Everybody knows the "Welfare Queen"; the term was popularized in the years leading up to the Reagan presidency and was used by Reagan to justify tax cuts and cuts to the social safety net. It was, and still is, a very powerful and useful meme, based on a caricature that doesn't really exist.
source: Wikimedia Commons
The Welfare Queen meme stood for the black people were too lazy to work, instead relying on public benefits to get by, paid for by the rest of us upstanding citizens. It was the idea of a very promiscuous woman, having as many children as possible in order to receive more welfare payments. Like I said, it was and is a very powerful meme, conjuring up images of fur-coat wearing lazy black women driving a Cadillac, paid for by hard working, tax paying white Americans.
In fact, the welfare queen trope has made a comeback in our current politics. It appeared when former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan decried inner city residents “not even thinking about working or learning the value of the culture of work.” It courses through President Trump’s rhetoric as he’s pushed for work requirements in a variety of public programs, arguing, “We must reform our welfare system so that it does not discourage able-bodied adults from working.”
source: The New Republic
The Welfare Queen meme was based on the live of Linda Taylor, who really existed and who did go around using fake names and reporting children she did not have (although she had 4 of her own, the first at age 14) in order to cheat the system. The funny thing is though that while Taylor and her story were used to foment hatred against welfare cheats, welfare fraud was almost certainly the least of her crimes; she has kidnapped children, abused them and was even a murder suspect. Those other, much more severe crimes weren't politically useful though. The Welfare Queen meme was used for its obvious racial undertone, although black women never made up than 40% of all recipients of this kind of welfare, but more importantly it was used to foment hate against the government and taxation; for tax paying white workers the biggest problem with the program was not that people were cheating the system, but that the system was cheating them. This message was of course neatly tied in to the whole anti-government rhetoric that started under Reagan and is still prevalent among Republicans today.
Some of my readers may be too young to know where the expression "drinking the kool-aid" originates, and may not know who Jim Jones was. For them, here's a quote from Wikipedia:
"Drinking the Kool-Aid" is an expression used to refer to a person who believes in a possibly doomed or dangerous idea because of perceived potential high rewards. The phrase often carries a negative connotation. It can also be used ironically or humorously to refer to accepting an idea or changing a preference due to popularity, peer pressure, or persuasion. In recent years it has evolved further to mean extreme dedication to a cause or purpose, so extreme that one would "drink the Kool-Aid" and die for the cause.
The phrase originates from events in Jonestown, Guyana, on November 18, 1978, in which over 900 members of the Peoples Temple movement died. The movement's leader, Jim Jones, called a mass meeting at the Jonestown pavilion after the murder of U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan and others in nearby Port Kaituma. Jones proposed "revolutionary suicide" by way of ingesting a powdered drink mix lethally laced with cyanide and other drugs which had been prepared by his aides.
The events in November 1978 in Jonestown were the biggest single loss of American lives in one day up until the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Not only was it a tragedy of biblical proportions, with children unknowingly drinking deadly poison together with their parents who knew what they were doing, but it should also be a lesson as to how easy it is, given the right circumstances, to make large amounts of individuals believe the unbelievable. Jim Jones only had a couple of years to bring his followers to the point where they were willing to first kill a political adversary and then kill themselves in an act of what he called "revolutionary suicide". The right wingers and Republicans who now follow Trump and let him commit criminal acts against the country and democracy, have been influenced by decades long brainwashing going back to the Reagan years at the very least. I say "at the very least" because this mental racial profiling goes far further back in a country that's based in genocide and slavery; watch the below linked video for an interesting discussion on the relation between taxation, race and the expansion of suffrage.
There's an important psychological component in the phenomenon of cults in general, and that of the Trumpist cult in particular, which has been dubbed "mass-psychosis":
But there is important psychological injury that arises from relative—not absolute—socioeconomic deprivation. Yes, there is great injury, anger and redirectable energy for hatred, which Trump harnessed and stoked for his manipulation and use. The emotional bonds he has created facilitate shared psychosis at a massive scale. It is a natural consequence of the conditions we have set up. For healing, I usually recommend three steps: (1) Removal of the offending agent (the influential person with severe symptoms). (2) Dismantling systems of thought control—common in advertising but now also heavily adopted by politics. And (3) fixing the socioeconomic conditions that give rise to poor collective mental health in the first place.
source: Scientific American
I invite you all to read the article behind the link in its entirety. Unfortunately there's zero chance that Trump loyalists will ever take the above linked article seriously; a significant part of their world view is after all based on the absolute rejection of science and academia, which is why there's such a large overlap with the groups that believe in the QAnon conspiracies, flat-earthers and white supremacists. Mind you, this is not to say that all Trump supporters fall in one or more of these categories, but it is to say that there's a straight line between the ability to believe in Welfare Queens and the lies propagated by Trump and his Republican backers. They all drank the kool-aid. They act like members of a cult, much like the followers of Jim Jones, and have to some extent lost touch with the social, political and economical reality they live in. And waking them up will be a lengthy process, if it's possible at all...
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