Steve Benen has one of those "a-ha!" moments with a segment of a recent Rush Limbaugh monologue:
"The [economic] deterioration reflects lower tax revenues and higher costs for bank failures, unemployment benefits and food stamps. But in the Oval Office of the White House none of this is a problem. This is the objective. The objective is unemployment. The objective is more food stamp benefits. The objective is more unemployment benefits. The objective is an expanding welfare state. And the objective is to take the nation's wealth and return to it to the nation's quote, 'rightful owners.' Think reparations. Think forced reparations here if you want to understand what actually is going on."RAAAAACISM! (Remember, bloggers, there are five A's in "RAAAAACISM!" Some of you have been slacking off and trying to get by with four.) Benen pronounces Limbaugh's suggestion "nauseating," but as always, we must ask the question, "Is Rush right?"
Would any honest "progressive" deny that the aims of their redistributionist economic program -- to tax the evil "rich" for the benefit of the sainted "poor," in Robin Hood fashion -- are motivated by notions of "social justice"?
Is it not a fundamental tenet of this "social justice" ideology that the wealthy gain their riches by the exploitation and oppression of the poor? And is it not furthermore true that, vis-a-vis the racial aspect of "social justice," progressives believe that black people have been especially victimized by capitalist greed?
From such a chain of premises, it follows that a policy that purposefully hinders the private free-market economy and expands government entitlement programs -- the "Cloward-Piven Strategy," as it has been called -- is to some degree intended by the authors of the policy as "forced reparations," just like Rush says.
In other words, is Limbaugh being denounced as a racist merely for describing this policy accurately?
In The Vision of the Anointed, Thomas Sowell describes how liberals employ "mascots" and "targets" to advance their policy aims. By positioning themselves as defenders of "mascots," liberals set a rhetorical trap whereby any attack on their policies is denounced as an attack on the (allegedly) victimized and downtrodden people whom those policies are supposed to benefit. Ergo, anyone who criticizes the cost of Medicare is accused of wishing to deprive the elderly of health care, and anyone who criticizes affirmative action is accused of hating women and minorities.
The problem, of course, is that this prevents rational discussion of policy. Limbaugh would surely argue that black people would benefit more from a flourishing private-sector economy -- which offers them jobs -- than they would benefit from an expanding program of entitlements, which offers them only government handouts.
Furthermore, we have seen that the "Cloward-Pivens Strategy" brings disastrous results for the poor people its architects claim to care so much about. Go read Fred Siegel's The Future Once Happened Here if you want to see how this kind of liberal policy has devastated America's great cities and brought misery to the urban poor.
If liberal policy is demonstrably bad for black people -- as Limbaugh, Sowell and Siegel would argue -- then in what sense is it "racist" to oppose liberalism? In fact, given the clearly evident socio-economic disaster inflicted on the black community by decades of liberal policy, is it not liberals themselves who ought to be attempting to defend themselves against such accusations?
The real problem with modern liberalism is the concept of "social justice." As Friedrich Hayek explained, "social justice" is a mirage, a will-o'-th'-wisp that, however enthusiastically pursued, can never be achieved. And "social justice" harms those it aims to help, in part because it destroys the only legal and economic system -- free-market capitalism -- wherein the downtrodden have ever been able to improve their fortunes to any great degree.
The great irony of all this is that, even if you favor government aid to the poor -- or perhaps, especially if you favor such aid -- the health of the free-market economy should be paramount in your considerations.
After all, government can't conjure money out of thin air. Ultimately, government can only spend on aid to the poor what it takes from the private economy in taxes. So if liberals pursue policies that harm the private economy, they're killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. (Anybody tried applying for food stamps, health care or student loans in Zimbabwe lately?)
So the accusation of "racism" against Rush Limbaugh is transparently false, its entire rhetorical basis being the liberal conceit that only mala fides (bad faith) can motivate opposition to liberalism.