Ronald Reagan’s “Welfare Queen”

Ronald Reagan was not elected President until 1980, but as most will remember, he also ran in the 1976 presidential primary.  As is the usual scenario, the left tried very hard to paint him as an outlier, a mediocre has-been movie actor, someone who was just not qualified to be President.  Yeah, sorta like they did to Sarah Palin.

Although he did not do so well in 1976, Reagan often said that his win in the North Carolina primary is what gave him the gravitas, and the will, to try again in 1980.

In an article in the December, 2013 edition of the online Slate magazine, writer Josh Levin recalled one of the tactics used by Reagan in the 1976 campaign to highlight the need, in his view, for welfare reform.  An excerpt:

Ronald Reagan loved to tell stories.  When he ran for president in 1976, many of Reagan’s anecdotes converged on a single point: The welfare state is broken, and I’m the man to fix it.  On the trail, the Republican candidate told a tale about a fancy public housing complex with a gym and a swimming pool.  There was also someone in California, he’d explain incredulously, who supported herself with food stamps while learning the art of witchcraft.  And in stump speech after stump speech, Reagan regaled his supporters with the story of an Illinois woman whose feats of deception were too amazing to be believed.

“In Chicago, they found a woman who holds the record,” the former California governor declared at a campaign rally in January 1976.  “She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare.  Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.”  As soon as he quoted that dollar amount, the crowd gasped.

Four decades later, Reagan’s soliloquies on welfare fraud are often remembered as shameless demagoguery.  Many accounts report that Reagan coined the term “welfare queen,” and that this woman in Chicago was a fictional character.  In 2007, the New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote that “the bogus story of the Cadillac-driving welfare queen [was] a gross exaggeration of a minor case of welfare fraud.”  MSNBC’s Chris Matthews says the whole thing is racist malarkey—a coded reference to black indolence and criminality designed to appeal to working-class whites.

But the woman was real.  Her name may or may not have been Linda Taylor, and her full story is HERE.