The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Reagan and the ‘Welfare Queen’

Posted on | December 24, 2013 | 19 Comments

One of the things about the Internet Age is that it assists us in determining the truth about circumstances which have historically been the subject of myth-making. Josh Levin of Slate discovered the facts behind a favorite anecdote of Ronald Reagan’s:

[I]n 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.” . . .
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. . . .
Though Reagan was known to stretch the truth, he did not invent that woman in Chicago. Her name was Linda Taylor, and it was the Chicago Tribune, not the GOP politician, who dubbed her the “welfare queen.” It was the Tribune, too, that lavished attention on Taylor’s jewelry, furs, and Cadillac—all of which were real. . . .
When I set out in search of Linda Taylor, I hoped to find the real story of the woman who played such an outsize role in American politics—who she was, where she came from, and what her life was like before and after she became the national symbol of unearned prosperity. What I found was a woman who destroyed lives, someone far more depraved than even Ronald Reagan could have imagined. In the 1970s alone, Taylor was investigated for homicide, kidnapping, and baby trafficking. The detective who tried desperately to put her away believes she’s responsible for one of Chicago’s most legendary crimes, one that remains unsolved to this day. Welfare fraud was likely the least of the welfare queen’s offenses. . . .

Read the whole thing at Slate. Some of the Chicago Tribune reporting cited by Reagan was done by Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Bliss, and her crimes were reported by the New York Times: with the headline “Welfare Queen Loses Her Cadillac Limousine.” In other words, this wasn’t an obscure case and Reagan didn’t make it up. The Welfare Queen was both real and notorious.

Will Krugman, Matthews and other liberals apologize for smearing Ronald Reagan? Don’t hold your breath.

And one other thing: Linda Taylor was white.



19 Responses to “Reagan and the ‘Welfare Queen’”

  1. JeffWeimer
    December 24th, 2013 @ 11:55 am

    It’s a very well-done piece, but still full of “I’m a member of the liberal tribe” mealy-mouthed qualifications like the “even Ronald Reagan” line above.

  2. Joe Dokes
    December 24th, 2013 @ 11:58 am


    “Linda Taylor, the haughty thief who drove her Cadillac to the public aid office, was the embodiment of a pernicious stereotype. With her story, Reagan marked millions of America’s poorest people as potential scoundrels and fostered the belief that welfare fraud was a nationwide
    epidemic that needed to be stamped out. This image of grand and rampant welfare fraud allowed Reagan to sell voters on his cuts to public assistance spending. The ‘welfare queen’ became a convenient villain, a
    woman everyone could hate. She was a lazy black con artist, unashamed of cadging the money that honest folks worked so hard to earn.”

    I suspect the Slate writer meant this as wink-eyed crypto-snark but apart from her being black (she doesn’t look it), not a word of it is inaccurate.

    And as a liberal co-worker often grudgingly admits, “Stereotypes exist for a reason.”

  3. joej2020usa
    December 24th, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

    RT @rsmccain: Reagan and the ‘Welfare Queen’ Hat-tip @josh_levin

  4. museoaft
    December 24th, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

    RT @rsmccain: Reagan and the ‘Welfare Queen’ Hat-tip @josh_levin

  5. Proof
    December 24th, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

    Stacy, you should know by now that for liberals, some stories are just too good to let facts get in the way of them!

  6. Alan Markus
    December 24th, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

    This post over at Althouse seems to support that notion:

    Kathy Griffin Tweets Graphic Comparing Phil Robertson & Matthew Shepard

  7. robertstacymccain
    December 24th, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

    Yes, but for a liberal to provide such confirmation of the reality is quite helpful in rebutting the common claim that this was a GOP myth.

  8. Joe Dokes
    December 24th, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

    “What’s clear, though, is that Linda Taylor’s larger-than-life example created an indelible, inaccurate impression of public aid recipients.”

    It did?

    Any able-bodied, able-minded person who chooses to sponge rather than even try to work proves the impression is accurate.

  9. Proof
    December 24th, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

    Poor Kathy can’t accept the post mortem on her career.

  10. Reagan and the ‘Welfare Queen’ : The Other McCain | Dead Citizen's Rights Society
    December 24th, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

    […] Reagan and the ‘Welfare Queen’ : The Other McCain. […]

  11. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    December 24th, 2013 @ 1:43 pm This reminded me of this song.

  12. robcrawford2
    December 24th, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

    She had a career?

  13. Proof
    December 24th, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

    Groping cable anchors on New Year’s Eve.

  14. Adjoran
    December 24th, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

    Actually, Reagan stopped using the term “welfare queen” precisely because he didn’t want to paint all the poor that way. You won’t find any mentions in his 1980 or later campaigns.

    But to deny welfare fraud is not only real but rampant is just denial. Food stamps and disability are probably at least 50% fraudulently misused. Housing is another area with rampant fraud. There is scarcely a federal program that isn’t.

    If you can spot Medicaid “clients” at your doctor or dentist office, check them out. I’ve seen them dressed to the nines – midday on weekdays, in designer clothes – with iPhones and new luxury vehicles. How these “poor” people get by is beyond me: why, sometimes doctors won’t see them when they show up two hours late for an appointment, and many offices don’t offer free wi-fi.

  15. Adjoran
    December 24th, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

    The “welfare queen” was indeed an anomaly – not because fraud was rare, but because the women seldom got the benefit of the conned money. At federally subsidized housing, we used to see how the usually sparsely filled parking lots suddenly filled up with Caddies and Lincolns at the first of the month when the eagle flies and “Daddy” comes home, but a couple days later they are gone again.

    You can buy SNAP (food stamps) EBT cards right now on Craigslist for 50-60 cents on the dollar. Advertised, publicly. How many of these frauds has Obama’s government busted? Hint: it is so close to ZERO that the difference lacks statistical significance.

  16. K-Bob
    December 24th, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

    Wait, Slate is still on the Internet?

    Who knew?

  17. JadedByPolitics
    December 24th, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

    Reagan and the ‘Welfare Queen’ btw during Reagan through the 90’s GENERATIONS were on welfare #WelfareQueens indeed!

  18. richard mcenroe
    December 24th, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

    Democrats lie. All of them.
    Then they lie about lying. All of them.
    Then they villify you for correcting the lie.

    All of them.

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