October 09, 2012

GOP America = strivers vs. parasites

Romney's "47 Percent" Blunder Reveals the Hidden Heart of His Agenda

By Charles Derber and Yale MagrassRomney defined the 47 percent as those Americans who feel entitled to government benefits, don't pay income taxes and are parasitical in the sense that, "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

The potent right-wing narrative on which Romney builds is that society is always divided between a class of producers or "strivers," and one of parasites. The producers are private sector employers and their workers, who create wealth. The parasites are government workers and the needy depending on government benefits, especially welfare.

It has now become dogma among Republicans that the government is inherently incapable of generating wealth, that it can only be a leech, draining resources away from private individuals and corporations, who, if unfettered, would bring untold prosperity to all.

The Republican anti-parasite narrative teaches that society can prosper only when the producers dominate the parasites and keep them from destroying wealth, progress, the work ethic and the broader health of society. In an economic crisis, the 47 percent, specifically white workers, could turn against their corporate employers and even capitalism itself. However, the narrative tells them the source of their troubles are government, the Left and shiftless parasites.

In the US, the history of the "parasite" narrative is inseparable from Republican politics. After the 1929 crash, President Herbert Hoover refused to give massive government aid to the unemployed, claiming that it would reward sloth and bankrupt the government, a theme taken up in the 1930s by big business critics of the New Deal, like the American Liberty League and by Right populists like Father Charles Coughlin.

The moocher discourse regained prominence in the 1950s and 1960s, in the presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater and the immensely popular novels of Ayn Rand, who explicitly wrote about the war between "productives" and "moochers." Rand became a hero to the new generation of young conservatives that included Paul Ryan, who helped lead the "New Right" to build a base among white workers, especially in the South.

Under Ronald Reagan, the right-wing charge of parasitical dependency became mainstream. Welfare "queens" and government social programs were demonized to rally hard-pressed workers against liberals. Reagan's success transformed US politics, weaning the white blue-collar class from the Democratic Party and creating a blue-collar class of white "Reagan Democrats" whose anger at employers was replaced by an ironic solidarity with bosses in the struggle against the "parasites." Herein lies the answer to the question of "What's the Matter With Kansas?"–why workers act against their own self-interest.
Comment:  Even more than blacks, Indians are the classic example of people whom Americans consider "moochers." They supposedly lost "the war." They supposedly should be grateful for the "light" of civilization. They supposedly get free government and casino checks and don't pay taxes on them.

None of this is more than a tiny bit true. Indians were already civilized, for instance, and usually signed treaties before they lost. But the lazy, good-for-nothing Indian stereotype helps us rationalize our murderous actions. They got what they deserved, we tell ourselves immorally.

Needless to say, the strivers vs. parasites is racist. Most poor people are white, but conservatives think they're brown: African Americans, Latinos, Indians, et al. Demonizing the other--from Obama the "Kenyan" to the poorest Indian who needs government help--is all about maintaining white power.

For more on the subject, see Romney:  47% Are Moochers and America's "Bootstrap Theocracy."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ironically enough, the Lakota word wasicu refers to parasitism. (It means "steals fat", after all.)