Welfare, health care and race

I noted yesterday that nearly one-third of all American farmers lack health insurance. (About the same rate as for other, nonfarm "self-employed" workers.)

In this post I argued that Democrats could make some progress on guaranteeing access to health care for all Americans by talking more about these uninsured farmers. My theory is that this would help to counteract the "immorally moralistic and racial mythology that accompanies their usual attacks on 'welfare handouts for the undeserving and lazy poor.' Talking about access to health care for farmers, it seems to me, would help to combat these false and evil myths."

That's a bit elliptical. Kevin Drum raises a similar question much more bluntly:

Do Americans hate welfare because they think all the money goes to blacks?

Short answer: Yes. Both because of old-fashioned American racism and because of decades of hard work by GOP strategists employing the "Southern strategy" and nurturing, feeding and rechanneling this racism to great electoral effect.

In case you've missed the code-word speeches and the "welfare-queen" mythmaking and you don't find this self-evident, Kevin links to a few sites that provide a bit of hard evidence: this post from Robert Tagorda, this paper (.pdf) from economists Dora L. Costa and Matthew E. Kahn, and (via Tagorda and commenter Visible Hand at Kevin's) this Economist review of Fighting Poverty in the U.S. and Europe, by Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser.

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  • Todd Johnson

    Since farmers employ themselves shouldn’t they have to acquire health issurance of their own accord?
    Or are you proposing that since they seem to feed us that they get it somehow automatically?

  • *

    The idea is to provide access to health care for everyone, self-employed or not. “Seem to feed us” ??

  • Leigh Householder

    The generalizations about recipients are definitely an issue …. but America also seems to like a little poverty. We need it in some way to compare ourselves against, to make us feel successful and hardworking – even though most white collar jobs are dramatically over-valued, and some would certainly qualify as corporate welfare. Fighting against welfare is part of an indignant defense of work and the proliferation of a cautionary tale. Make them other in every way, until they are
    unrecognizable as your neighbors in need of basic help.
    Something I was reading in Yogo for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It last night – that most Americans who visit foreign countries are disappointed if they don’t see some (well described)poverty …
    We are a nation of jealous, voyeuristic siblings, maybe?

  • carla