The conservative establishment is getting fed up with Donald Trump supporters. Especially since the bloated bloviating billionaire continues to win state primaries. Last night, by 10 p.m., he took Florida, Illinois and North Carolina, kicking Marcolito out of the race, and was ahead in Missouri. His only confirmed loss by that time was in Ohio to John Kasich.
Anyway, this recent little screed from the National Review seems over the top:
“If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy—which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog—you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that,”
Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster. There wasn’t a war or a famine or a plague or a foreign occupation. Even the economic changes of the past few decades do very little to explain the dysfunction and negligence — and the incomprehensible malice — of poor white America. So the gypsum business in Garbutt ain’t what it used to be. There is more to life in the 21st century than wallboard and cheap sentimentality about how the Man closed the factories down.
“The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs. Forget your goddamned gypsum, and, if he has a problem with that, forget Ed Burke, too. The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.
Pretty brutal language. And it’s directed at whites. But we’ve seen this before. Directed at blacks. Let’s go back to 1964 and this report by then Assistant Labor Secretary Daniel Patrick Moynihan:
The most difficult fact for white Americans to understand is that in these terms the circumstances of the Negro American community in recent years has probably been getting worse, not better.
Indices of dollars of income, standards of living, and years of education deceive. The gap between the Negro and most other groups in American society is widening.
The fundamental problem, in which this is most clearly the case, is that of family structure. The evidence—not final, but powerfully persuasive—is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling. A middle class group has managed to save itself, but for vast numbers of the unskilled, poorly educated city working class the fabric of conventional social relationships has all but disintegrated. There are indications that the situation may have been arrested in the past few years, but the general post war trend is unmistakable. So long as this situation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat itself.
The thesis of this paper is that these events, in combination, confront the nation with a new kind of problem. Measures that have worked in the past, or would work for most groups in the present, will not work here.
Not as brutal as the National Reviews attack on poor whites, but the underlying thesis is the same. Blame it on the poor.
But, really, the issue has never been about the morality of the poor. The issue is that when there’s no economic opportunity, society falls apart.
So while the rich get richer, the complaints about the poor from the affluent are that they’re not responsible family people. That they’re uneducated and have no skills worth employing. That they are, in essence, immoral people.
Today, they’re saying this about whites. 50 years ago (and for decades ever since), this was being said about black people.
And to keep the poor at odds, the issue becomes race. Moynihan wrote the above report during the Johnson administration, then he joined the Nixon administration and instead of addressing the problem called for an approach of “benign neglect.”
Now the group involved is poor whites. And the Trumpeteer is saying that their problem is the Mexicans and the blacks and the Asians.
But the problem is a conservative movement that casts blame and offers no solutions. Just resistance. For example, a lot of the programs advocated by the Obama administration would have done something to address many of the problems facing the poor. But Republicans never wanted the economy to get better because their goal was to make sure Obama was a one-term president. And you can only do that by sabotaging any effort to create a healthy economy for everyone.
Except the plot didn’t work. Obama won. Even with their humiliation, the GOP continue with a strategy of sabotage.
And now we have Trump. Oh, and the Republican call for tax cuts for the rich.
Time to listen to Paul Krugman (who is always right):
When I was growing up, income inequality wasn’t yet a big issue, because the middle class was strong and the plutocracy fairly marginal. But there was a great deal of alarm over the troubles of the African-American community, where social disorder was on the rise even as explicit legal discrimination (although not de facto discrimination) was coming to an end. What was going on?
There were all kinds of theories, ranging from cultural hand-waving to claims that it was all because of welfare. But some people, notably William Julius Wilson, argued that the underlying cause was economic: good jobs, while still fairly plentiful in America as a whole, were disappearing from the urban centers where the A-A population was concentrated. And the social collapse, while real, followed from that underlying cause.
This story contained a clear prediction — namely, that if whites were to face a similar disappearance of opportunity, they would develop similar behavior patterns. And sure enough, with the hollowing out of the middle class, we saw (via Mark Thoma) what Kevin Williamson at National Review describes as 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.
Anyway, the right’s inability to face up to the evidence on this front is … just like its inability to face up to evidence on any other front.