After briskly dismissing Republican anxiety over the rising number of Americans on disability, Krugman notes that beyond conservative circles, the talking point doesn’t seem to have caught on like GOP strategists no doubt hoped. And it’s not because of anything having to do with SSDI, specifically. It’s a product of a larger shift in the American electorate’s worldview — one that involves the rejection of the GOP’s more objectivistinclinations:
The same goes, more broadly, for the whole nation of takers thing. First of all, a lot of the “taking” involves Social Security and Medicare. And even the growth in means-tested programs is largely accounted for by the Earned Income Tax Credit — which requires and rewards work — and the expansion of Medicaid/CHIP to cover more children. Again, not the greatest of political targets.
The point, I think, is that right-wing intellectuals and politicians live in a bubble in which denunciations of those bums on disability and those greedy children getting free health care are greeted with shouts of approval — but now have to deal with a country where the same remarks come across as greedy and heartless (because they are).Krugman’s right that many GOP elites live in a bubble (a bit of a given for any kind of elite, really) but I don’t think his explanation for why the makers/takers trope is falling flat is quite enough. Yeah, poor kids and old people are bad “political targets.” But it’s not like Reagan’s welfare queens actually existed; poor children and poor people weren’t spared back then, either. Poor people haven’t changed. But the political value of bashing them has.
And the reason is easy to see. In 1980, the electorate was 88 percent white, non-hispanic; in 2012, that number was 72 — down 16 percent. Pandering to the ethnic resentment of white voters just ain’t what it used to be. Not only are there less whites to whom to pander, but whites’ attitudes on race and poverty (always intertwined in America) have changed, too. In a country where politics remains driven by the legacy of white supremacy, the consequences are epochal.
Many others have noted this already. The White House is certainly well aware. Republicans…are working on it.