Welfare Queens Against Health Reform -- Now With Actual Reporting!*

by Jonathan Chait | March 26, 2010

Earlier today I had an item about the irony of an agriculture subsidy recipient complaining to the Wall Street Journal that health care reform could transfer money from people like her to people who "just want freebies." A reader directed me to the Environmental Workings Group's database of farm subsidies, where I could discover just how much that farmer (Kitty Rehberg) collects from the federal government.

Answer: a lot. Since 1995, the farm Rehberg owns has collected $357,627 from the Department of Agriculture.

But it would violate her principles for the government to subsidize medical care for the uninsured. If those freeloaders need government help to buy insurance, well, they should have thought of that before they went and got breast cancer.

Opposition to health care reform has largely taken the form of current beneficiaries of government organizing, under the patina of libertarian principle, to deny the benefits of government to those who currently lack it. That dynamic helps explain bizarre utterances like the following, from Tea Party idol Michelle Bachmann:

"And what we saw this Tuesday, once the president signed the health care bill at the 11th hour in the morning on Tuesday, that effected 51% government takeover of the private economy," Bachmann said on Wednesday, during an interview with North Dakota talk radio host Scott Hennen. "It is really quite sobering what has happened. From 100% of our economy was private prior to September of 2008, but as of Tuesday, the federal government has now taken ownership or control of 51% of the private economy."

The economy was 100% private before 2008? I'm sure that at some level, Bachmann understands that the economy was not devoid of government interference prior to the financial bailout. But at another level, I'm sure she actually believes that people like Kitty Rehberg, who benefit from existing government programs, have "earned" their place in a way that potential beneficiaries of health care reform have not.

*To be sure, as my item makes clear, the actual reporting was performed by a reader of mine. Still, there is reporting in this item, a rare enough instance that I feel justified in boasting about it.

Update: Rehlberg was also, until recently, a Republican State Senator. So, not exactly a representative spokesperson for the middle class.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/welfare-queens-against-health-reform-now-actual-reporting