Reform's Biggest Hurdle: White America's Fear

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2009 2:21 PM CDT
An anti-health care reform protester.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The hallmark diversity of the United States is the biggest obstacle to a “federal social insurance system”—health care included, writes Michael Lind on Slate. The greatest strides toward a European-style safety net were made between World War I and the 1970s “when the foreign-born percentage of the US population was at an all-time low.” When beneficiaries are “like us,” Lind writes, reform flowers. But elite voters are loath “to subsidize other Americans who are unlike them in race or ethnicity or culture.”

These days, Lind writes, “the stereotype of the welfare-dependent Latino illegal immigrant appears to have replaced the black inner-city welfare recipient as the ‘other.’” Regardless, with immigration driving US population growth, hope for a “universalist, social democratic” welfare system is slim. The nuclear option “might be to mandate that all employers provide certain benefits to all employees, with no exceptions,” sidestepping the prickly question of race. Lind borrows from Winston Churchill: “In a country as pluralistic as the US, liberal corporatism may be the worst kind of welfare system, except for all the rest.”