Jindal’s no racist, but when it comes to Medicaid, he whistles their tunes

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A dog whistle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Robert Mann

I’ll stipulate that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is not a racist.

Nor are the Republican members of the House Health and Welfare Committee who Wednesday voted unanimously to reject billions in federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid program to the state’s working poor.

But I do believe that Jindal and some opponents of Medicaid expansion are employing nasty racial stereotypes and ugly coded language to defeat it.

In other words, they hope to fool you into believing that Medicaid is just welfare entitlement for lazy, unemployed, poor black people.

Here’s what Jindal wrote in an op-ed in this week’s Baton Rouge Business Report:

By expanding President Obama’s healthcare law, 41 percent of Louisiana’s population would be dumped into Medicaid. Soon there will be more people riding in the cart than people pulling the cart. The President is gradually turning the world’s greatest health care system into the world’s largest welfare system. The left has been very clear—their end goal here is to make all healthcare in America government health care.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, consider the testimony of Kevin Kane, president for Pelican Institute for Public Policy of New Orleans, which describes itself as “a nonpartisan research and educational organization.” According to a story in Thursday’s Baton Rouge Advocate, in his testimony to the House committee, Kane

compared the 100 percent federal Medicaid funding for expansion to “a drug dealer offering a free taste” so the state can get “hooked” on the federal dollars.

In a column on the Institute’s website, Kane wrote

To make matters worse, these programs and their incentives have contributed to the demise of marriage and the traditional family unit, to the detriment of the children that are raised in unstable environments, lacking the demonstrable benefits of a two-parent family. These social costs cannot be fully captured by empirical data but they may well outweigh any of the other costs and benefits typically referenced in the debate over expanding Medicaid.

Opponents of Medicaid expansion, like Kane and Jindal, would never explicitly say, “We shouldn’t expand this welfare program because it just rewards a bunch of lazy black people who ought to get off their butts, stop having illegitimate babies and get a job.”

But they don’t have to. Many of their followers get the implicit message.

When you use loaded words and phrases like “drug dealer,” “hooked,” “riding in the cart,” “the demise of marriage,” and “welfare system,” you are not hoping that your words conjure images of hard-working white people.

Over the decades, public opinion research has established that considerable white opposition to entitlement and welfare programs is associated with racial animus and stereotypes. Just as my dog can clearly hear a high-pitched whistle that humans cannot, so it is that some aggrieved whites clearly hear the racial element in Jindal’s and Kane’s dog whistles.

Discussing this topic on the website OnRace.com, writer Jodie Blankenship observed in 2011:

The stereotypical view of welfare recipients presents them as lazy minorities unwilling to contribute to society, a drain on resources, and undeserving of living off the hard work of others. According to Christopher M. Federico from the University of Minnesota, the perception of whites towards African-Americans studied by political psychologists indicated that white use of African-Americans as undependable, demanding, and lazy were also subliminally directed to welfare programs. The public was encouraged to oppose welfare by equating their stereotypical belief of blacks to welfare programs – wrongly concluding that the programs were only for African-Americans who wanted to live off the government.

And, as Paul Waldman wrote in The American Prospect last August

the welfare attack is an old Republican standby; if the middle class suspects you’re not one of them, remind them that their resentment should be pointed down, not up. The real enemy is poor people, and those who would indulge them. A GOP presidential campaign that doesn’t eventually bust out this attack would be like a wedding band that doesn’t know how to play “Y.M.C.A.”

Here’s what Jindal and his allies hope you don’t find out: Medicaid expansion in Louisiana would provide health insurance to hundreds of thousands of working black and white families. According to StateHealthFacts.org, 42 percent of those receiving Medicaid in the United States are white; 29 percent are Hispanic, and 20 percent are black. In Louisiana, 57 percent of Medicaid recipients are black, 37 percent are white.

I have not seen projections about the anticipated racial makeup of the population that would be covered by Medicaid expansion in Louisiana, but I suspect a large percentage of this group would be white.

Regardless of their race, these are working, employed Americans, who earn just a bit more than the poverty level, meaning they aren’t quite poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

They aren’t “riding in the cart,” as Jindal wants you to believe; they are pulling the cart — for minimum wages.

The same man who this year lectured his party about the dangers of stupidity and intolerance is now busy blowing his racial dog whistle — not because he’s a racist, but because he’s a presidential candidate who must salvage a legislative session that he thought would be about abolishing income taxes. If some other kind of non-racial whistle worked better, he’d use that. (Jindal also seems to believe that his quest for the White House would be damaged by associating himself with any portion of Obamacare.)

Bobby Jindal is no more racist than you or me.

What his position on Medicaid suggests, however, is something just as ugly and troubling.

He’s an opportunist who is willing — in fact, eager — to sacrifice the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of Louisiana citizens on the altar of his national political ambitions.

* * *

Postscript: As the Louisiana Budget Project notes in today’s “Daily Dime” newsletter, Jindal was once a fan of using federal funds to expand Medicaid in Louisiana. Here’s what he said in a statement in 2008:

“We know the statistics, but behind these statistics there are real people. Louisiana is last in health care outcomes, we have far too many people with no health insurance at all, and this system will not improve on its own. We have to take action to improve our health care system, provide more access to health insurance for our people, and have a more transparent system where our system’s performance can be accountable.

“As we continue to work with our federal partners – and legislators and health care advocates here – we remain fully committed to communicating to our federal partners why making the investment in expanded insurance in our state is such a compelling cause. We are continuing our dialogue with the hope that the federal government will look past bureaucratic hurdles, and see that very real objectives for improving our health care are in reach. We are ready and willing to agree to a solution that invests health care dollars into our system so more people can have access – not just to insurance, but access that results in better, proven health outcomes.”

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32 Responses to Jindal’s no racist, but when it comes to Medicaid, he whistles their tunes

  1. Reblogged this on The Daily Kingfish and commented:
    The delusional nature of the opponents of Medicaid expansion would be funny if it weren’t going to cost lives.


  2. Stephen Winham says:

    I believe the Republican agenda transcends race, but not class, when making distinctions between those who should share in the fruits of prosperity and those who shouldn’t. It is clear Governor Jindal is attempting to distinguish himself as being the most conservative of the conservatives in his party – that appears to be the only niche he can fill. We can only hope there are not enough people at that extremity to get him anywhere. For the rest of his administration, we will apparently have to live with the triumph of ideology and narcissism over reason and compassion. It’s easy to say that some of those riding the cart should get off and help push, but what is to become of those who can’t? Governor Jindal never goes there, nor do his supporters.


  3. Fredster says:

    Here’s what he said in a statement in 2008

    Ah, but he wasn’t engaged in his deluded idea of running for the Presidency then was he Bob?


    • Robert Mann says:

      I think he’s been running for president forever, but in 2008 there was no Obamacare to rail against. He painted himself into a corner on this one. I really don’t know how he sleeps at night.


  4. Fredster says:

    LSU Board of Supervisors has to fess up on the names of their applicants:




    • Robert Mann says:

      The Pic story is really the best piece up so far on the suit. Very comprehensive. Will be interesting to see if LSU appeals. I don’t see how they prevail in the end. The law is pretty plain on this matter.


      • Fredster says:

        I don’t see how they prevail either. Bobby needs to get himself a better lawyer than Faircloth. I didn’t “get” his citing that 2006 law. And apparently the judge didn’t either.


  5. Disgusted with your ilk says:

    Liberals…. when they can’t win a debate on logic, facts or truth, they yell YOU MUST HATE BLACK PEOPLE. What a bunch of CRAP. I’m sick and tired of seeing any color of people sitting on their lazy asses while I have to go to work to support them. The plain fact is Obozo and his ilk use these programs to hook ALL RACES of people to get more votes. They permanently enslave poor people by passing laws to keep them poor and relying on handouts, rather than changing things up and creating jobs and incentives for people to get jobs. I volunteer at a shelter in downtown Atlanta and they have a jobs placement counselor. He tells me THEY’RE JUST NOT INTERESTED in going to work when they can pick the tree for free. Why work when you can get free food, shelter, clothes, medical care, Obama phones??? You liberals sit on your high and mighty perch screaming racism while you do NOTHING to promote people being independent and earning for themselves. And your biggest cause celebre is abortion. Where are the majority of Planned Parenthood abortion factories located? Inner cities. Who are their biggest clients? Poor black people. So it is YOU who are racist, enslaving poor people and murdering their young.

    Those who rob Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.


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  7. Neil says:

    Daily Kos posted a terrific piece last fall on just why the idea that African Americans have supposedly become dependent on government programs (i.e. welfare) and therefore supposedly beholden to the Democratic party is so incredibly condescending and yes, racist.


    I especially liked the two following passages:

    “It is to suggest that a people who are strong enough to survive the Middle Passage (go ahead Greg, look it up, it’s OK), enslavement, debt peonage, convict-leasing, Jim Crow and lynching, can somehow be brought to their knees, and turned into dysfunctional children, by virtue of an EBT card or a health insurance policy that happens to cover their kids’ pre-existing asthma. To think black people so weak as to be rendered virtually inoperative as functioning adults by various social programs, while white folks in European nations who receive much larger safety net benefits of all kinds seem to have no similar problems, is to believe black people somehow less resilient, even inferior to those Europeans.”

    “Gutfeld’s argument is also racist in that it relies on a belief that black people are too stupid to realize the harm that liberals and Democrats and so-called welfare are doing to them. It presumes that black people are so sheeplike they’ll vote for anyone with a (D) in front of their name, just to get that couple-hundred dollars a month in food stamp (or what are called SNAP) benefits, even though such things are so clearly and obviously turning them into children, or even, as some would have it, slaves. But to believe that black people as a group are that unintelligent, that craven, that easily manipulated, is to cleave to an intrinsically racist assumption about them.”


  8. Bob:

    I read your articles from time to time, not because I agree with you (I RARELY do), but I respect your experience in the political field and as a former Gubernatorial advisor.

    However, this piece, in my opinion, is the worst I’ve read from you. I’m not a fan of Gov. Jindal, but to accuse him and Kevin Kane of intentionally trying to pull racist sentiments in their arguments is lacks class, and is just a lazy argument, very similar to those on the Republican side who like to fall back on the “Obama’s not a true citizen” argument instead of getting into details of their disagreements with him.

    The continued increase in babies being born out of wedlock, or homes being split and broken, IS a problem in our country and does hamper our growth as communities. That’s not to say a single mother can’t raise a family. Many of them do wonderful jobs raising their children and providing for them, even without government assistance. However, it is exponentially more difficult to do so alone, especially if with more than one child. I can’t even imagine how tough a job that must be.

    And…if we look at demographics, since you claimed bringing up those troubles was code words for “black people on welfare”, while percentage unwed births is highest amongst black women than any other race, over the past one to two decades, the higher rate of increase in that statistic is white women, especially in their 20’s. Therefore, anyone with half a brain knows this troubling trend is an issue that crosses racial divides.

    We can’t continue to sustain the amount of growth of those on government dependency in this country. We’ve seen what has happened in other places. Eventually, you get to a point where you’re having to take more from the producing/middle classes than what we (as I’m middle class) can afford. Next thing you know, most of that middle class then becomes dependent upon government as well because we no longer have enough of our own income to make ends meet.

    Dangerous cycle…and it doesn’t help when bomb-throwers on either side start blaming certain races or start accusing others of racism as a lazy way to forward their argument.


    • Robert Mann says:

      Thanks for the comment. We will just have to agree to disagree on this one. But I strongly believe that Jindal and his crowd are using ugly racial stereotypes to fight this legislation.


  9. Quin Hillyer says:

    This is one of the vilest types of smears that can be leveled at somebody, to claim a racist motive (or to claim, which is almost the same thing, that somebody is deliberately appealing to racist motives) on the part of somebody with who you disagree, based on no prior context of your smear-victim’s ever having shown any race-baiting tendencies before. Say what you want about Bobby Jindal; alas, elected officials are subject to smears more often than anybody should be. But when you make the allegation also against Kevin Kane, a private citizen, you’ve gone too far. I know Kevin Kane. Kevin Kane is an honorable man. Nothing Kevin Kane said lends itself to your interpretation unless you twist it completely out of shape. You owe Kane, and your readers, an apology for smearing him. Otherwise, you are nothing but an outrageous hack, and a low-life one at that.


    • Robert Mann says:

      Thanks for the comment, Quin. And I’m happy you were not here yesterday to punch me, as you said you would have in our phone call this morning.

      Kevin Kane is a public figure, testifying before a legislative committee, and publishing his words on his blog. If he cannot stand a strong critique of his work or simply does not like the heat, then perhaps he needs to find another line work. He drove up from New Orleans to testify. Perhaps he should have stayed home.

      Indeed, like Jindal, he’s very much a public figure, head of “think tank” and very much subject to public critique of his work. I would think a journalist, like you, would understand that.

      I do find it interesting that you don’t mind my criticism of Jindal, just your friend Kane. To be fair, I doubt I’d be delighted to have such a good friend criticized in this way, but the fact remains your friend is a public figure.

      One does not have the right to claim immunity from criticism after he volunteers to testify before the legislature and publishes his words on a website.


      • Quin Hillyer says:

        There’s a difference between criticizing somebody and smearing him. To make accusations related to racism is to smear someone, absent far more evidence than you had. How the bleep you can do that and claim to be a legitimate professor of journalism — with responsibiity for teaching, among other things, journalistic ethics — is beyond me.


  10. Robert Mann says:

    Ok. Thanks for the comment. But you keep changing your criticism of my post. First, it’s that I should not talk about Kane at all because he is a private citizen. Now, it’s that I’m smearing him. He smeared himself.


    • Quin Hillyer says:

      No, my complaint all along was that you smeared him. I just distinguished why I was reacting more strongly to your smear of him than to your smear of Jindal. For the record, I do think you smeared Jindal too. But he has press aides to defend him. As for Kevin Kane, you are right, by law he is a public figure when he makes public testimony. That’s missing the point. I’m not talking about whether what you did is lawful (I’m not saying whether it is or isn’t), but only whether it’s ethical. It’s not. It’s scurrilous. You should be ashamed.


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  12. Judith says:

    A few weeks ago I read a lengthy piece in which the Pelican Institute, like its counterparts in other states, was mentioned. I wish I could find it now so I could share what it said and who wrote the piece, but I can’t. Without the source, I say this with hesitation, but I recall from the article that the movers and shakers behind the Pelican Institute were anything but non-partisan. They have an agenda, and it’s not a progressive one. I remember some connection to ALEC, but again, I can’t say that definitively without the source.


  13. john mikell says:

    I’ve thought about it for a day or so… What’s worse a real racist, congenitally pre-disposed and sufficiently ignorant of science and the Constitution to believe his superiority over others or a person willing to appeal to racists using dishonest and disparaging arguments? One thing for sure, they both hate being called out.


    • Robert Mann says:


      They really don’t like being called out. Happy to assail others as deadbeats, using awful language. But should you point it out, call them on it, they will really go after you with amazing ferocity. It turns out it’s very easy to hurt their feelings. They seem to be very tender flowers.



      • Quin Hillyer says:

        You aren’t “calling us out,” you are lying about us. It’s McCarthyism of the left, to yell “racist” rather than address real issues. Tender flowers, my a$$.


  14. earthmother says:

    Piyush Jindal is a racist in the same vein as Adolf Hitler. First he demagogues against a certain group or demographic, riles up his “base” supporters (and oh, they ARE ever so base) then claims to have public support for his outrageous actions because the supporters are making noise. We owe Bob Mann and Tom Aswell a huge debt of thanks for steadfastly revealing the nudity of the emperor.


    • Robert Mann says:

      For the record, I don’t believe Jindal is a racist. And I completely reject the Hitler analogy. As I wrote in the post, I just think he sometimes uses coded language that appeals to the prejudices of some people. Nothing admirable about it, and I guess he knows better, but it’s proven useful to him.


      • earthmother says:

        “the use of coded language that appeals to the prejudices of some people” – precisely what earthmother said, but far more diplomatically stated. Bottom line: BJ is employing the same tactics that evil demogogues have used since time out of mind. Including Hitler.


  15. Stephen Winham says:

    I think this thread should be shut down. It has degenerated to non-productive failures to communicate.


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