You’re All Losers
By PAUL KRUGMAN
January 13, 2014
The other day someone — I don’t remember who or where — asked an interesting question: when did it become so common to disparage anyone who hasn’t made it big, hasn’t gotten rich, as a “loser”? Well, that’s actually a question we can answer, using Google Ngrams, which track the frequency with which words or phrases are used in books:
Sure enough, the term “losers” has become much more common since the 1960s. And I think this word usage reflects something real — a growing contempt for the little people.
This contempt surely isn’t limited to Republican politicians. Still, it’s striking how unable they are to show any empathy for people who are just doing their best to make a modest living. The most famous example, of course, is Mitt Romney, who didn’t just disparage 47 percent of the nation; he urged everyone to borrow money from their parents and start a business. I still think the most revealing example to date was Eric Cantor, who marked Labor Day by tweeting:
Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.
Real wage of production and nonsupervisory workers
But Marco Rubio’s latest speech deserves at least honorable mention, for the airy way he dismissed the idea of raising the minimum wage: “Raising the minimum wage may poll well, but having a job that pays $10 an hour is not the American dream.”
In a sense, he’s right: if the American dream means getting rich, then $10 an hour isn’t living that dream. But most people aren’t and won’t get rich. Raising the minimum wage would mean higher incomes for around 27 million people; in many cases the gains would amount to thousands of dollars a year, which is really a lot in low-income families. So what are all these people, chopped liver? Well, yes, at least in the eyes of the GOP — or maybe make that chopped losers.
OK, I know what the answer will be: conservative policies will lead to economic growth, and that will raise all boats, the way it did in the days of Saint Ronald. Except, you know, it didn’t. Here’s the real wage of nonsupervisory workers:
Even if you give Reagan credit for the 1982-9 business cycle expansion, which you shouldn’t, there’s no way to claim that his policies led to higher wages for ordinary workers.
So what is the GOP agenda to help people who aren’t going to build businesses and get rich? There isn’t one — partly because they really can’t reconcile any real agenda with their overall ideology, but also because, deep in their hearts, they consider ordinary people trying hard to get by a bunch of losers.
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