The Welfare State of America

by Peter Frase and Bhaskar Sunkara

Mitt Romney was ridiculed by the liberal media when he complained to wealthy donors, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.” To Romney, these voters are united by a dependency on government and a belief that “they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

Seething with contempt for half of America, Romney is a caricature of an out-of-touch elite.

He’s also, in a twisted way, right.

A movement to expand the welfare state has the potential to foster a new majoritarian Left coalition. Republicans know this—that’s why they manipulate the way welfare is perceived at every turn.

The reality is that 96 percent of Americans have benefited from government programs, but the Right works hard to hide that fact. It’s part of a deliberate strategy to divide the country into two camps by convincing the majority of voters that their labor is benefiting parasites dependent on the social safety net.

Democrats have too often bolstered this effort by echoing calls for “welfare reform” and “fiscal responsibility,” and by supporting policies that channel benefits through the tax code (such as the home-mortgage deduction) and private organizations (such as employer-provided health insurance). The result is a system that provides few benefits, makes them largely invisible and disproportionately benefits the more affluent.

In the face of this neoliberal consensus, the Left’s counter-mission must be to show that social democracy benefits everyone. Though this has been the errand of generations of liberals, their efforts have rarely gone beyond rebranding and messaging. Few have pushed for the structural changes necessary to build a strong welfare state.

One nation, underfunded

You get what you pay for, and we haven’t paid for much.

Continue reading this article where it first appeared in In These Times.

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

August 21, 2017
· 45 rsvps

Join DSA's Queer Socialists Working Group to discuss possible activities for the group and its proposed structure. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 42 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 24 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.