SC Lt. Gov. Bauer: Free School Lunches Encourage ‘Stray Animals’ to ‘Breed’

By Channing Kennedy Jan 24, 2010

image / Associated Press. That’s Bauer in the purple. At a recent town hall meeting, South Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer criticized the children of poor families, using an impressively dehumanizing metaphor and flunking basic causality in the process. From the State (h/t TPM):

GREENVILLE – Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has compared giving people government assistance to "feeding stray animals." Bauer, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, made his remarks during a town hall meeting in Fountain Inn that included state lawmakers and about 115 residents. "My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better," Bauer said. In South Carolina, 58 percent of students participate in the free and reduced-price lunch program. … Later in his speech, Bauer said, "I can show you a bar graph where free and reduced lunch has the worst test scores in the state of South Carolina," adding, "You show me the school that has the highest free and reduced lunch, and I’ll show you the worst test scores, folks. It’s there, period." … "You go to a school where there’s an active participation of parents, and guess what? They have the highest test scores. So what do you do? You say, ‘Look folks, if you receive goods or services from the government and you don’t attend a parent-teacher conference, bam, you lose your benefits.’" … And, Bauer said, it is time to confront "babies having babies. Somebody’s got to talk about. Politicians don’t want to talk about it anymore because it’s politically incorrect." … "They can continue to have more and more kids, and the reward is there’s more and more money in it for them." … Bauer later Friday told The Greenville News he wasn’t saying people on government assistance "were animals or anything else."

Oh, that’s a relief! Because it looked for a minute like you were drawing a pretty clear parallel between the part where you say that one shouldn’t feed stray animals because they breed, and the part where one shouldn’t give free-lunch programs to poor people, because they breed. Glad to hear that you were saying something else! And what’s this about bar graphs? You’re saying here that… kids are getting low test scores… because they’re on free lunch? Yeah, that makes sense. We all know how increasingly unhealthy our nation’s school lunches are, and it’s hard to achieve without those basic building blocks. Just kidding! You’re saying kids are on free lunch because their parents are too lazy to work! Why would they need to, if their kids are getting lunch for free? Of course! And said parents are also too lazy to care about their kids at all — far too lazy to come in for a parent-teacher conference. I mean, it’s not like they’ve got anything else to do — working multiple minimum-wage jobs with no benefits, for example, or taking care of young kids, or taking care of sick relatives who also didn’t have a good job with health benefits, or losing hours a day to buses because there’s no money to fix the car but the only affordable daycare center is on the far side of town. Those are all things that take up no time in a person’s day! And furthermore, it’s clear that a child’s academic performance is entirely the job of the parent — it’s a personal responsibility issue. That’s why we don’t need to give any money to schools! Sarcasm aside, it’s real easy, regardless of background, to buy into the ‘welfare queen’ racialized stereotype — the Black mother popping out kids and living well on the taxpayer’s money, because she has the morals of a common animal. That image has been complemented in recent years by the ‘illegal immigrant’ having ‘anchor babies’ and refusing to learn how to speak American. Call it one of Reagan’s many gifts to the nation he hated so much: a method by which amoral rich white men can change the subject away from themselves. The truth is that poverty, and everything connected to it, is a systemic issue, not an issue of choice. It’s a lot easier to make it to that parent-teacher conference when you have a good job with benefits and child care. And it’s a lot easier to have that good job when your parents could afford to get you into a good college, and when your family’s lived for generations in a neighborhood with access to public transportation and grocery stores — when you never had to learn about redlining. When the ground you walk on doesn’t make you or your kids sick, because your neighborhood has always had the political clout to keep that oil refinery from being built next door. In other words: show me the school system with high test scores, and I’ll show you the neighborhood whose houses are worth enough for the resulting property taxes to pay for after-school tutoring programs. Bauer’s exactly right that there’s very little overlap between these schools and free lunch programs. And the poor are already punished for being poor. In Connecticut, the unemployed lose all benefits, including foodstamps, unless they attend mandatory forty-hour-a-week "life skills" workshops in which they learn how to write a resume and how to shake a hand, since, clearly, those are the only things holding them back from finding a job. The catch is that there are still no jobs out there for them to submit that resume to. And since the workshops concentrate blindly on the application process instead of on the job market, its ‘graduates’ have no new marketable skills. That’s a big problem when the factory you’ve worked at your whole life moves out of town, and you’ve got to find a whole new line of work, not just a new job. Think of how this has affected Detroit. And ‘lifetime limits’ on welfare benefits — another method of ‘encouraging the poor to stop being poor — mean that many people lose their foodstamps and cash assistance before they find a job, meaning that they’ve now got no way to feed their kids. Of course, we all know what happens when you feed animals. Later in the State’s article, it says that Bauer argued for "providing child care so parents can work or receive education so they can break the welfare cycle." And that’s a great idea. So why is Bauer essentially arguing for the opposite of child care for the rest of his quoted remarks? Why is Bauer saying that FIFTY-EIGHT PERCENT of the young families in his state deserve to be punished, because he can’t put any money into creating jobs for them? (Off the top of my head, I can think of one job vacancy he can create immediately.) Here’s a causality exercise for those still foggy on the relationship between poverty and unemployment. South Carolina is home to, in addition to Bauer, such esteemed political figures as Mark Sanford, Lindsey Graham, and that guy who yelled "You lie!" during Obama’s speech. Now: Does this mean that South Carolina voters appreciate a candidate with a background in contortionism? Or does it mean that, if you’re rich enough to run for political office, but are able to go your entire campaign without talking to a single poor person, it’s just more likely that you have your head up your ass?