A Well Practiced Line: Two Views of Romney’s Free Stuff Motif

Today isn’t the first time presidential candidate Mitt Romney has used the “want free stuff?” motif but after his performance at the NAACP convention it is the most blatant:

“But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy-more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free. it has to paid for by people in the private sector creating goods and services, and if people want jobs more than they want free stuff from government, then they are going to have to get government to be smaller. And if they don’t want to repeal Obamacare they are going to have to give me some other stuff they are thinking about cutting, but my list takes Obamacare off first and I have a lot of other things I am thinking of cutting.”  [Mediatite]

This is a repetition of his response to a heckler questioning his stance on contraception on March 19, 2012:  “Romney: “You know, let me tell you, no no, look, look let me tell you something. If you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for, vote for the other guy. That’s what he’s all about, okay? That’s not, that’s not what I’m about.” [RCP]

There are at least two ways to view this motif. The first is the obvious and well worn African Americans as lazy welfare loafers who would prefer welfare to working narrative that runs rampant through many white conversations.  This is a stereotype and the Romney Campaign knows it.

However, it happens to be a very popular stereotype among white bigots, some of whom are part of the GOP base.  If Governor Romney believes that this will enable him to reinvigorate the Southern Strategy he may be correct, but it’s a strategy with the potential for short term gains and long term losses as the Republicans trend into a regional party.

Perhaps the former Massachusetts governor believes reviving the Welfare Queen stereotype will allow him to sound “Reaganesque,” but in 2012 it doesn’t sound so much Reagan-like as it just sounds old hat. A battered baseball cap worn so often in Republican rhetoric that it also serves to stereotype Republicans.

There’s a second way this motif can be interpreted.  Governor Romney is presenting a categorization of when federal spending is “free stuff” and when it is not.

In Romney’s classification that which involves people; Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Pell Grants, Apprenticeship Training Programs, Title I educational funding, Community Health Center funding, Rural Mental Health programs, affordable housing construction and administration, Nutrition Programs such as SNAP, and the like are “free stuff.”

However, when “Corporations are people my friend” get taxpayer subsidies this is not “free stuff.”  Really?  Let’s look at the tax breaks for “Corporations Are People:”

Therefore, if a Middle Class family needs some assistance from Pell Grant funds to send a child to college — that’s “free stuff.”  However, when bankers needed $601,586,466,567 to recapitalize after their Housing Debacle, and repaid $307,988,286,409 [ProPublica] THAT isn’t Free Stuff.

When an American wants to have affordable health care when he or she reaches 65 years of age — that’s “free stuff.”  But, when major oil companies making massive profits get $4 billion in tax breaks –THAT isn’t Free Stuff.

When a family of four in which the income earners are each working part time jobs needs SNAP benefits to keep food on the table for the kids — that’s “free stuff,” but when 10% of the players in the Agribusiness sector get 75% of the subsidies — THAT isn’t Free Stuff.

It should be as clear as a mountain stream before the brewery moved in, whatever helps real people is “free stuff,” and whatever helps corporations is “incentives for job creators.”

So, where are all those jobs?  Jobs Bills?

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