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Monday, July 29, 2013

Economic Hardship; the Other Demographic Shift that Dooms the GOP

Vintage photo of unemployment line It would be hard to think of a more poorly placed set of priorities. While Americans struggle to get by in an economy that seems to be recovering only for a few, Republicans wage ideological warfare. When employment and the economy should be job one, the GOP has wasted time with nearly forty votes to repeal Obamacare, chased around phantom "scandals," and worked on measures to restrict abortion that have zero chance of ever becoming law. It's bad out there, but the party is acting as if all other problems have been solved, freeing them up to dick around with trivial pet projects.

How bad is it? This bad:

Associated Press: Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.
The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to “rebuild ladders of opportunity” and reverse income inequality.
Add this to the slow-motion suicide the Republican Party has been committing by trying to alienate everyone. Other than the trickle-down BS that has been disproved by practice so many times,  a hallmark of conservative economic mumbo-jumbo is the belief that people in poor economic situations are there by their own choice -- and if you punish the poor for being poor, the unemployed for being unemployed, their situation will improve. You slash spending on food stamps, cut off people from unemployment benefits, and they'll soon discover that it's too difficult to be poor or unemployed, "pull themselves up by their bootstraps," and just stop be poor. The conservative conception of economic hardship seems to be informed entirely by Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" myth, not by anything resembling the real world.


But why is this approach to economics suicidal for the party of the rich white people? Well, because rich white people are becoming an endangered species. According to the AP, "Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families' economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy 'poor.'"

The "welfare queen" story has always been about dog whistle racism. The politics of division had previously worked so well for Republicans. But now the people struggling to get by are the people they seek to appeal to, while pushing the most unappealing economic policies imaginable to those same people. There are plenty of poor whites who vote Republican -- without checking, I'd guess the majority of them who actually vote -- but at a certain point the law of diminishing returns kicks in and you begin to run out of chumpish poor people. Right now, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that "83 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress' job" and "nearly six-in-10 voters say they would vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress if they had such an option on their ballot."

MSNBC reports that "Republicans are shouldering more of the blame for the situation in the nation's capital: just 22 percent say they believe the GOP is interested in unifying the country in a bipartisan way, versus 45 percent who say the same about Obama."

Those aren't numbers you can win with.

Any those numbers can only get worse. White Americans are learning from personal experience that being economically disadvantaged isn't the sweet deal that everyone in the GOP says it is. Trying to get by on food stamps or unemployment benefits isn't the gravy train and cutting those benefits is the opposite of being helpful. While the racial divide in economic inequality still exists, there's a lot of crossover now and GOP lies are exposed. It's awfully hard to tell someone who's fallen into the social safety net that that net is actually a cushy "hammock."

If it didn't hurt so many people, I would invite Republicans to continue to be economic flatearthers, continue to attack consumer demand wherever it rears its head, and throw themselves off that particular cliff. But the fact is that as the GOP sinks with their own fiscal mismanagement, they're taking a lot of innocent Americans down with them. Unfortunately, they really don't have anything else left. They've mocked real world economics for so long that they can't win a primary espousing anything other than Reaganaut fantasy -- the base demands to be lied to.

So they continue along, ruining lives and harming America, until their con finally runs completely out of steam. Given what that con is doing to the country right now, that end can't come soon enough.


[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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