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Monday, July 24, 2006

Paul Krugman: Black and Blue

"African-Americans distrust Mr. Bush’s party — with good reason":

Black and Blue, by Paul Krugman, Bush and Blacks Commentary, NY Times: According to the White House transcript, here’s how it went last week, when President Bush addressed the N.A.A.C.P. for the first time:

THE PRESIDENT: “I understand that many African-Americans distrust my political party.”

AUDIENCE: “Yes! (Applause.)”

But Mr. Bush didn’t talk about why African-Americans don’t trust his party, and black districts are always blue on election maps. So let me fill in the blanks.

First, G.O.P. policies consistently help those who are already doing extremely well, not those lagging behind ... [B]oth the relative and absolute economic status of blacks, after improving substantially during the Clinton years, have worsened since 2000.

The G.O.P. obsession with helping the haves and have-mores, and lack of concern for everyone else, was evident ... in Mr. Bush’s speech... Mr. Bush never mentioned wages, which have been falling behind inflation... Mr. Bush also never used the word “poverty,” a condition that afflicts almost one in four blacks.

But he found time to call for repeal of the estate tax, even though African-Americans are more than a thousand times as likely to live below the poverty line as they are to ... leave a taxable estate.

Economic issues alone, then, partially explain African-American disdain for the G.O.P. But even more important is the way Republicans win elections.

The problem with policies that favor the economic elite is that ... there aren’t enough elite voters. So how did the Republicans rise to their current position of political dominance? It’s hard to deny ... barely concealed appeals to racism, which drove a wedge between blacks and relatively poor whites who share the same economic interests...

[T]he sainted Ronald Reagan began his presidential campaign with a speech on states’ rights in Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. These days the racist appeals have been toned down; Trent Lott was demoted, though not drummed out of the party, when he declared that if Strom Thurmond’s segregationist presidential campaign had succeeded “we wouldn’t have had all these problems.” ... But the nasty racial roots of the G.O.P.’s triumph live on in public policy and election strategy.

A revelatory article in yesterday’s Boston Globe described how the Bush administration has politicized the Justice Department’s civil rights division, “filling the permanent ranks with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights.”

Not surprisingly, there has been a shift in priorities: “The division is bringing fewer ... cases involving systematic discrimination against African-Americans, and more alleging reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians.”

Above all, there’s the continuing effort of the G.O.P. to suppress black voting. ...

Mr. Bush [wouldn't be] in the White House ... if the administration of his brother [in] Florida, hadn’t misidentified large numbers of African-Americans as felons ineligible to vote. In 2004, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state tried to impose a ludicrous rule on the paper weight of voter registration applications; last year, Georgia Republicans tried to impose an onerous “voter ID” rule. In each case, the obvious intent was to disenfranchise blacks.

And if the Republicans hold on to the House this fall, it will probably only be because of a redistricting plan in Texas that a panel of Justice Department lawyers unanimously concluded violated the Voting Rights Act — only to be overruled by their politically appointed superiors.

So yes, African-Americans distrust Mr. Bush’s party — with good reason.

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Previous (7/21) column: Paul Krugman: The Price of Fantasy
Next (7/28) column: Paul Krugman: Reign of Error

    Posted by on Monday, July 24, 2006 at 12:15 AM in Economics, Income Distribution, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (32)

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