South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (R) has set off a round of controversy with his comparison of providing government assistances to individuals in Greenville, S.C., to “feeding stray animals.”
According to Columbia, S.C. newspaper The State, Bauer’s remarks came during a Jan. 22 town hall meeting which included both lawmakers and residents.
“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed,” Bauer said. “You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”
In his speech, Bauer said the government should take away assistance if any recipient fails a drug test or fails to attend PTA meetings while their children are receiving free and reduced-price lunches at school.
Approximately 58 percent of students in South Carolina are enrolled in the free and reduced-price lunch program.
Despite the comparison, he told The Greenville News that he wasn’t saying people on government assistance “were animals or anything else.” Rather, he was trying to explain that people have to become more engaged with government.
Shortly after his speech, Bauer said, “I can show you a bar graph where [schools with the most students taking] free and reduced lunch have the worst test scores in the state of South Carolina,” adding, “You show me the school that has the highest free and reduced lunch, and I’ll show you the worst test scores, folks. It’s there, period.”
Bauer’s remarks set off a string of controversy across the Palmetto State.
“Everyone should be offended at the comparison of our school children to stray animals,” House Democratic Leader Harry Ott said in a statement. “Mr. Bauer should immediately apologize to the people of South Carolina for these remarks.”
Bauer’s remarks raised a “legitimate argument,” Bruce Ransom, a Clemson University political science professor told Fox News, but “he didn’t need to compare those individuals to stray animals. The way he framed his points was terrible.”
Bauer later wrote that he will continue to push his views on government handouts even if they are perceived as “politically incorrect” by the media.
According to Fox News, U.S. Census data shows that approximately 15 percent of South Carolinians live below the poverty line. As of October 2009, approximately 20,648 South Carolina families were listed as welfare recipients—totaling $3,979,701 in government assistance.
The Associated Press reported that Bauer, who is a product of a working class family and grew up in a single parent household, benefited from subsidized school lunches himself.