Putting A Racial Spin On Economic Recovery

What gives with the racism attacks on the Bush administration by the Washington Post and New York Times opinion guys over the past two days. You would think that after kicking butt in the election they would be happy to just enyoy the Holidays and swing back into action next week.

First, Krugman steps out of economic punditry and dives or belly flops directly into political op-ed. He dances around the subject for most of his screed and then finally summons the courage to say what he wants to at the end.

Mr. Obama therefore has room to be bold. If Republicans try a 1993-style strategy of attacking him for promoting big government, they’ll learn two things: not only has the financial crisis discredited their economic theories, the racial subtext of anti-government rhetoric doesn’t play the way it used to.

Will the Republicans eventually stage a comeback? Yes, of course. But barring some huge missteps by Mr. Obama, that will not happen until they stop whining and look at what really went wrong. And when they do, they will discover that they need to get in touch with the real “real America,” a country that is more diverse, more tolerant, and more demanding of effective government than is dreamt of in their political philosophy.

The article by Krugman deserves more parsing than I have time to give to it. As you can see by the excerpts above, it paints the Republican Party as a tool of repression and discrimination. I invite you to follow the link and read it for yourself.

In the meantime let me introduce you to the companion piece and then try and draw some conclusions as to what is transpiring here.

The second opinion piece comes from the Washington Post courtesy of Harold Myerson. I could write an overly long post on this one but let’s just concentrate on a couple of things. First, here is his opening comment:

If it’s big and you don’t regulate it, you end up nationalizing it.

Well, then I guess Microsoft, IBM, Exxon, 3M, Dow Chemical, Honeywell, Boeing … you get the point, better gear up their lobbyists. I wonder what Myerson’s definition of big is? But, I digress, for Myerson’s opening is just a prelude to the Republican racism theme . Though he is more subtle than Krugman his point is obvious.

If Abraham Lincoln were still among the living as he prepared to turn 200 six weeks from now, he might detect in the congressional war over the automaker bailouts a strong echo of the war that defined his presidency. Now as then, the conflict centered on the rival labor systems of North and South. Now as then, the Southerners championed a low-wage, low-benefits system while the North favored a more generous one. And now as then, what sparked the conflict was the North’s fear of the Southern system becoming the national norm. Or, as Lincoln put it, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Over the past century, of course, the conflict between North and South has been between union and non-union labor. The states of the industrial Midwest and the South had common demographics (Appalachian whites and African Americans, though the Northern states also were home to Catholics of Eastern European origin) but developed two distinct economies.

Residents of the unionized north enjoyed higher living standards, both from their paychecks and the higher public outlays on health and education, than did their counterparts in the union-resistant South.

But, just as Lincoln predicted, the United States was bound to have one labor system prevail, and the debate over the General Motors and Chrysler bailout was really a debate over which system — the United Auto Workers‘ or the foreign transplant factories’ — that would be. Where the parallel between periods breaks down, of course, is in partisan alignment. Today’s congressional Republicans are hardly Lincoln’s heirs. If anything, they are descendants of Jefferson Davis‘s Confederates.

So, presto, the debate over whether or not the bailout of the automakers represents a sound economic decision is turned into a replay of the forces of slavery versus emancipation. Pretty wild.

I’ll pose the question I started with, what gives here?

Just a wild guess, but I think you can discern the beginnings of the spin that the Democrats are going to put on just about every piece of legislation related to economic recovery. Any dissent, alternative, or attempt at compromise is going to be met with the same old tired race card.

Will we ever move on?

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