Republican congressional candidate Steve Ferrara compared American welfare recipients to household pets last month, telling a group of college students that the poor would starve without government assistance, according to the Phoenix New Times.
> During a discussion with the Arizona State University College Republicans on September 4, Ferrara said that people receiving government benefits are no longer self-reliant. An individual on welfare becomes an "economic captive," Ferrara says in the recording.
Ferrara said the relationship between the government and America’s poor is less like parent and child and more like owner and pet.
> "It's worse than a child, you've relegated them to the status of a pet. Right? I mean, honestly," Ferrara says. "Because if you can't feed yourself, like – we all love our pets. But if you don't put the food down for them, you don't put the roof over their head, they would starve, right? And that's essentially what you've done to poor people with these programs."
> Government assistance programs trap recipients in "an economic shack where they don't have the ability to reach their fullest potential," Ferrara added.
When the New Times reached out to the candidate for comment, Ferrara said he expected his words to be taken out of context and therefore placed a full transcript of his remarks on his campaign website for “the critical thinker”.
> "In brief, I was quoting long-cherished social contract and Enlightenment principles which celebrate uplifting the human spirit and warn against regressive government policies that stifle the ability for people to achieve their full, true, and uniquely human potential," Ferrara said in the statement.
> The ASU College Republicans chapter declined to comment when asked about Ferrara's remarks captured in the audio recording.
According to the New Times, Ferrara’s “pets” comment came during an hour-long discussion with the College Republicans, after he spoke to the issues of income and housing inequality in California.
> After referencing the work of William Graham Sumner – a 19th-century academic who supported laissez-faire economic policies and opposed welfare – Ferrara segued to comparing poor people to animals.
> In the recording, at least one student can be heard politely pushing back on Ferrara's logic.
> If they don't want to turn people into the equivalent of pets, the student asks, wouldn't it be better to give welfare recipients money, as opposed to enrolling them in government assistance programs?
Ferrara responded saying such a plan would not work:
> "How are they gonna use the money?" Ferrara responds. By giving them cash to be used on food or health care, they will no longer be able to take advantage of subsidies that come with government assistance programs, Ferrara says.
> He goes on to criticize the U.S. health-care system, arguing that releasing people from Medicaid by giving them money to cover their own health insurance wouldn't work because private health insurance is much more expensive.
The Navy veteran and doctor is up against former Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton in Congressional District 9, which is a metro Phoenix district encompassing much of Tempe and some of Mesa and Chandler, according to the New Times.
FiveThirtyEight heavily favors Stanton to win the district.
Ferrara explained to the students that Republicans are not without compassion toward the poor and favor low taxes because they want people to have freedom in spending their money.
> "As Republicans, we care deeply about the poor," Ferrara says in the recording. "And we understand that the people that are the most vulnerable in our community lack disposable income."