Krugman, after showing that Bush’s “claim that blacks get a bad deal from Social Security is false” (because the higher death rate among blacks is mostly due to the high number of deaths among young men, not blacks who have held down jobs all their life), he proceeds to attack Bush on the grounds that even if it wasn’t a lie, it would still be racist:
What’s really shameful about Mr. Bush’s exploitation of the black death rate, however, is what it takes for granted.
The persistent gap in life expectancy between African-Americans and whites is one measure of the deep inequalities that remain in our society — including highly unequal access to good-quality health care. We ought to be trying to diminish that gap, especially given the fact that black infants are two and half times as likely as white babies to die in their first year.
Now nobody can expect instant progress in reducing health inequalities. But the benefits of Social Security privatization, if any, won’t materialize for many decades. By using blacks’ low life expectancy as an argument for privatization, Mr. Bush is in effect taking it as a given that 40 or 50 years from now, large numbers of African-Americans will still be dying before their time.
Is this an example of what Mr. Bush famously called “the soft bigotry of low expectations?” Maybe not: it isn’t particularly soft to treat premature black deaths not as a tragedy we must end but as just another way to push your ideological agenda. But bigotry — yes, that sounds like the right word.