Something About Julia

Mickey Kaus Columnist
Font Size:

A Word About Julia: Republicans have criticized the Obama campaign’s web presentation, Life of Julia, as an example of the sort of  “cradle to grave, government supported existence” that the President envisions for his constituents, and for which he hopes to be rewarded politically. “[A]t every stage of Julia’s life, a government program exists to shield her from life’s woes. And just as interestingly, Julia never gets the bill for all of this government hand-holding.” Very 47 percentish.

My reaction to Julia was more Peggy Lee-ish: This is a cradle to grave welfare-state? There ain’t much there! Julia gets Head Start, goes to school, can stay on Mom + Dad’s health plan until age 26. She gets a slightly lower student loan rate. Her insurance covers preventive care and free prenatal screenings. And an SBA loan. That’s about it–a relative few discrete interventions of limited benefit. For a vast swath of her life–from 42-65–the Obamans can’t think of a thing the government does for her. She’s on her own! As cradle to grave government nannying goes, this isn’t oppressive. It’s pathetic. We’re going broke so a few kids can get cheaper loans and birth control?

Julia is far more revealing for what the Obama campaigners left out: Julia never gets food stamps, for instance, even though–thanks to an Obama-prodded expansion–46 million Americans do, at a cost of $78 billion annually. (SBA loans, in contrast, cost only about $1 billion). Food stamps are too controversial, I guess–they’re typically available without much in the way of a work requirement. Julia doesn’t even get the Earned Income Tax Credit (which is far less controversial, because it only goes to earners, though it costs almost as much as food stamps). The idea that Julia might be poor must not have tested well.

Most strikingly, Julia doesn’t get subsidized health care coverage (thanks to the Affordable Care Act) as she switches from job to job. The core benefit of Obamacare was also too unpopular to boast about, apparently.

In short, a) Julia is relatively (and perhaps falsely) reassuring,  suggesting that her fate is still almost entirely in her own hands with relatively minimal government support and b) Democrats aren’t confident enough to sell the actual welfare state programs they are asking us to pay for. The whole thing seems like a campaign outtake–an off-key, half-baked, third-order effort they let out the door mostly to placate the people who put it together. Sort of like Mitt Romney’s TV ads. …

Mickey Kaus