Republican state representative Kip Smith was recently charged with a DUI. What does this have to do with framing? Well, he happens to be a sponsor of H.B. 464, a bill that will force people currently in need of state aid (welfare) to undergo mandatory drug testing in order to be eligible to receive the state funds needed to sustain their daily living. To make matters worse, if those seeking help don’t fork over the money out of their own pocket to pay for the drug test, then they are automatically cut-off, according to this new draconian law.
Simply put, this bill is designed to further stigmatize those who are receiving state assistance, and puts radical conservatives one step closer to ending welfare. This is accomplished through the “welfare recipient” frame that was specifically crafted to convince Americans that poor people, particularly people of color are lazy, no good, irresponsible, selfish bums, who would rather stay at home and feed off of the Government than get a job and work hard like the rest of us.
This is the intended meaning of the frame, and it is repeated over and over by right-wing talk show hosts, Fox news commentators, and other corporate controlled media outlets through what is known as an echo chamber. The hope is that enough repetition will firmly plant this message into the minds of those who hear, see and read about it. (This of course, stands in direct contrast to the true cause of poverty, which is due to the fact that the United States has the highest level of income inequality in the developed world. But this is an inconvenient fact that doesn’t fit the frame!)
The frame implies that people on welfare are dependent upon state funding. But, aren’t politicians also dependent upon state funding. Does this make them “welfare recipients”?
Interestingly, another state representative, Scott Holcomb introduced a similar bill H.B. 677, which would require politicians to undergo the same drug testing. After all, they too are “recipients” of state funding, and arguably use this money to sustain their daily living as well.
This is absurd, of course, to Kip Smith, and other Republican state representatives, since the frame is not intended for them.
Why the double standard? Because the “welfare recipient” frame is reserved for poor people of color and thus, anyone not meeting this description simply does not fit the frame. Therefore, the glaring double standard isn’t even acknowledged by believers of this frame, since the congressman is not expected to engage in this type of irresponsible behavior. Plus, he’s white!