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.