Rags to Riches, Republican Style

Mike Rose of Salon Magazine notes that there is "duplicity at the core" of the Horatio Alger, "rags to riches" stories that the Bush White House puts out on some of its Cabinet nominees.
He argues: "Even as Bush holds out Gonzales and Gutierrez as symbols of opportunity, his administration's policies systematically erode opportunity for working people. Since Ronald Reagan's presidency, and with increased vigor under George W. Bush, the nation has witnessed a rolling back of the social protections of the welfare state, a carefully orchestrated opposition to safeguards against inequality and, with that, a widening income gap. The rich -- the very rich, especially -- are getting much richer, the middle stagnates, and the poor fall off the charts. Opportunity is championed while unions are threatened, workplace health and safety regulations eroded, and an increase in the minimum wage stonewalled.
And yet, one of the most striking things about rags-to-riches, Republican-style tales is that they are accounts of hardship with almost no feel of hardship to them. They reflect a kind of opportunity that exists only in a reactionary fable. Obstacles receive brief mention -- if they're mentioned at all -- and anger, doubt or despair are virtually absent. You won't see people, exhausted, shuttling between two or more jobs to make a living or the anxious scramble for minimal healthcare for their kids. The GOP stories present a world stripped of the physical and moral insult of poverty, not just sanitized -- a criticism often and legitimately made -- but also distilled, a clean pencil sketch of existence without complication. These tales appear in the Republican rhetoric surrounding any issue dealing with poverty, such as public housing, entitlement programs or welfare-to-work. This erasure of poverty's afflictions makes sense. To do otherwise is to make palpable the dark side of capitalism and the injuries of social class. And conservative strategists have been working very hard, and effectively, to bleach an understanding of class from the public mind. Along the landscape of Republican rags-to-riches stories, characters move upward, driven by self-reliance, optimism, faith, responsibility. Though there will be an occasional reference to parents, teachers or employers who were impressed with the candidate's qualities, the explanations for the candidate's achievements rest pretty much within his or her individual spirit. Luck's got nothing to do with it. Nor, it seems, does raw ambition and deal making. And you surely will not hear a whisper about legislation or social movements that may have enhanced opportunity, opened a door, or removed an obstacle. It would be hard to find a more radically individual portrait of achievement. It should be said that social and economic mobility is possible in the United States, more so than in many other countries. It's right to honor it. But does it happen as depicted in the Republican success stories?"


Blogger Boston Dreamer said...

Well, as the article implies, 'W' just wants to show Americans men and women that duplicated his success struggling up from the bottom of that tough Connecticut Yankee Yalie Oil Exec Baseball Owner ladder.

4:06 PM  

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