O'Reilly and Romney are right

Did generous public assistance programs drive untold millions of Americans to vote for Barack Obama? Is that supposed to be a trick question? Photo: Associated Press

FLORIDA, November 20, 2012 — Bill O’Reilly has become an even more controversial figure than usual over the last few weeks.

On election night, the famously straight talking commentator remarked that America’s changing electorate won the President a second term. Almost immediately, he was criticized as a bigot by too many names to mention. This came despite the fact that O’Reilly was referring to philosophical shifts in the voting public — namely the increased fashionability of accepting government assistance.

While it seemed like he was being left to fend for himself in the predictable swarm of media vultures, this would not be the case for long at all.

In a conference call following the election, Mitt Romney mentioned that Barack Obama claimed victory by lavishing certain elements of his coalition with “gifts.” These, of course, are extensive public assistance programs. 

Many who lean left-of-center criticized the former Massachusetts governor for those comments with gusto. What was surprising, though, is that many of the supposedly conservative movement’s rising stars and elder statesmen joined in. Some notable names include Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, and George Will.

It is highly likely that others will join them throughout the coming days.

O’Reilly has since reaffirmed his belief about how the presidential race was won, noting that recent polling data supports his viewpoint. Romney has not recanted his statement, either. 

Good for them.

There can be little doubt that a great many voters supported the President due to his economic policies. Especially during a recession such as this, his message of financial relief for middle and working class Americans resonated in a profound manner.

Romney’s fiscal agenda, in my opinion, was far better suited for our country. However, in order to recognize this, one would be required to look at the long term rather than the here and now. Politics aside, are most Americans, irrespective of personal income, honestly prepared to do something like this?

The answer, like the result of the election, does seem to speak for itself.

In 1983, 30 percent of Americans received some kind of direct government assistance. The Wall Street Journal reported that the number had grown to 49.1 percent in the first quarter of 2011. (Romney got it a little low.) The Congressional Budget Office reported that demand for food stamps had grown 70 percent from 2007 to 2011, and various government departments (including Homeland Security) are aggressively pushing to expand their use. 

People often vote their pocketbooks, and the national pocketbook is increasingly in government hands. O’Reilly and Romney pointed out the obvious. Is that not precisely what reliable pundits and honorable politicians are supposed to do? Bobby Jindal is concerned that Republicans start being nicer to minorities. Perhaps that means sugar-coating some of the numbers about assistance during a campaign, or promising to make them grow, or pretending that there is no difference in their impact on different groups. That’s not honest or honorable, but it does seem to be what politicians do.

It would appear that these are not just trying times for our country, but simply bizarre ones as well.

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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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