Thursday, July 21, 2022

Racism and social welfare in the good old USofA

Bryce Covert, There’s a Reason We Can’t Have Nice Things, NYTimes, July 21, 2022.

The United States is one of six countries in the world without a national guarantee of paid parental leave. Twenty-three other countries have universal child or family allowances. We spend just 0.2 percent of our gross domestic product on child care for our youngest children, compared with an average of 0.7 percent among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In other words, paid leave, child care systems and child allowances are so common as to be banal in much of the rest of the developed world. But the United States has none of these things.


Why is it so much harder — right now, seemingly impossible — for our country to enact new programs that are customary in much of the rest of the world? It’s easy to blame one or two senators, but the problem runs much deeper. More or less, it comes down to our long history of racism and how it’s wormed its way into every debate over government benefits.

In a seminal 2001 paper, the economists Alberto Alesina, Edward Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote tried to answer this very question: Why doesn’t this country have a welfare system that looks like the ones in European countries, progressively taxing those with the most wealth to redistribute resources to those with the least? Economic differences, they concluded, don’t explain it. But they did find that “racial fragmentation” has played a “major role” in keeping us from these policies in a way it hasn’t elsewhere. They also find that while Europeans see the poor as members of their own group who are merely unfortunate, Americans see them as lazy “others.” American voters are less likely to demand that their leaders pass policies that help the least well off. “Racial animosity in the U.S. makes redistribution to the poor, who are disproportionately Black, unappealing to many voters,” they conclude.

The United States is not the only country that has racists and racism, of course. But our history is deeply intertwined with race, tracing back to slavery and its role in building the country. [...]

Race has played an outsized role in nearly every debate over the American social safety net.

There's more at the link.

1 comment:

  1. If I remember correctly, it was President Truman who wanted to enact universal health care. It was segregation and insistence on separate health care for blacks and whites that prevented the necessary changes to bring universal health care on board. Since then we are saddled with many more lobbyists and corporate interests whose financial stake in profit will continue to resist a single payer system. Overall, access to health care has created a caste system in the US.