Monday, July 13, 2015


I see a common thread between the despairing blog post Paul Krugman wrote about Greece yesterday and today's Krugman column, which is about Jeb Bush's "work more hours" remark.

First, Krugman on Greece:
Suppose you consider Tsipras an incompetent twerp. Suppose you dearly want to see Syriza out of power. Suppose, even, that you welcome the prospect of pushing those annoying Greeks out of the euro.

Even if all of that is true, this Eurogroup list of demands is madness. The trending hashtag ThisIsACoup is exactly right. This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief.
And now Krugman today, on Jeb and how he embodies conservative economic attitudes in America:
The real source of his remark was the “nation of takers” dogma that has taken over conservative circles in recent years - the insistence that a large number of Americans, white as well as black, are choosing not to work, because they can live lives of leisure thanks to government programs.

You see this laziness dogma everywhere on the right. It was the hidden background to Mitt Romney’s infamous 47 percent remark. It underlay the furious attacks on unemployment benefits at a time of mass unemployment and on food stamps when they provided a vital lifeline for tens of millions of Americans. It drives claims that many, if not most, workers receiving disability payments are malingerers -- “Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts,” says Senator Rand Paul.

It all adds up to a vision of the world in which the biggest problem facing America is that we’re too nice to fellow citizens facing hardship. And the appeal of this vision to conservatives is obvious: it gives them another reason to do what they want to do anyway, namely slash aid to the less fortunate while cutting taxes on the rich.
Yes, conservatives in Europe and America favor economic policies that comfort the comfortable. But, in both cases, the specific means of doing that is afflicting the afflicted -- and the way you get popular buy-in on that is to define the afflicted as people who deserve all the affliction they're already suffering, and more, because they're so shiftless and lazy.

The underdogs are supposed to do all the sacrificing, because the world is divided into the deserving and the undeserving, and the deserving shouldn't really sacrifice at all. The deserving are morally superior. (Middle-class and even lower-class supporters of conservatives, at least here in America, identify with society's winners, even if they don't share in the spoils.)

We're expected to think that the overdogs want to find solutions to economic crises, but, in fact, they don't want to do what's necessary if what's necessary involves serious sacrifice on their part. They think of themselves as the ones who have a genuine work ethic and who are willing to delay gratification, but in reality they insist that their gratification must proceed uninterrupted, because they deserve that. The underdogs don't deserve any gratification, ever, because they don't -- and that's true even if lifting up the underdogs would help bring the economy back to general health. That doesn't matter. What matters is that the underdogs must be punished.


Victor said...

Yes, how very "Christian" of them.

They're just following what Jesus Christ said in his "Sermon on the A-mount," when he lauded the money-changers, kicked the poor out of the Temple, and said a camel has a better chance of passing through the eye of a needle than a poor person has of getting into Heaven!

It's in "The Prosperity Gospel."
Just ask any greedy Jesus-grifting douche-canoe at the front of his/her church - mostly his.

Professor Chaos said...

Clearly,; the problem with our country is that the poor aren't suffering enough. Why, many have both food AND shelter!

Anonymous said...

This is by and large convincing, but there's a narrow exception. Most conservatives believe, in principle, that there are times when the government should help people in distress: when the distressed person has been harmed through no fault of their own AND has been a hard-working, rule-following sort right up until the moment of distress. You can see this in those news stories about people living precarious lives who oppose Obamacare and think that Someone (?) will do Something (?!) when medical disaster strikes. This is how they slake their consciences: it's not that assistance is never appropriate; it's that virtually any case that's presented to them just doesn't qualify. See, inter alia, Graeme Frost's family's kitchen countertops.

Lucy Montrose said...

They think of themselves as the ones who have a genuine work ethic and who are willing to delay gratification

Delay of gratification is one of the hallmarks of EQ or emotional intelligence. Remember the marshmallow test?

And recall how the 1-percent (and the 1%-sympathetic) are all about character, "grit", etc. for our kids in school... and how non-cognitive factors like that beat intellect any day. Another way to disregard education... just in a more subtle way.
What good is education, anyway, if you the highly educated student are just going to lose the job opportunity anyway, to the person of "high EQ"? That's the lack of faith in education which certain conservatives wish to plant in our heads... education won't save us; in fact, it may hinder us by making us "too good for the job".

It sure looks to me like this most valuable quality, emotional intelligence, is becoming redefined as, "someone who the 1 percent likes". How? Look at the people held up as examples of high EQ-- none of them criticize the status quo, or the super-rich.

It's as if good psychological health and good character are becoming redefined as, "support the 1 percent". And THAT is scary.