Each year, the White House releases an Economic Report of the President, detailing the administration’s view of the country and the administration’s goals to address ongoing economic trends. As the Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell noted, this year’s report stands out for it’s distinctly partisan — and honestly somewhat delusional — focus on “socialism” as a scare tactic about Democratic policy ideas.
For a document that’s supposed to focus on the current and future economic potential of the United States, it spends a bizarre amount of time talking about agricultural policy under Mao Zedong and the Soviet Union.
But this isn’t the only bizarre and disturbing aspect of the report.
On Sunday, Paul Krugman pointed to another portion of the document that seems to rely on racist assumptions:
What really struck me, however, was this table, attempting to show that the Nordics have failed because they’re not as rich as Americans of Nordic ancestry 3/ pic.twitter.com/MFYhNZPC73
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) March 24, 2019ADVERTISEMENT
(See page 415 in the report.)
“Will someone explain to me how this isn’t racist?” asked Krugman.
The passage following the graph explained:
Figure 8-7’s red bars show the per capita income of people with Nordic ancestry living in the U.S., and who therefore are not subject to Nordic tax rates and regulations.72 They have incomes of about 30 percent more than the average American and, based also on the red bars, about 50 percent more income than the average in their home country. This suggests that the incomes of Nordic people are not lower because, apart from public policy, low incomes are somehow cultural.
Krugman noted that the report tries to suggest that it’s comparing Nordic people to people of Nordic ancestry in the United States because it somehow holds “culture” as a constant. But, of course, it doesn’t constant. The bulk of Nordic immigration dropped off in the early 20th century. Since that time, the links between Nordic culture and the descendants of Nordic immigrants now living in the United States has largely been swamped by cultural changes in both regions.
“I don’t see any way to read this except as asserting that since blond white people are relatively well off in America, they should have the same incomes everywhere,” said Krugman. “Is this really where you want to go?”
The reference brings to mind one of the low points in the administration’s immigration debates in the last few years (though there have been many). According to multiple reports, President Donald Trump referred to immigrants leaving Haiti and African nations as coming from “shithole countries” — a remark that exposed the blatant racism of his view on immigration.
Instead, he reportedly suggested, the United States should bring in more people from Norway.