Friday, November 14, 2014

Finding Common Ground on the True Free Riders

The first thing I read this morning was Kevin Drum's essay on why members of the white working class mostly don't vote for Democrats anymore.

...when the economy stagnates and life gets harder, people get meaner. That's just human nature. And the economy has been stagnating for the working class for well over a decade—and then practically collapsing ever since 2008.

So who does the [white working class] take out its anger on? Largely, the answer is the poor. In particular, the undeserving poor. Liberals may hate this distinction, but it doesn't matter if we hate it. Lots of ordinary people make this distinction as a matter of simple common sense, and the WWC makes it more than any. That's because they're closer to it. For them, the poor aren't merely a set of statistics or a cause to be championed. They're the folks next door who don't do a lick of work but somehow keep getting government checks paid for by their tax dollars. For a lot of members of the WWC, this is personal in a way it just isn't for the kind of people who read this blog.

And who is it that's responsible for this infuriating flow of government money to the shiftless? Democrats. We fight to save food stamps. We fight for WIC. We fight for Medicaid expansion. We fight for Obamacare. We fight to move poor families into nearby housing.
I have the feeling Frank Luntz is lurking somewhere in the background of this successful framing by the Right, but I can't deny that there's true resonance in it for working-class people, based on the fairness principle. Fairness is one of the six key areas of morality identified by researcher Jonathan Haidt. As Haidt has said, [and here I'm quoting myself from the earlier post linked in the previous sentence]:
What a liberal and a conservative mean by the terms can differ. For instance, conservatives think of fairness in terms of self-sufficiency and free riders. Everyone needs to contribute, and no one should get anything for "free."
Drum's essay genuflects to the role of race in this tendency of white, working-class people to see the poor as free riders. I think it's more central than he does, but acknowledge that my working class friends and relatives aren't crazy about white people they know and perceive as slackers, either.

Given the moral underpinning of their feelings, let alone the possible racism that underlies it, I think it's unlikely anyone can get anti-Democrat members of the white working class to realize the small amount of true free-riding is worth it in return for the greater benefit that reaches the many people who need help (which is how I feel about it, and have said before).

So, instead, I think we should find common ground on a different type of free-riding and build political power on that: so-called corporate welfare.

Yesterday, a conservative friend shared this from Bernie Sanders (of all people!) on Facebook:

Her post was met by a chorus of agreement from her usual conservative friends, and me, saying, "That's something we can agree on."

Here are some other meme graphics that get across the point:

It's a place to start, right?


Past posts that came to mind while writing this:

Disability for Me, But Not Thee

Dean Baker and Economic Realities

These Problems Are About Policy

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Making the Case for Government Programs

Bonuses and Bolling

Is Your Grandma a Welfare Queen?

1 comment:

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

That IS a good place to start. BTW, I also appreciated your post on Americans' misperceptions of the numbers.