Land of the Free…Stuff?

By: CJ Bowers, @_CJBowers

These days, we are surrounded by sound bites of the latest speeches coming from presidential candidates on their campaign trail. Within those sound bites lie harsh realities, met with a “promising” future for our country. Recently, GOP Presidential candidate Jeb Bush received criticism for a comment made as it relates to African-American voters being swayed by the promise of “free stuff”. In a town hall meeting of likely voters in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, he attempted to explain how his platform was more hopeful, and less divisive than his liberal counterparts.

What is this free stuff that Mr. Bush speaks of, exactly? If only he were more specific in his initial framing of this “free stuff” that he spoke of, then maybe it wouldn’t be “taken out of context”. We can only assume that “stuff” translates into entitlement programs from the federal government that have been known to assist in meeting the needs of families throughout the country.

However, this isn’t a new issue. Maybe it is the same free stuff that previous presidential hopeful Mitt Romney spoke about in 2012. In more recent years, GOP presidential Candidate Mitt Romney warned voters of America becoming an “Entitlement Society”. It seems as though he studied Gov. Romney’s presidential playbook, but failed to remember the end result.

There is no secret that the percentage of African-Americans who have received government entitlements is higher than other races; however, it should be noted that in previous election cycles, the voting did not reflect much of a difference. According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, shortly after the 2012 presidential election, the country was nearly split (President Obama – 59%, Gov. Romney – 53%) among voters who ever received at least one form of entitlement benefit from the government.

It sounds as if Bush’s outreach message to black voters of “no free stuff” should be a countrywide appeal that targets people of every demographic, if that is what your platform is truly about. Maybe that approach won’t be as divisive as the rhetoric he accuses his Democratic colleagues. We can’t possibly leave out the tax breaks that come along with being wealthy. God forbid, the taxpayer receives any form of entitlement. That sounds like the true message of “hope” and “aspiration” he looks to paint.

While his accusations of being taken out of context remain a fallacy, you have to wonder how many more times will you accuse someone else for your choice of words? I’m certain that there may be some who will merely overlook his comment, and agree that it is another case of the media taking his words “out of context”.

Honestly, if anyone knows about entitlement, it is certainly one who comes from a prominent family in politics, looking to be the third in succession as president after his father and brother.