New York Times columnist Paul Krugman attacked Jeb Bush for his recent remarks about Americans needing "to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families" -- but argued that Bush's comments were merely another example of a general Republican tendency to demonize working-class Americans as lazy.
He noted that Bush's aides have attempted to spin the candidate's remarks away, claiming he was "only referring to workers trying to find full-time jobs who remain stuck in part-time employment," but Krugman isn't buying it.
"The real source of his remark," he wrote, "was the 'nation of takers' dogma that has taken over conservative circles in recent years -- the insistence that a large number of Americans, white as well as black, are choosing not to work, because they can live lives of leisure thanks to government programs."
In this, Bush is following the lead of conservative social analyst Charles Murray -- author of the infamous book "The Bell Curve" -- who believes that the erosion of "traditional values" is a byproduct of government programs that have made it so Americans no longer "need to work to survive."
You see this laziness dogma everywhere on the right. It was the hidden background to Mitt Romney’s infamous 47 percent remark. It underlay the furious attacks on unemployment benefits at a time of mass unemployment and on food stamps when they provided a vital lifeline for tens of millions of Americans. It drives claims that many, if not most, workers receiving disability payments are malingerers — “Over half of the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts,” says Senator Rand Paul.
It all adds up to a vision of the world in which the biggest problem facing America is that we’re too nice to fellow citizens facing hardship. And the appeal of this vision to conservatives is obvious: it gives them another reason to do what they want to do anyway, namely slash aid to the less fortunate while cutting taxes on the rich.
Given how attractive the right finds the image of laziness run wild, you wouldn’t expect contrary evidence to make much, if any, dent in the dogma. Federal spending on “income security” — food stamps, unemployment benefits, and pretty much everything else you might call “welfare” except Medicaid — has shown no upward trend as a share of G.D.P.; it surged during the Great Recession and aftermath but quickly dropped back to historical levels. Mr. Paul’s numbers are all wrong, and more broadly disability claims have risen no more than you would expect, given the aging of the population. But no matter, an epidemic of laziness is their story and they’re sticking with it.
Where does Jeb Bush fit into this story?