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Three Questions for a Representative from the American Enterprise Institute

More Republican Mental Pathology

Mark Thoma:

Economist's View: A Convenient Excuse: If you don't have a job, many in the GOP think it's your own fault. Never mind that there are fewer jobs than people looking by a wide margin, somehow if the unemployed would try harder, the jobs will magically appear…. Convenient, isn't it? It gives people who don't think they have any obligation to contribute to social insurance a reason to turn their backs on the unemployed.

Greg Sargent talks about the same thing:

Greg Sargent:

GOP debate crowd cheers idea that jobless are to blame for their plight: This moment from last night’s debate, in which the audience cheered the idea that the unemployed are solely to blame for not having a job, strikes me as one of the most iconic moments we’ve seen at the debates yet:

Anderson Cooper says: “Herman Cain, I’ve got to ask you — two weeks ago, you said, `Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job, and you’re not rich, blame yourself.’ That was two weeks ago. Do you still say that?” At this point applause starts, and after Cain stands by the claim, the applause crescendos and hoots of approval can be heard.

Lovely. I get that this applause might be an affirmation of the idea of self reliance as much as anything else, but the fact remains that the crowd is applauding the idea that the unemployed are solely to blame for their plight. The basic suggestion here is that the private sector is entirely unimpeachable and must be shielded from blame at all costs — the only morally correct position is to place all the blame for unemployment on the jobless themselves.…

As Alex Seiz-Wald noted recently: “Blaming unemployment on the unemployed is a common trend among conservative politicians.” If this video is in any way representative of the GOP base’s sentiments, we can see why…. If Obama hopes to contrast his call for a larger, inclusive, charitable vision with the fundamentally exclusionary and meanspirited one he accuses the GOP of harboring, this video seems like a pretty good data point.

Steve Benen:

Political Animal - Blaming the victim: On the one hand, Cain insists the unemployed and struggling families are to blame for their own plight. On the other hand, Cain also said:

I still stand by my statement, and here’s why. They might be frustrated with Wall Street and the bankers, but they’re directing their anger at the wrong place. Wall Street didn’t put in failed economic policies. Wall Street didn’t spend a trillion dollars that didn’t do any good. Wall Street isn’t going around the country trying to sell another $450 billion. They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their frustration.

There’s obviously a breakdown in Cain’s logic here. He wants victims of the crash to blame themselves for being solely responsible for their own misfortunate — a sentiment that drew hearty cheers from the Republican audience — and he wants Americans to blame the White House. Cain should probably pick one.

The larger problem, though, is that Cain is wrong on both counts. On the first part of Cain’s argument, which absolves Wall Street of its responsibilities for the crisis, the thinking here is practically pathological…. On the second part of Cain’s argument, which blames President Obama, one can only wonder if perhaps Cain has suffered some kind of head trauma that interferes with his cognitive abilities. The recession began in 2007, before Obama had even won the Iowa caucuses. The economy fell off a cliff in the fall of 2008, before Obama had won the election….

That the audience saw fit to cheer all of this nonsense speaks volumes about the alternate GOP reality.