National Review Wrong (Again) On Race And Welfare

After the purging of John Derbyshire earlier this year, it is increasingly clear that nobody at National Review knows or dares to say anything about race. But, much worse, they can’t be bothered to look up the basic facts about things such as demographics and welfare. It almost seems as if the political correctness that led to the firing of Derbyshire has blinded them to plain, numerical facts.

Last month, NR’s Jim Geraghty wrote an article on the presidential race which wrongly put the percentage of whites in the United States at 72 percent (it is 63.7 percent). [1980 vs. 2012, July 25, 2012]

“So if the racial demographic change amounts to only a small shift in favor of the Democrats, what societal trend has helped them?” asked Geraghty. His ignorance about the facts of demography cause him to dismiss the demographic revolution as merely a “small shift” in favor of the Democrats, when it is really the main cause of Republican decline.

For example, John McCain’s shares of the respective races’ votes in 2008 would have carried him to victory if the races themselves had been present in the U.S. population in the same proportions as they were in 1976. McCain, in other words, ran better than Gerald Ford. But he lost because our political class has been busy electing a new people.

Yesterday’s feature story on NRO is titled Who Racializes Welfare Reform? (August 29, 2012) It is credited to “The Editors,” so it is hard to know who exactly wrote the piece.

The gist of the article: Democrats are playing the race card against Republicans for criticizing President Obama’s gutting of welfare reform. In particular, “The Editors” call out MSNBC’s Chris Matthews for hectoring RNC Chairman Reince Priebus:

Mr. Matthews’s accusations were, as is his style, presented without evidence or argument, and indeed without anything that might even charitably be called intellectual content. That he immediately connects welfare in his mind with race is of course telling: The majority of American welfare recipients are white. Blacks are disproportionately represented on the welfare rolls, it is true. That is not the only place in which black Americans are overrepresented: As conservatives have been shouting from the rooftops for a couple of years now, the black unemployment rate is a national scandal — reason enough to fire Barack Obama on its own. But the majority of unemployed people, like the majority of welfare recipients — and the majority of the country, of course — are white. … [Emphases added]

But, ironically, the NR editors are just as guilty as Matthews in presenting arguments without evidence or intellectual content. As I wrote on VDARE.com last year,

The most recent racial breakdown of welfare recipients is from 2009. Officially, welfare is now called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The racial makeup of Americans on the dole is as follows: blacks 33.3 percent, whites 31.2 percent, Hispanics 28.8 percent, Asians 2.1 percent and American Indians 1.3 percent.

So Matthews is right on the facts (albeit wrong on the politics) and NR is wrong.

Like the demographic data flubbed by Geraghty, these figures are not hard to find. Can the entire editorial staff of National Review be that ignorant on race? How is 31 percent a “majority?” Are there no fact checkers on the staff of NR?

As it happens, the 2010 TANF figures are now available and the annual report, “Characteristics and Financial Circumstances of TANF Recipients,” shows some very interesting developments.

Blacks are indeed still the most numerous group on welfare, Pace NR, with 31.9 percent of recipients. Whites are right behind them at 31.8 percent.

But the big news: Hispanics now comprise 30 percent of those lounging on the dole.

In 2000, the racial breakdown of welfare was: blacks 38.6 percent, whites 31.2 percent and Hispanics 25 percent.

Though still disproportionally represented on the welfare rolls, black usage has gone down relatively during the last decade. But Hispanics’ usage has surged. Whites have remained remarkably consistent at around 31 percent of those on welfare.

Other interesting facts about welfare from the report:

  • A whopping 31 percent of those on welfare are from California.
  • Only 14.8 percent of all adult recipients are male.
  • The welfare rate increased by 7 percent over 2009.
  • Over 82 percent of TANF recipients also received food stamps (now termed SNAP).
  • Almost all those on the dole – 97 percent –also receive medical benefits.
  • There were about 75,900 non-citizens (7 percent of TANF adults) residing legally in this country who received benefits.
  • Only 41 percent of recipients participated in some form of work during the reporting period.
  • Hispanics comprised 34.7 percent of recipient children in 2010. Some 31.4 percent of TANF recipient children were black and 27.1 percent were white. 

Of note: the work requirement for welfare that was added in the 1996 welfare reform bill appears to have had an effect – but is not stringently enforced. For example, in 1992, only 6.6 percent of the welfare class was employed. By 1999, this number rose to a high of 27.6 percent. But it has since fallen to 22.3 percent in 2010. So, despite the vaunted “work requirements,” almost 80 percent of welfare takers still do not work for their benefits.

It should also be noted that the number of people on welfare rolls has decreased a bit in the last decade. In 2000, there was an average of 2,269,000 families (5,778,034 people) on welfare each month. In 2010, this number was 1,847,155 families (4,375,022 people) per month.

The Clinton/Gingrich welfare reforms apparently had some teeth as there were 12,320,970 recipients each month in 1996 when the legislation was passed. The gutting of the work requirement by the Obama administration may mark a return to the bad old days of the liberal welfare state.

The TANF data presents many interesting questions. Why is the share of blacks on welfare declining? Why are whites consistently around 31 percent of those on welfare?

Above all: why is the Hispanic proportion soaring?

The rising Hispanic welfare proportion should—but won’t—raise some red flags. Thanks to out-of-control immigration, the Hispanic population is booming. Their use of welfare is almost at black rates – raising the specter of a growing number of welfare bums to support even while economic austerity is being called for.

No state has been harder hit by immigration than California. Will other high immigration states like Texas, Arizona and New Mexico soon have similarly crowded welfare rolls?

From a Republican and conservative point of view, what are they to make of an increasing number of people (Hispanics) who rely on welfare? Would these people be at all interested in reducing government and cutting taxes for the middle class?

Isn’t it likely that another amnesty will swell the welfare rolls—as 11-12 million mostly-poor Hispanics will then be eligible for handouts?

These are all interesting and critical questions for the future of the United States. Yet the self-proclaimed home of intellectual conservatism does not even understand the basic facts and realities behind these questions and is too lazy to do the required research.

I’ve seen people on the dole work harder than a National Review editor.

Peter Bradley [email him] writes from Washington D.C.