(CNN)President Joe Biden has been compared to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson and has even been called the “Anti-Reagan.”
But there’s another legendary political character that people should cite to explain why Biden’s governing approach during his first 100 days in office is such a radical break from the past.
That character is a Black woman of indeterminate age who has 12 Social Security cards, mooches on benefits from four fake dead husbands and collects welfare payments under 80 bogus names while getting food stamps.
She is, of course, the infamous Welfare Queen.
That’s how Ronald Reagan described her when he introduced the character during a presidential campaign rally nearly half a century ago. Reporters investigating Reagan’s 1976 Welfare Queen story concluded that it wasn’t quite true. Though never mentioning a name or race, Reagan had exaggerated the abuses of an actual Black woman in Chicago.
It didn’t matter, though, if the story was more fiction than fact. The Welfare Queen embodied the GOP’s belief that sending government aid to the poor would backfire because freeloaders — hint, Black people — will invariably splurge that money on steak and lobster.
The Welfare Queen became the political equivalent of a horror movie villain. Democratic leaders didn’t have a counter story that could stop it. It spread the myth that most Black and poor people were lazy cheaters looking for a handout instead of a hand up. The story was so influential that even Democratic presidents became leery of pushing Big Government solutions to help low-income people of color.
He even helped spread the Welfare Queen myth.
In 1988, when he was a US Senator, Biden wrote a column for a Delaware newspaper in which he argued that the welfare system had collapsed.
“We are all too familiar with the stories of welfare mothers driving luxury cars and leading lifestyles that mirror the rich and famous,” he wrote. “Whether they are exaggerated or not, these stories underlie a broad social concern that the welfare system has broken down…”