Donald Trump appears to be confusing welfare and wealth, but that’s not going to stop him from attacking the safety net in the guise of “welfare reform.”
“Does anyone want welfare reform?” Mr. Trump asked, to applause, at a speech in Missouri last week. “And infrastructure. But welfare reform, I see it, and I’ve talked to people. I know people that work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all.”
He added: “And the person who is not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off… So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”
It’s totally believable that Trump knows people who are not working at all and have no intention of working at all and are doing better than people who are working hard. We call those trust fund babies. Or socialites. Or, if you’re Donald Trump, you probably call them golfing partners. But it’s not clear what inherited wealth has to do with welfare reform.
What is clear is that Trump can’t possibly be talking about people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, because in 2017, only four states had monthly benefits over $700 a month for a single-parent family of three, while 14 had benefits of under $300 for that same family. Even at the abysmal federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour—which Trump and his Republican Party won’t raise—there probably aren’t a whole lot of people working three jobs and not bringing in more than the average TANF benefit. And a person working three jobs but still living in poverty or just above the poverty threshold would be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, just as their TANF-receiving neighbor would be. And yes, many working people receive food stamps because, again, their jobs don’t pay enough to live on. In fact, the vast majority of people receiving food assistance are either in a household in which someone is working or are elderly or disabled.
None of those facts are going to get in Trump’s way, though. He has poor people to demonize and brutalize.