Newt Gingrich’s is at the center of controversy yet again over remarks he made at a town hall meeting at a senior center in Plymouth, N.H. The Huffington Post reports that Gingrich had said “that if the NAACP invites him to its annual convention this year, he’d go there and talk about ‘why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps’.”
Combine the remark with Gingrich’s history of calling Barack Obama the “best food stamp President in history,” and it’s not hard to see the subtext.
Now, with the comments making the Internet rounds, Gingrich is saying that if you examine them in context, his comments seem less racially charged. Here’s the full text of what he said:
“The fact is if I become your nominee we will make the key test very
simple — food stamps versus paychecks. Obama is the best food stamp
president in American history. More people are on food stamps today
because of Obama’s policies than ever in history. I would like to be the
best paycheck president in American history.
Now there’s no neighborhood I know of in America where if you went
around and asked people, would you rather your children had food stamps
or paychecks, you wouldn’t end up with a majority saying they’d rather
have a paycheck.
And so I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their
convention and talk about why the African American community should
demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps. And I’ll go to
them and explain a brand new social security opportunity for young
people, which would be particularly good for African American males
because they are the group that gets the smallest return on social
security because they have the shortest life span.”
While Gingrich might think that the comments exonerate him, he still seems to operating under a false assumption that food stamps are a primarily a black thing. According to Anne D. Hill, director of programs for the National Urban League, nearly 70 percent of welfare recipients are white.
Gingrich is correct on one point, though: both food stamp costs and participation has increased under President Obama, from 28.2 million participants costing $37.6 billion in 2008 to 44.7 million participants at a cost of $75.3 billion last year, according to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). How much of this increase is the result of the financial crisis started before Obama took office — well, we’re sure that will be hashed out on the campaign trail.