The idea of the "welfare queen" is the most enduring argument against welfare that gets pulled out by the nation's collective uncles at Thanksgiving: anecdotal stories of a woman, usually black, who has mastered the art of having babies and filling out government forms to such an incredible degree that she gets to live like royalty on the taxpayer's dime, usually while smoking crack and having unprotected sex. "Sure, I'm all for helping people down on their luck, but why should my hard-earned paycheck go to support that?"
"We fought a war to free ourselves from the Queen, dammit!"
That stereotype actually comes from one famous case: Linda Taylor, the originator of the "welfare queen" myth. She was a dedicated con artist who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the US government by being a dedicated con artist. Fun fact: she also kidnapped children and probably murdered people. But she was only ever charged for the welfare fraud, because the prosecutors were worried that a murder case would distract from the far weightier issue of stealing from the taxpayers. That's right: people are so enraged by the idea of welfare fraud that they literally treat it like it's more offensive than murder.
Corbis via slate.com
When in actuality, the most offensive thing about this case is clearly that hat.