New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote on Monday that while America is "a much less racist nation than it used to be," that doesn't mean that "racial hatred isn't still a potent force in our society" -- a point he illustrates both by noting that social programs deemed by many on the right to help "Those People" are largely being dismantled in the states that committed treason in order to defend the institution of chattel slavery.
For example, when it comes to the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid -- a program which, if states choose to accept it, will provide health insurance to low-income Americans on the federal government's dime -- twenty-two states have rejected it. What do those states have in common?
"Mainly, a history of slaveholding," Krugnman wrote. "Only one former member of the Confederacy has expanded Medicaid, and while a few Northern states are also part of the movement, more than 80 percent of the population in Medicaid-refusing America lives in states that practiced slavery before the Civil War."
He further noted that being a member of the Confederacy is also a "strong predictor" of current laws on gun control, tax policy, low minimum wages, and union activity.
America is a much less racist nation than it used to be, and I’m not just talking about the still remarkable fact that an African-American occupies the White House. The raw institutional racism that prevailed before the civil rights movement ended Jim Crow is gone, although subtler discrimination persists. Individual attitudes have changed, too, dramatically in some cases. For example, as recently as the 1980s half of Americans opposed interracial marriage, a position now held by only a tiny minority.
Yet racial hatred is still a potent force in our society, as we’ve just been reminded to our horror. And I’m sorry to say this, but the racial divide is still a defining feature of our political economy, the reason America is unique among advanced nations in its harsh treatment of the less fortunate and its willingness to tolerate unnecessary suffering among its citizens.
Of course, saying this brings angry denials from many conservatives, so let me try to be cool and careful here, and cite some of the overwhelming evidence for the continuing centrality of race in our national politics.