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The Santorum taint.

January 8, 2012, 11:32 am

Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action was White shows how government social programs of the New Deal and immediately afterward skewed heavily toward white people – and, as the title indicates, this early “affirmative action” occasioned no objection from the paler members of the citizenry. It was only later, when government programs aimed to help Americans with darker skins, that principled libertarian objections became so popular among white folks.

It’s a good book to assign, though it always elicits at least one student’s objection that it’s a little polemical, isn’t it? I mean that’s not entirely fair, is it, to say that white people can benefit from government programs and then object to such programs helping black people? The student is always licensed in saying this because Katznelson himself describes the book as “polemical,” which makes it a safe critique. So we then talk about how polemical a history can, or should, be.

Comes now Rick Santorum, son of Aldo:

Aldo Santorum called the GI Bill the greatest gift he received. He gave back by building a career and family around veterans hospitals.

“We always lived on the campus of the veterans hospitals. It was called the domiciliary,” said his son, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Penn Hills. “I always joked that I spent my childhood living in public housing.”…

After returning from the war, he earned a psychology degree from St. Francis College in Loretto, a graduate degree from Catholic University in Washington and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Ottawa.

“He then went to work for the Veterans Administration and that is where he met my mom,” Rick Santorum said.

Catherine Dughi worked for the VA as an administrative nurse, and both were assigned to the VA hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va. After having three children — Barbara, Rick and Dan — the family moved to the Butler VA Hospital in the early 1960s, where they stayed for more than a decade.

And yet Rick Santorum – son of a beneficiary of the GI Bill (the veterans’ New Deal, you know) and a man who wouldn’t exist were it not for the government program that employed his parents, brought them together and housed them to boot – now says (when he can’t stop himself saying it) that “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”

Which is to say, when affirmative action was white, it was great, but now … I think we can at least consider the possibility that Santorum proves Katznelson is not too polemical.


Many thanks to the correspondent who sent along the Aldo Santorum obituary.

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