In his Friday column for the New York Times, after noting how Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich has called out his own party, he bliuntly writes
Republican hostility toward the poor and unfortunate has now reached such a fever pitch that the party doesn’t really stand for anything else — and only willfully blind observers can fail to see that reality.He notes how far a fall from grace this is by quoting Alf Landon, who may have laid out all the normal Republican tropes about the damage regulation does,
But he also said this: “Out of this Depression has come, not only the problem of recovery but also the equally grave problem of caring for the unemployed until recovery is attained. Their relief at all times is a matter of plain duty. We of our Party pledge that this obligation will never be neglected.”And he reminds us that in the rant by Rick Santelli that set off the movement we call the Tea Party
There’s nary a mention of deficits. Instead, it’s a tirade against the possibility that the government might help “losers” avoid foreclosure.We find a similar approach in Rush Limbaugh and others in talk radio
There’s not much about fiscal responsibility, but there’s a lot about how the government is rewarding the lazy and undeserving.and in Paul Ryan, budget guru of the House Republicans, who said the safety net was becoming
“a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency.” And Mr. Ryan’s budget proposals involve savage cuts in safety-net programs such as food stamps and Medicaid.Or to put it more bluntly, as perhaps my students would were I to allow them to use such language, if you are unemployed and/or can't feed your family or cannot afford to see a doctor for yourself or your family, tough shit.
Please keep reading.
It is a sad state when our politics has so deteriorated that one of our major political parties has basically so reverted to a Social Darwinism approach that they make Alf Landon look reasonable - remember, despite the poll by the Literary Digest predicting his victory, the man won only two small New England states in 1936. The country clearly recognized how wrong-headed his approach was.
At a time when too many in the Democratic party, including the President and many of his key advisers, still seem willing to contract the social safety net, perhaps there is something I can say as a teacher that few else can - the surest indication that our public education system is failing is that the debate we are now having makes Landon look reasonable, that too many in BOTH PARTIES seem to have abandoned the notion of responsibility for the worst off among us and that too many of the American people seem willing to acquiesce in this.
Except as we have moved further to the right in abandoning the poor and undermining the social safety net for the middle class, we have also gone through a period of time where a decreasing percentage of our adult population has attended PUBLIC schools - vouchers and charters have continued to expand, and even in public schools few states require the teaching of union history and I suspect that it is increasingly the case that the New Deal and the Great Society are given ever shorter shrift in history and government courses.
There is much more to Krugman's column. I note in particularly his penultimate column:
In a much-cited recent memo, Democracy Corps, a Democratic-leaning public opinion research organization, reported on the results of focus groups held with members of various Republican factions. They found the Republican base “very conscious of being white in a country that is increasingly minority” — and seeing the social safety net both as something that helps Those People, not people like themselves, and binds the rising nonwhite population to the Democratic Party. And, yes, the Medicaid expansion many states are rejecting would disproportionately have helped poor blacks.I would add to that quote that in a few states - AZ, NM, TX, large numbers of Hispanics would also be helped, along with Native Americans.
In short, it is about race.
Further, for many in the Republican base, this is further driven home because the President is a person of color, one of Those People, even if many of the Republican voters are in desperate need themselves of the social safety net - think of Appalachian Whites in the stretch from the T of Pennsylvania all the way through their further outposts in Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee.
It is racial, to be sure.
And it is basic to our current politics, for as Krugman concludes
So there is indeed a war on the poor, coinciding with and deepening the pain from a troubled economy. And that war is now the central, defining issue of American politics.