In my recent interview with J.C. Watts, he took issue with Mitt Romney’s controversial comment, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”

Romney’s supporters claim that the media has used this quote out of context, but Watts doesn’t see it that way. “I didn’t take what he said out of context,” the ex-congressman told me, “I took it in context. What he [Romney] was saying was, ‘Let’s keep people trapped in poverty, and if we need to give them a few more food stamps … we’ll do that.'”

In other words, Romney was simply waiving aside low-income people, which implied that everyone accepts the fact that they are a permanent underclass that can always be appeased with an increase in their freebies.

That, of course, plays right into the hands of the Democrats, who see themselves as saviors of the poor. It’s what is known as arrogance of the ignorant. While Barack Obama may think of himself as the king of compassion for increasing the number of people on food stamps from 32 million to 46 million during his first three years in office, Watts isn’t impressed.

“I don’t think we should measure compassion by how many people are on food stamps,” he said. “I think we should measure compassion by how few people are on food stamps … because we helped them climb the ladder of economic opportunity.”

The dichotomy between how the left and the right view welfare is not just more fodder for an intellectual debate. It puts a spotlight on the reality that progressivism is actually the greatest enemy of the poor.

More to the point, it exposes the big lie of progressivism – that it’s not only compassionate but moral to make people less responsible and more dependent on government. And it goes without saying that dependency on government really means dependency on one’s neighbors, i.e., those who actually foot the bill for government’s dependency programs.

The 2012 presidential campaign is going to be a showdown between two diametrically opposed views of how best to help America’s poor. Naïve soul that I am, I did not believe that Barack Obama would run on a transparent class-warfare platform, because I thought he was smart enough to realize it would be a losing message.

As it turns out, however, I not only was wrong about his willingness to embrace the politics of envy, I may also be proven wrong in my belief that a majority of Americans would not buy into it. As Obama’s favorability ratings keep bouncing back up toward 50 percent, the only plausible explanation is that close to half of America’s voting public is so addicted to government benefits that they are prepared to re-elect a Marxist who has clearly demonstrated that he intends to completely free himself of the constraints of the Constitution.

A whole industry of race hustlers has evolved from the far left’s obsession with constantly expanding welfare programs. They are the charlatans who inflate their egos and wallets by pushing for ever-greater black dependency. These victimization peddlers have succeeded in keeping millions of blacks from participating in the American Dream by selling them on the notion that they are victims of white oppression.

All of them would have to be incredibly ignorant or totally uninformed to ignore the mountain of evidence to the contrary: millions of blacks who are doctors, attorneys, engineers, corporate executives, college and professional football and basketball coaches, major league baseball managers, politicians and, yes, president of the United States! Why has white oppression been incapable of stopping these millions of blacks from rising to the top?

The race-hustling crowd serves as a constant reminder that it was African blacks who, for more than 300 years, captured and sold their fellow Africans to white slave traders, setting the stage not only for generations of blacks to toil in slavery, but for the racial tensions that have become part and parcel to American culture over the past 150 years.

Like the African blacks who sold their brothers and sisters into slavery centuries ago, today’s race hustlers are selling their brothers and sisters into the arms of the unelected bureaucrats who run the Federal Welfare Plantation.

The truth is that the whole notion of compassionate progressivism is a scam. As any casual student of history knows, the early progressive presidents – Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt – were transparently racist. Wilson, in fact, ordered the segregation of the federal Civil Service in 1913. The military was also segregated in World War I, and continued to be segregated under FDR during World War II.

Finally, along came Lyndon Johnson in 1963 with his grandiose Great Society plans, which lured blacks into a life of permanent victimization and dependency. While one might argue that Johnson’s intentions were noble, the end result of his taxpayer-funded generosity was that it ramped-up federal welfare programs, which in turn catalyzed the race-hustling industry.

J.C. Watts is right. “Fixing” the safety net helps perpetuate a permanent underclass in the black community. Republicans need to stand firm on the issue of welfare. The idea that we can always repair the safety net is, in the vernacular of Zig Ziglar, “stinkin’ thinkin’.”

Whoever goes head to head with Barack Obama had better be prepared to make the case for why capitalism trumps welfare and wealth redistribution when it comes to improving the lot of the poorest among us. If he is not able to do so, he will, in all likelihood, lose.

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