As we become a less “white” country will we also become less generous and less caring of our fellow citizens? In other words, is it possible to have a meaningful social compact in an increasingly heterogeneous country? This is at the core of an ongoing exchange between conservative New York Times columnist and former senior editor at The Atlantic, Ross Douthat and Salon’s Joan Walsh.
Last week Douthat wrote a column in the New York Times discussing the political wisdom of cutting the deficit by increasing taxes. Among other things he said: “Historically, the most successful welfare states (think Scandinavia) have depended on ethnic solidarity to sustain their tax-and-transfer programs. But the working-age America of the future will be far more diverse than the retired cohort it’s laboring to support. Asking a population that’s increasingly brown and beige to accept punishing tax rates while white seniors receive roughly $3 in Medicare benefits for every dollar they paid in (the projected ratio in the 2030s) promises to polarize the country along racial as well as generational lines.”
Joan Walsh responded in Salon accusing Douthat of “racial paranoia” by suggesting that “‘brown and beige’ people will abandon white seniors to poverty” thus turning on its head the more conventional argument that “that white Americans have a stake in the education and employment prospects of non-white young people, because in the more diverse 21st century America, those black, Latino and Asian young people will increasingly be footing the bill for Social Security.”
Today Douthat replied.
What do you think?