Bauer's 'stray animals' welfare talk criticized

COLUMBIA --- With Democrats calling for an apology, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer agreed Saturday that he used a badly phrased metaphor in a speech on government assistance but reiterated that the "culture of dependency" created by welfare must change.

After The Greenville News reported that the Republican drew a comparison between "feeding stray animals" and doling out government assistance, Democratic candidates for governor called Bauer's comments despicable, embarrassing and unchristian.

"Maybe the metaphor isn't the best metaphor. I agree with them on that," said Bauer, who is also running for governor. "But I think there are a lot of people that use issues like this to divide people and never offer solutions."

At a town hall meeting Thursday in northwestern South Carolina, Bauer noted his grandmother "told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed.

"The problem is, there are so many folks now who don't have to do a thing. In government, we continue to reward bad behavior. Anytime we give somebody money, we're rewarding them. We're telling them to keep doing what they're doing," he said. "Babies having babies, somebody's got to talk about. ... Education can not really be improved until we address the real problem."

To fix that, he said, "If you receive goods or services from the government, you owe something back."

State schools Superintendent Jim Rex, who's running for governor as a Democrat, called the stray animals comparison "reprehensible."

Bauer reiterated Saturday that there are direct links between poverty, lack of parental involvement and poor student performance, and he said other candidates are too concerned about being politically correct.

In South Carolina, 58 percent of public school students eat free or reduced-price meals.Bauer said the government can't afford to keep giving money away without requiring the recipients to take an active role in bettering their lives and their children's.

That means parents of students on free or reduced-lunches should be required to go to parent-teacher conferences and PTA meetings, or "bam, you lose your benefits," he said Thursday.