Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has repeatedly slammed President Obama as the “most successful food stamp president in history” on the campaign trail, and that line of attack — blaming Obama for the ill-effects of the recession and the pain that followed — has become a familiar GOP talking point. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) struck a similar tune in his response to Obama’s State of the Union speech last night, ignoring his own state’s high poverty rate and blasting Obama for pursuing “pro-poverty” policies:
DANIELS: Contrary to the president’s disparagement of people in buisness, it’s one of the noblest of human pursuits. The late Steve Jobs, what a fitting name he had, created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the president borrowed and blew. […] The extremism that stifles the development of home-grown energy, or cancels a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands…is a pro-poverty policy.
While Daniels claims Obama is “pro-poverty,” a closer look at his own state shows that it’s Daniels who is a pro at making people poor. Under Daniels’ leadership, Indiana’s poverty rate ballooned to 16.3 percent in 2010 — a three-decade high that is more than a full percentage point above the national average. In 2008, before Obama took office but a full three years into Daniels’ first term as governor, five Indiana cities had poverty rates of at least 20 percent.
Despite the rising poverty rate, Daniels has remained committed to making it harder for Hoosiers to get assistance. Enrollment in Indiana’s welfare program — which is among the stingiest in the nation — decreased during the recession because of stringent qualification requirements. The state cut food assistance programs, made it harder for kids to qualify for Medicaid, and cut funding for programs like Planned Parenthood that provide health care to low-income women. Daniels has also promised to sign right-to-work legislation, even though such laws reduce take-home pay by about $1,500 a year.
Meanwhile, Daniels’ criticism of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ignores the 64,000 Indiana jobs it had saved as of March 2010, and his “pro-poverty” quip fails to acknowledge that Obama’s defense of the social safety net from budget-cutting Republicans kept millions of Americans out of poverty.
In the middle of Indiana’s explosion of poverty and cuts to programs to help the disadvantaged, Change.org asked if Indiana was “the worst state for poor people.” While the answer to that isn’t clear, what is obvious is that when it comes to being “pro-poverty,” Mitch Daniels doesn’t have room to criticize anyone.