Friday, April 6, 2012

Arctic Sea Ice: 1880-2000

It does rough justice to a political ideology whose leading advocates take wealth to be a sign of individual and social virtue, believe its concentration in fewer and fewer hands isn’t something for a democratic country to worry about, toy with the idea of getting rid of child-labor laws, regard unemployment and other social insurance as forms of coddling the unworthy poor, and hold health care to be a personal option for which the individual is responsible. As Robert Reich (an economist for whom Obama never had much use) pointed out several months before the President used the phrase last week, the social Darwinism of William Graham Sumner and other late-nineteenth-century thinkers is alive and well in the current Republican Party. -

If that sounds too harsh, consider what Jason DeParle of the Times reported two days ago. Even as the recession drove millions of Americans deeper into poverty, many of them, mainly single mothers, continue to be dropped from the welfare rolls under the welfare reform laws of the nineteen-nineties. DeParle, the leading journalistic expert on the subject, did not try to hide his indignation: “They have sold food stamps, sold blood, skipped meals, shoplifted, doubled up with friends, scavenged trash bins for bottles and cans and returned to relationships with violent partners—all with children in tow.” 

That’s a picture only a social Darwinist could describe as “an unprecedented success”—which is the phrase Congressman Paul Ryan, who authored the Republican budget plan, uses to describe welfare reform. That program was bipartisan, and widely popular. But today only leaders of the Republican Party, like Ryan and Mitt Romney, believe it’s working so well that the model should be extended to other government programs, including food stamps and Medicaid. - more -George Packer - New Yorker

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