Afternoon Must-Read: Nick Bunker: Labor Market Slack
For the Weekend: In the Mourning/Landslide

Afternoon Must-Read: Paul Krugman: GOP: Those Lazy Jobless; with Bonus Heather Cox Richardson

Paul Krugman: Those Lazy Jobless - NYTimes.com Last week John Boehner, the speaker of the House, explained...

...People, he said, have “this idea” that “I really don’t have to work. I don’t really want to do this. I think I’d rather just sit around.” Holy 47 percent, Batman! It’s hardly the first time a prominent conservative has said something along these lines.... But it’s still amazing — and revealing — to hear this line being repeated now. For the blame-the-victim crowd has gotten everything it wanted: Benefits, especially for the long-term unemployed, have been slashed or eliminated. So now we have rants against the bums on welfare when they aren’t bums — they never were — and there’s no welfare. Why? First things first: I don’t know how many people realize just how successful the campaign against any kind of relief for those who can’t find jobs has been. But it’s a striking picture.... The total value of unemployment benefits is less than 0.25 percent of G.D.P., half what it was in 2003, when the unemployment rate was roughly the same as it is now.... Strange to say, this outbreak of anti-compassionate conservatism hasn’t produced a job surge.... Why is there so much animus against the unemployed, such a strong conviction that they’re getting away with something, at a time when they’re actually being treated with unprecedented harshness?...

Self-righteous cruelty toward the victims of disaster, especially when the disaster goes on for an extended period, is common in history. Still, Republicans haven’t always been like this.... Is it race? That’s always a hypothesis worth considering.... It’s true that most of the unemployed are white.... But conservatives may not know this, treating the unemployed as part of a vaguely defined, dark-skinned crowd of “takers.” My guess, however, is that it’s mainly about the closed information loop of the modern right.... Boehner was clearly saying what he and everyone around him really thinks, what they say to each other when they don’t expect others to hear...


Heather Cox Richardson: How the GOP stopped caring about you: "By the time the [Civil] War ended...

...the GOP had invented national banking, currency, and taxation; had provided schools and homes for poor Americans; and had freed the country’s 4  million slaves. A half-century later...Theodore Roosevelt fulminated against that “small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power.” Insisting that America must return to “an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him,” the Republican president called for government to regulate business, prohibit corporate funding of political campaigns, and impose income and inheritance taxes. In the mid-20th century, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower recoiled from using American resources to build weapons alone....

At these crucial moments, Republican leaders argued that economic opportunity is central to the American ideal and that government must enable all to rise. But... it has sparked a backlash from within, prompting the GOP to throw its support behind America’s wealthiest people and to blame those who fall behind for their own poverty. How did the progressive Republican Party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower become the reactionary party of Ronald Reagan, the tea party and Paul Ryan?...

Civil War Republicans rejected the idea that they were enacting welfare legislation. Rather, they argued, it was a legitimate use of the government to promote broad-based economic growth. The Founding Fathers had neglected to guard against the wealthy dominating and subverting the government, but Lincoln’s Republican Party addressed that omission. Almost as soon as the Civil War ended, the Republicans’ egalitarian vision came under attack.... Eastern Republicans, whose industries flourished under the party’s economic policies, began to focus on protecting their interests rather than promoting opportunity.... In the 1880s, voters turned to the Democrats, and the Republican Party restricted voting and jiggered the electoral system to stay in power, adding six states to the Union in an attempt to stack the Senate.... In three decades, the Republican Party had taken the nation to opposite extremes. Once the driving agents of economic opportunity, Republicans had become the engineers of economic ruin.

As Lincoln had done before him, Theodore Roosevelt recognized the danger of a system that concentrated wealth and power. He came of age during the 1880s.... He called for government regulation of business and promotion of education to guarantee a level playing field, and he forced national leaders again to take measures to protect economic opportunity.... The backlash against this second expansion of the middle class was quick and dramatic, especially amid the labor and racial unrest following World War I. Republicans accused workers and African Americans of plotting to bring the Bolshevik revolution to America, and demanded support for unbridled capitalism from all Americans.... Like 30 years before, wealth became concentrated at the top....

At the end of World War II, the Republican cycle began once more. Dwight Eisenhower renewed the effort to expand the middle class, adapting that vision to the modern era. Facing the challenge of leading a superpower in a divided nuclear world, he fervently believed that America had to promote economic prosperity across the globe to prevent the political and religious extremism that sparked wars. Like Lincoln and Roosevelt before him, Eisenhower adhered to the classic Republican view of government and set out to use it to guarantee economic opportunity in the postwar world.... But business leaders who hated government regulation insisted that Eisenhower’s policies were tantamount to communism. They pointed to desegregation as proof that the government was redistributing tax dollars to undeserving minorities, and their mingling of racism and communist fears won votes. By the 1970s, in an uncanny echo of the 1890s and the 1920s, Republican economists had embraced the old idea that only deregulation and unfettered capitalism would create wealth, which would then trickle down to everyone.... In the early 21st century, the U.S. economy, after years of Republican control, looked much like that of the American South before the Civil War. Business and wealth were entrenched in the nation’s political and judicial system, while most Americans found themselves burdened with debt and stagnating incomes....

The history of the Republican Party shows why, since the Civil War, the nation has been caught in cycles of progressivism and reaction. Is it possible for the party — and the country — to resolve this tension? Surely the original Republican argument that economic opportunity must be advanced by an active government, the idea conceived by Lincoln and adopted by Roosevelt and Eisenhower, could work in the modern global economy as it did in the era of industrialization and in the nuclear age. But can the party shed the opposing argument, developed in the conflicts of the late 19th century and recycled ever since, that government activism is tantamount to socialism?

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