-2007 rules for food stamp eligibility. 

What's going on here? After years of quiet on this front following the financial meltdown, conservatives are back to demonizing poor people and blaming the safety net for our economic ills.

And it's not idle chatter. Demonizing the poor will emerge as the dominant theme for conservatives over the next election cycle.

Romney lost the election with his 47% remarks. But even as clumsily as he made those remarks, 47% of the voters bought in. And the further out we get from the financial meltdown, the better that strategy plays.

At the same time, inequality has emerged as major economic concern. Our inequality has reached absurd levels and still is worsening. Americans are opening their eyes to this.

In this environment, demonizing the poor is the perfect strategic initiative for conservatives, as it addresses several problems at once. First, if they can succeed in stoking anger at the poor — the "moochers" of society — inequality becomes a much smaller problem. Why? Because if a voter is focused on welfare recipients who he feels are stealing his tax dollars, he won't focus on the plutocrats who are ripping him off when he goes to the gas station or the grocery store. 

Second, if they can appeal just a little better to working class voters, the balance tips in their favor.

Third, if the strategy succeeds, it gives them a mandate to do exactly what they want — cut taxes and shred the safety net. 

This is going to get ugly.  


  1. “Not demonizing the poor?” That’s ridiculous. The focus of the article I referenced was how much the food stamp program was costing taxpayers. That’s not the focus an article would have if the purpose of trimming food stamps was to help the beneficiaries. When Romney spoke of the 47%, he talked about them refusing to take responsibility for themselves. When Reagan spoke derisively of “welfare queens” he was absolutely demonizing the poor.

    You personally may have a purely intellectual (albeit misguided) reason for opposing safety net benefits, but you’re delusional if you think the folks promoting this talking point share your intellectual purity.

  2. Its not demonizing the poor, its getting them into a job where they quit degenerating. Have you seen that data on children of welfare families? The are barely human you express compassion and advocate destructive policy.

  3. Wow, that economist is pretty blatantly asserting that poor people are stealing money from hardworking taxpayers.

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