Episode 169: How the Right Ventriloquizes "The Working Man" to Push Pro-Corporate Policy and Gut Welfare
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"Yes, undocumented immigrants take jobs from working Americans. Here’s the proof," an opinion piece in The Washington Post tells us. "Save our truckers, not affluent students seeking a free ride," pleads longtime Republican consultant Douglas MacKinnon in The Hill. "Biden's Student Debt Cancellation Robs Hard-Working Americans, Will Make Inflation Even Worse," proclaims a so-called Expert Statement from the Heritage Foundation.
There’s a warning we hear again and again, particularly from the Right: A policy that would actually help people must be stopped, because it’ll harm the Working Man. According to demagogues like Tucker Carlson and JD Vance – as well as many of their more liberal counterparts – immigration, labor organizing, protest rights, and student debt cancellation simply can’t be allowed, lest they harm hardworking, meat-and-potatoes plumbers and truckers.
But these cynical admonitions disguise some very important truths. Progressive policies serve the interests of many of these plumbers and truckers, many of whom might want to organize their workplaces or have their debt relieved. And the supposed menaces of job-stealing immigrants or entitled lawyers who want others to pay off their loans aren't actually responsible for depressed wages or plummeting standards of living–corporations bolstered by U.S. policymaking are.
On this episode, we examine the right-wing trope of ventriloquizing an imaginary “Working Man” in order to divert attention from policies that serve the corporate bottom line, We’ll detail how this tactic obscures class dynamics between labor and capital, reinforces racist conceptions that harm workers of color, and ultimately suppresses the rights of all workers while absolving their employers of wrongdoing.
Our guest is filmmaker, author and Debt Collective co-founder Astra Taylor