Republicans as a rule argue that one’s problems are one’s own damn fault. They believe that the difference between poverty and posh can be explained by virtues: those who succeed have the right ones in spades; losers, in the Trumpian vernacular, lack them. The achievement gap can be closed only if those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder acquire appropriate behaviors, usually expressed as “accountability,” “responsibility,” “discipline,” “perseverance,” and “thrift.”
For example, a Republican in Washington state’s Senate penned an op-ed for this morning’s Seattle Times. Audacity being a singular trait of all Republicans, Mark Miloscia of Federal Way offers his views on homelessness, taking a swipe at liberal King County for its “failed” efforts to end this particular injustice. He writes:
What’s forgotten is that any plan for helping people must begin with holding individuals accountable for improvement. Unfilled rehabilitation and vocational slots and shelter beds show the problem is not a lack of money, but a lack of willingness to make people abandon self-destructive behaviors that make them homeless and unwilling to work.
Until we address the permissive culture issues and hold individuals accountable for their progress, we might as well burn money for homeless programs in the numerous campfires around Seattle.
As you might guess, Senator Miloscia resists any attempts to steer tax dollars to those who need them the most, particularly the homeless. They are virtueless and therefore undeserving. The senator, I presume, would make virtues available—for a price, of course. Markets über alles.
Meanwhile, Professor Krugman blogs. This time, he’s commenting on the recent revelation that white older men in America are dying off with increasing frequency, exactly the opposite trend of their counterparts elsewhere.
When urban areas like Detroit and Oakland suffered industrial collapse following the end of WWII, white majorities abandoned cities in favor of more homogeneous suburban environs. Conservatives accused the remaining blacks of moral turpitude; Krugman offers the explanation of sociologist William Julius Wilson, who argued that African-American job loss yielded social collapse.
Now it’s the white man’s turn, and ready for the call-to-virtue cause are the likes of David Brooks and the National Review‘s Kevin Williamson, the latter suggesting that it’s…
the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy
And what is the lesson? Why, that poor whites are moral failures, and they should move to where there are opportunities (where?). It’s really extraordinary.
Oh, and lots of swipes at food stamps, welfare programs, disability insurance (which conservatives insist is riddled with fraud, despite lots of evidence to the contrary.)
It’s surely worth noting that other advanced countries, with much more generous welfare states, aren’t showing anything like the kind of social collapse we’re seeing in the U.S. heartland.
As I’ve asserted previously, Republicans are bad for our health.