Last night, GOP presidential primary candidate Newt Gingrich appeared at the Georgia Republican Party’s state-wide convention, where he delivered a wide-ranging speech covering a variety of issues related to his presidential run.
At one point during the speech, Gingrich derided progressive economic policies that value public investment and spending to get back to work, saying that “we’re at the crossroads” and that “down one road is a European centralized bureaucratic socialist welfare system” and the other road is a “proud, solid reaffirmation of American exceptionalism.” He then went on to declare Obama to be a “food stamp president”:
GINGRICH: President Obama is the most successful food stamp president in American history. [...] I would like to be the most successful paycheck president in American history.
The theme of Gingrich’s economic critique was clear and blunt: Democrats and progressives want to use government to stifle the economy and imagine a future of government dependency for everyone. Gingrich, on the other hand, believes in the free market and capitalism, which are the correct paths.
There’s one glaring problem with Gingrich’s narrative: as Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 1990′s, he himself was one of the most avid big spenders in the entire country, using government cash to enrich his district and lift it up to being one of the wealthiest in the country.
During his tenure in Congress, Gingrich represented large portions of Cobb County, Georgia. Cobb was a mostly-white district and largely suburban — completely different from the crude stereotypes Gingrich and others used to blast the welfare state, which were generally portrayed as minority-heavy urban environments. At the same time Gingrich was working with President Bill Clinton to cut back on spending for programs for the poorest Americans, Gingrich made Cobb one of the most subsidized districts in the entire country.
A 1996 article from New York Magazine notes this:
[Gingrich] represents Cobb County, a prosperous jurisdiction that ranks third among suburban counties in federal dollars returned per resident. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the federal government spent $4.4 billion in Cobb County in 1994, some $10,000 per resident, or nearly twice as much per capita as it spent in New York City.
Linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky noted at the time that the two districts that received more federal funds were in Arlington, Virginia, the base of many of the nation’s top defense and tech-sector contractors, and Brevard County, Florida, the home of the Kennedy Space Center.
Filmmaker Michael Moore found it both ironic and unfair that Gingrich was decimating public investment and spending on the social safety net while making his own district one of the most government-subsidized in the entire country. So he grabbed his video camera and headed down to Cobb, where he filmed a segment of his show “TV Nation.” Moore confronted Gingrich about federal spending in his district and the Speaker refused to endorse cutting any of it. Watch it:
So the next time you hear Gingrich deride government spending to improve the lives of Americans, know that he actually does believe in doing so — as long as it’s his own already-wealthy base.