Here it comes. President Donald J. Trump has begun in earnest his assault on Americans of modest means.
Now that Republicans have increased the budget deficit by trillions of dollars with their tax cuts for the rich, they've started looking around for spending cuts so they can reclaim their image as fiscal hawks. They've begun that process with plans to rip away the already-meager safety net that benefits the poor.
The president has proposed a budget that would: gut Medicaid, which provides health care for the poorest Americans; slash billions from food stamps by providing families with small boxes of pre-selected commodities such as peanut butter and powdered milk; and drastically down-size housing programs, casting even more poor families onto the streets. This is making America great again?
Since the age of Ronald Reagan -- who insisted, "Government is not the answer. Government is the problem" -- conservative voters have been fed a steady diet of myths about America's poor. That includes a portrait of the impoverished as able-bodied layabouts who could work but prefer stiffing hardworking taxpayers for handouts.
Let's remember that President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, reformed welfare programs back in the 1990s. He worked with Congress to impose job requirements for recipients of the social safety net, which means that the vast majority of those now receiving assistance must work if they are able to.
The Washington Post has quoted federal government statistics to present a factual picture of those who receive benefits for the poor:
The majority of Americans on welfare programs are children, seniors, people with disabilities and working adults with low-paying jobs.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, only 6 percent of housing subsidy recipients are able to work but do not, the Post says. Among recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, that figure is 14 percent, according to a 2014 release from the Department of Agriculture.
There is another myth about America's poor that is especially popular among Trump voters, the racially resentful types who have become the most reliable core of the Republican base: that those who benefit from welfare programs are overwhelmingly black and brown. That misunderstanding was reinforced by Reagan himself, who told tales on the campaign trail about so-called "welfare queens" -- black women, of course.
In 2015, Gene Alday, a Republican state legislator in Mississippi, repeated that commonly shared misperception, but he told it to a reporter for The Clarion-Ledger. "I come from a town where all the blacks are getting food stamps and what I call 'welfare crazy checks,'" Alday said. "They don't work."
Alday was forced to apologize after his remarks were published in the newspaper, but he likely continues to believe what he said to be true. So, probably, do most of his supporters. It's very difficult to pry people away from the lies they want so desperately to believe.
Still, we should review the facts about food stamps. According to a 2015 report from the Department of Agriculture, just over 40 percent of SNAP recipients are white, while 25.7 percent are black, 10.3 percent are Hispanic, 2.1 percent are Asian and 1.2 percent are Native American.
Medicaid statistics paint a very similar portrait. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 40 percent of Medicaid recipients are white, 25 percent are Hispanic, 21 percent are black and 14 percent are "other."
That picture deviates even more from conventional Republican wisdom when certain states are taken into account. Just take a look at West Virginia, where Earl Ray Tomblin, then the Democratic governor, took advantage of Obamacare to expand Medicaid in 2014. There, 93 percent -- that's right, 93 percent -- of Medicaid recipients are white, according to Kaiser.
Kentucky tells a similar story. In that state, 77 percent of Medicaid recipients are white. Nearly 500,000 people in Kentucky gained health insurance when then-Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, expanded Medicaid in 2014.
Yet, both states have since elected Republican governors committed to paring back Obamacare, and both states voted overwhelmingly for Trump. So voters in both states, paradoxically, supported politicians who have pledged to make their lives more miserable.
Is that really what Kentucky and West Virginia voters think will make America great again?