The New York Times has an article about the dismantling of a “European-style welfare state” created by the pandemic. It’s an interesting article, but there are a lot of much deeper issues in this quite unnecessary return to prehistory that deserve a look.
One of those issues is America’s obsessive fluency in getting social welfare management so very wrong, all the time. Nobody needs housing, education, decent quality of life, health, or anything else, presumably. The country has been in denial since at least Nixon on all these subjects, and there’s some rather drab psychology to go with this all-pervasive denialism.
America tends to mistake itself for its own media image. That’s turned out to be effectively fatal for social basics.
According to this self-image:
- Everyone has a job, owns a house, and lives in a sitcom. In practice, the entire country is in the process of turning into versions of Oakland, that earthly paradise.
- Social well-being is defined by two-dimensional images, never three-dimensional. The sheer superficiality of political interest in these issues is staggering. The rest of the Western world bit the bullet and put in place realistic if not necessarily adequate, social welfare policies 40 years or longer ago.
- The image is the guide. Everyone’s living in an outdated, almost entirely obsolete, Utopia. Americans move house and go through the property, assets, and personal wealth meat grinders more than most Westerners.
- Revenue is the only subject under discussion when it comes to welfare. The rest of the world has VAT-style taxes. America has astonishingly outdated tax laws that literally date from the Civil War. How can revenue collection be efficient with a 160-year-old model?
- Costs of living are based on market forces. The huge rent increases are based on greed. These poor suffering corporations and billionaires didn’t go broke as a result of the “European-style welfare state”, and their own figures can prove it.
- Even just using the word “social” means communism, according to the image. It means sharing costs. If you pay the same amount as everyone else in a restaurant, does that make you a communist?
This mythology is doing America even more damage than its intellectually off-the-planet political and plutocratic kooks. In practice, America invented many of these “socialist” things, and nobody, including actual conservatives, minded a bit.
Eisenhower, aka the Last Credible Republican, didn’t negotiate social issues. When it came to desegregation, he sent in frontline combat troops. Seems the local heroes didn’t want to argue with them. Another image issue. This was right in the middle of the insane McCarthyism era, by the way. Nobody ever called Eisenhower a socialist on welfare or any other issues.
The old, senile, babbling, image of America As It Should Be is actually based on the reality created by workable social welfare policies and meaningful measures. Pre-World War 2, many Americans were doing it tough, even by modern standards. Medicaid and other options were created specifically to deal with realities, not mythologies. After World War 2, things got a lot better for most Americans.
In effect, America is now way behind the America of the 1950s, socially. The Rust Belt continues to rust. The politics babble on. Nothing is actually done. The pandemic welfare state at least created a working framework for bringing America into the 21st century. Does it really have to go?
This total failure can’t go on. Broke, sick, homeless, uneducated, and futureless people can’t build a future America. If you can afford “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” you’re one of the lucky few. America is systematically destroying its own foundations by sheer neglect.
The opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Digital Journal or its members.