Thursday, October 31, 2013

Populist Solutions?

populism: the political doctrine that supports the rights and powers of the common people in their struggle with the privileged elite.

Here, from Michael A. Fletcher of the Washington Post, another dismal report on what’s happening to our middle class:
A majority of Americans with 401(k)-type savings accounts are accumulating debt faster than they are setting aside money for retirement, further undermining the nation’s troubled system for old-age saving. . .Three in five workers with defined contribution accounts are “debt savers,” . . . meaning their increasing mortgages, credit card balances and installment loans are outpacing the amount of money they are able to save for retirement.
Most of these folks are over 40, college educated and earning more than $50,000 a year. According to Mike McNamee of the Investment Company Institute, which represents mutual funds, these people fail to consider their “full balance sheet and financial picture, which for many households may mean saving for retirement through a 401(k) plan while also paying down student loans, taking out a mortgage to buy a house, or borrowing to send their children to college.” So they end up with debt outstripping retirement savings.
We have documented middle class pain. It’s time for solutions. What follows are three, from individuals I admire.   
  • Go for “Less Government, More Responsibility” 
Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell, at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, is a bright man unimpressed with the value of intelligence. He just wants power passing to the people instead. Sowell  writes:
If the preconceptions of the Left were correct, central planning by educated elites who had vast amounts of statistical data at their fingertips and expertise readily available, and were backed by the power of government, should have been more successful than market economies where millions of individuals pursued their own individual interests willy-nilly. But, by the end of the 20th century, even socialist and communist governments began abandoning central planning and allowing more market competition.
Yet this quiet capitulation to inescapable realities did not end the noisy claims of the Left. In the United States, those claims and policies have reached new heights, epitomized by government takeovers of whole sectors of the economy and unprecedented intrusions into the lives of Americans, of which Obamacare has been only the most obvious example.
In the same vein, Sowell adds:
Those we call "public servants" have in fact become public masters. And they act like it. They squander ever more vast amounts of our tax money, and still leave trillions of dollars of national debt to be paid by our children and grandchildren. They intrude into our private lives with ever more restrictions, red tape and electronic surveillance. And they turn different groups of Americans against each other with class warfare rhetoric and policies. . . we have . . . a Congress and an ever growing federal bureaucracy composed of people who have become a permanent ruling class.
  • Regain Economic Growth 
Robert Samuelson
Sowell wants government’s role reduced so that the market economy can work.  Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson knows that what best helps people is economic growth, and that we suffer terribly today because growth has slowed:
Economic growth . . . encourages lending because borrowers can repay from rising incomes. It supports bigger government because a growing economy expands the tax base and makes modest deficits bearable. Despite recessions, it buoys public optimism because people are getting ahead. The presumption of strong economic growth supported the spirit and organizational structures of postwar America.
Everyday life was transformed. Credit cards, home equity loans, 30-year mortgages, student loans and long-term auto loans (more than 2 years) became common. In 1955, household debt was 49% of Americans' disposable income; by 2007, it was 137%. Government moved from the military-industrial complex to the welfare state. In 1955, defense spending was 62% of federal outlays, and spending on "human resources" (the welfare state) was 22%. By 2012, the figures were reversed; welfare was 66%, defense 19%.
In our slow growth economy, the welfare state is devouring us. But Samuelson is worried it will be hard to achieve change. We won’t have growth, yet we won’t give up on the need for growth:
As economist Stephen D. King writes in his book When the Money Runs Out -- The End of Western Affluence: "Our societies are not geared for a world of very low growth. Our attachment to the Enlightenment idea of ongoing progress -- a reflection of persistent postwar economic success -- has left us with little knowledge or understanding of worlds in which rising prosperity is no longer guaranteed."
While annual U.S. economic growth has averaged slightly more than 3% since 1950, predictions of future growth cluster around 2%, with the forecasted slowdown tied to more permanent factors than the Great Recession. According to Cato Institute economist Brink Lindsey:
U.S. economic growth [was due] to four factors: (a) greater labor-force participation, mainly by women; (b) better-educated workers, as reflected in increased high-school and college graduation rates; (c) more invested "capital" per worker (that's machines and computers); and (d) technological and organizational innovation. The trouble, [Lindsey] writes, is that "all growth components have fallen off simultaneously."
Samuelson believes
What looms -- it's already occurred in Europe -- is a more contentious future. Economic growth serves as social glue that neutralizes other differences. Without it, economic and political competition becomes a game of musical chairs, where "one person's gain is another's loss," King writes.
We need economic growth. How do we get it back?
  •   Help the Middle Class 
Joel Kotkin
Joel Kotkin, a geographer at California’s Chapman University, of the three thinkers is the most focused on helping the middle class, not the wealthy. Kotkin is a true populist. Kotkin writes:
the top 1% of earners garnered more than 90% of the income growth in [Obama’s] first two years, compared with 65% under George W. Bush. . . the greatest inequality was found in the nation's megastates – California, New York, Florida and, yes, Texas. At the metropolitan level, generally the worst income gaps were found in some of our biggest metros, such as first New York, followed by Miami, Los Angeles, Houston and San Francisco, as well as New Orleans.
California is producing. . . billionaires, three times as many as in regularly faster-growing Texas, but the middle class . . . now constitutes less than half California's population. The state also suffers the highest rate of poverty in the country and is now home to roughly 1/3rd of the nation's welfare recipients, equal to almost three times its proportion of the nation's population.
Remember when you thought California represented America’s future? If it still does, we are in trouble. Kotkin is interested in the “why” of other parts of the country being more equal, more nurturing of our middle class:
ethnicity, something discussed more emotionally than logically[, seems to explain equality]. The least inequality. . .occurs within . . . the “Germanic belt” that extends from large parts of Pennsylvania, across the northern Great Lakes and the Plains, all the way to the Pacific Northwest, as well as Utah; many Mormons are of German, Scandinavian and other northern European stock.
The “Germanic belt” areas . . . tend to emphasize education, most importantly, at the grade school level. The best science scores among eighth-graders, according the National Educational Assessment, are found almost totally in the northern-tier, heavily Germanic region of the country. Northern European redoubts such as Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana, Utah and northern New England all scored best.
Washington and Oregon also score relatively well on the science tests, and rank among the most egalitarian areas of the country. These areas, along with the San Francisco Bay Area, also attract high levels of Asian immigrants, people who, like German-Scandinavians, tend to stress education and generally have prospered more than the norm.
So Kotkin would argue we do need government support of education, though probably not of the industrial-era-government-school model currently inflicted on so many young Americans. We have to combat the growing distance between the elite and the rest of us:
“trickle down” economics, as practiced now by the Fed and celebrated on Wall Street, clearly does not improve life for most people. If we follow this approach, we could very well end up, as economist Tyler Cowen suggests, with a country where 85% of the population struggles while 15% enjoys unprecedented high standards of living.
under the current liberal regime, the prospects for the poor and working class have decreased markedly while the wealthy, often villainized by the administration, have luxuriated. During much of the tenure of the first black president, the gap between Anglo incomes on the one side and those of blacks and Hispanics has widened, doubling since the Great Recession.
Like Sowell and Samuelson, Kotkin encourages broader-based economic growth. But Kotkin also calls for “nurturing fundamental values of education, family and social engagement,” values he sees in the “Germanic belt” and among Asian Americans.

Kotkin implies it comes down to culture.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wall Street, Manhattan, Soar

The stock market continues to boom. Yesterday, the Dow rose to 15680, topping the prior record close seen on Sept. 18. The S&P 500 index hit 1772, also a new high. The S&P 500 has finished at a new record in seven of the last nine sessions. The Nasdaq Composite Index increased to 3952, its post-2000 high.

Our New FOX Index of Wall Street health has hit 1,304. That represents travel into stock market “outer space” first reached in May, the escape velocity attained by soaring past old-time market theoretical limits of a Dow of 15,000, an S&P 500 of 1,600, and a NASDAQ of 3,500, for a total of 20,100. With a Dow 15,680 + S&P 1,772 + NASDAQ 3,952 = 21,404, we traveled yesterday to our new “outer space” + 1,304 record (see chart).

Our previous post talked about the wealth of Washington D.C., where median income has risen 23% since 2000, even as it has declined 7% elsewhere. We said resentment hasn’t really surfaced against Washington, but has against Wall Street to Washington's north.

Here’s some striking information about Manhattan, where Wall Street is based. The New York Times’ Thomas Edsall informs us that talking about Manhattan households that earn $100,000 or more “is too blunt a measure for a city with at least 389,100 millionaires, 2,929 multimillionaires and 70 billionaires.” Edsall quotes N.Y.U. political scientist Howard Rosenthal saying about the recent city mayoral election, “Just looking at voters over $100K misses something. $100K is zilch in Manhattan.”

No kidding. Manhattan has a population of 1.62 million, and that mass of people have a mean household income of $121,549 (2005).

In Manhattan, $100,000 is “zilch.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Elite v. Middle Class

The facts are in. The American middle class is hurting.

In the Washington Post, Neil Irwin writes,
In 1989, the median American household made $51,681 in current dollars (the 2012 number . . . $51,017). That means that 24 years ago, a middle class American family was making more than the a middle class family was making one year ago. This isn't a lost decade for economic gains for Americans. It is a lost generation. [emphasis added]
Similarly, Eduardo Porter in the New York Times tells us:
America has been standing still for a full generation[--]36 years ago. . . 11.6% of Americans were officially considered poor. . . Using the same official metric — which actually undercounts the poor compared to new methods used by the Census today — the poverty rate is 15%.
Americans work about as much as they did a quarter-century ago. Despite [that], the net worth of the typical American family in the middle of the income distribution fell to $66,000 in 2010 — 6% less than in 1989 after inflation. Though the bursting of the housing bubble and ensuing great recession takes a big share of the blame for families’ weakening finances, it is nonetheless startling that a single financial event . . . could erase a generation worth of progress for those in the middle. [emphasis added]
But is it really a lost generation? Has America truly been standing still for a full generation?

Look closely at the graph above. Notice how income rose, fell, and rose again, peaking in 1999 with the bubble, then hit that peak again in 2007 with the housing bubble before crashing to current lows, as we dropped to the 1989 peak to which our leading newspapers refer.

The graph tells us what’s bad is our failure to recover from the Great Recession of 2007-9; in fact, it’s gotten worse. Well, worse for those of us living outside the Washington D.C. area, as National Review’s Mark Steyn reminds us:
According to the Census Bureau. . . between 2000 and 2012 the nation’s median household income dropped 6.6%. Yet in the District of Columbia median household income rose 23.3%. . . Washington does nothing but government, and it gets richer even as Americans get poorer.
So, are people getting mad at the elite that makes out while the rest of the country’s middle class suffers? Maybe not the D.C. elite, but they are mad at wealth on up the East Coast. A September NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll found bad news for Wall Street: 42% have a negative view of the New York financial institutions while just 14% have a favorable opinion.  That is the lowest rating of any institution included in the poll.

And 52% think they have been either greatly or somewhat affected by Wall Street crises and its housing market collapse, a number just 7% lower than during the 2008 financial collapse’s immediate aftermath. Only 27% think the economy will get better in the next year, while 48% think it will be about the same.

But here’s another poll finding that explains how people stick with an elite that fails repeatedly to deliver economic growth:
Democrats continue to be seen as the party that is most looking out for the middle class. They lead on the question by 17% and have led on it all the way back to 1989 when it was first asked – although this was the narrowest margin in the poll. . . By contrast, just 23% say the Republican Party represents the middle class and 22% say so of the Tea Party.
That’s a mystery conservative Jonah Goldberg seemingly attributes to bad history:
It’s a little bizarre how the Left [conflates] statism with modernity and progress. The idea that rulers — be they chieftains, kings, priests, politburos, or wonkish bureaucrats — are enlightened or smart enough to tell others how to live is older than the written word. And the idea that someone stronger, with better weapons, has the right to take what is yours predates man’s discovery of fire by millennia.
And yet, we’re always told that the latest rationalization for increased state power is the “wave of the future”[, a] phrase [that] became famous thanks to a 1940 essay by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She argued that the time of liberal democratic capitalism was drawing to a close and the smart money was on statism of one flavor or another — fascism, Communism, socialism.
The only truly new political idea in the last couple thousand years is this libertarian idea, broadly understood. The revolution wrought by John Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, and the Founding Fathers is the only real revolution going. And it’s still unfolding.
Goldberg is right, though he doesn’t explain here that statism, which supports a New Elite for a period of time, doesn’t generate middle class prosperity the way capitalism does.

Capitalism works because it decentralizes decision-making to millions who in striving for their own betterment, lift the whole economy. More and more, we are learning how the “white hats” are regular folks, and the “black hats” are the national elite, working top-down through government. Listen to ex-pollster Scott Rasmussen:
The new reality is captured in Nicco Mele’s book, The End of Big. “The devices and connectivity so essential to modern life put unprecedented power in the hands of every individual — a radical redistribution of power that our traditional institutions don’t and perhaps can’t understand,” he writes. In America, power is decentralizing and individuals are being empowered. While the trend has been building for decades, the politicians are just starting to recognize it.
One big reality check came [from] the “sequester”. In D.C., many expected the American people would rise up in revolt when the so-called “cuts” took effect. Instead, no one noticed. Outside of those who work for the government, there was hardly any impact. For those in power, that was a terrible glimpse into the reality of how irrelevant much of what they do has become.
More recently, Rasmussen added:
On gun control, the sequester and Syria, the political class showed how little grasp it has about the attitudes of mainstream America. Other issues are likely to reveal the same cluelessness as 2014 approaches. The political class world is crumbling. That’s something to celebrate.
Yes but alas, not until those outside “the political class” have mustered the organization and resources needed to force change.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

(Alpha) women struggle pursuing both family and career.

Mollie Hemingway, Federalist senior editor, presents a darker picture, darker than Margaret Wente’s portrait earlier of “alpha women,” of the female struggle for full lives encompassing both “pursuit of excellence” and “care for others.” Hemingway is drawing from an article by Baylor political science professor Elizabeth Corey, who writes that efforts to balance parenting and professional work have a fatal flaw:
One requires “persistence, self-confidence, drive, courage, and initiative.” The other requires “attention, focus, care, patience, and self-sacrifice.” They are not happily harmonized.
Corey adds,
this conflict in the soul does not go away, no matter how pleasant and accommodating our colleagues may be, or how flexible our schedules. We are limited, embodied creatures. These limits mean that we cannot do everything to its fullest extent at once, and certain things we may not be able to do at all.
Seems Hemingway raises the right question. Anyway, she generated thoughtful answers from 8 parents, including one father:
  • I worked hard to have a fun, exciting, high-profile career in the sports and entertainment industry. And then I had my first child. I always thought I’d return to work after my daughter’s birth, but some new software got installed in me and all I wanted to do was stay home with my baby. I was shocked. 
  • [Some] jobs, like being a counselor or working with the poor, can demand precisely the kind of other focus that she speaks of so compellingly with regard to motherhood (and, to my mind, fatherhood). 
  • “career pursuit” [can mean] obtaining the skills, credentials, experience, reputation, and position to pay your way. But it can also be portrayed as an idol of narcissism, personal achievement, and self-justification, which supersedes duties to family. . . disturbing . . . this view appears to be going mainstream among our future mothers. . . little room in our culture to admire putting asides [sic] one’s own comfort and desires for the good of others. 
  • Work is done to support our families. This idea of them being such separate things is a fairly modern luxury. I think it’s wonderful for women to be able to pursue something other than domesticity, but family should come first, as it also should for men. 
  • the U.S. workplace does not put families first. Not by a long shot. In the United States, the needs of the workplace always seem to trump the needs of the family, for both men and women. 
  • "Excellence in a particular field requires persistence, self-confidence, drive, courage, and initiative.” I would agree. Why not then view child raising as a “particular field” in which the mother should strive to use her talents of persistence, self-confidence, drive, courage, and initiative? Why do we view ourselves as having wasted our talents when raising our children?
  • being able to provide your child with your undivided attention whenever they demand it [isn’t] actually a desirable goal and . . . careers [aren’t] uniquely in conflict with this goal. . . a career is not necessarily in conflict with providing undivided attention on a regular basis, it is only in conflict with undivided attention on demand 24 hours a day. 
  • “limited, embodied creatures” . . . means accepting that we simply aren’t meant or intended or designed to achieve both excellence and nurturing — at least, not in the fullest sense of each. It’s not a depressing or unjust reality, in my view. It’s liberating to accept it and learn to appreciate striving not for balance or ultimate success in two fundamentally conflicting arenas, but rather for a lot of success in one and medium-success in the other. 
With one exception, the unscientific sample agrees it’s hard to do both. And, I would guess, so would most alpha women.

"Yes" on Boehner Triumph

 Quotation without comment.
From the National Journal’s Tim Alberta:
The biggest winner of the fall fiscal crisis, politically speaking. . . is Boehner, the much-maligned GOP leader who helped usher in a government shutdown that weakened the Republican brand yet strengthened his stature among a fractured House majority. . .
in the words of conservative Rep. Marlin Stuzman (R-IN), "The speaker is stronger now within our conference than he ever has been." Don't believe Stutzman? Consider the reaction on Oct. 16 when Boehner announced to his conference that he would bring the Senate-passed bill to the House floor. Hundreds of House Republicans—including many who ultimately voted against it—stood and delivered a standing ovation in recognition of Boehner's efforts during the shutdown saga.
"I'm really impressed with how he handled things," Stutzman said Wednesday, one week after the final House vote. "He's got a tough job, and through the difficulties of the past several weeks he came out stronger."
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ). . . , who has never hesitated to jab Boehner, voted against final passage. But he proudly participated in the standing ovation. "We haven't seen this kind of unity in three years, and part of it is incredible leadership. The speaker did a great job of leading through this crisis," he said. "You know me, I'm a big critic. But you've got to give credit where credit's due. He did a great job."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Steel-Spined Sisterhood’s Surge to the Summit

I apologize for the unfortunate tone of condescension attached to my 2006 blog entry, the “party in pink,” even though I was serious about the power women wield within the Democratic party. It’s not pink softness Republicans must face. It’s spines of steel, as in “alpha women.”

Alpha women, according to columnist Margaret Wente in the Toronto Globe and Mail, are
highly educated with full-time careers (and then some). They work like dogs. They have fewer children than most. They’re far more likely to be married to their first husbands. They sleep less, watch less TV and may well have less sex than other women (they’re too busy). The good news is that they exercise more. They’re devoted to their children, but never put careers on hold for them.
Wente calls them (and she includes herself) “the new female elite, a group that has emerged only in the past few decades.” They are, says Alison Wolf, a British economist, “highly educated women [who] have become a class apart.” And they have remade our world.

Wolf says this alpha women elite makes up 15% to 20% of developed world females, with every field open to them. They have more in common with alpha men than they do with the other 80% or 85% of the female population--their interests, career trajectories and priorities, Wente writes, are vastly different:
Less-educated women are still likely to work in gender-segregated fields (teaching, personal service, retail). They’re more likely to drop out of work when they have their kids, and after that, they’d rather work part time. They’re far more likely to have children out of wedlock and to be divorced. Alpha women stay in school longer, marry later, postpone kids until they’re over 30 and don’t stop working when they become mothers.
According to Wente, alpha women don’t marry househusbands; they don’t like to marry down. They want men as high-achieving as they are, including as fathers of their children. Wente believes that most women “secretly regard men without paid work as slackers.”

And alpha women are tigers when it comes to raising children:
If you are an elite parent, you will do everything you can to make sure your children have the same opportunities you’ve had, and that means education. You are willing to invest large amounts of time and money to make sure they get the best one possible. You might send them to Montessori or move to a school district with [language] immersion. You will enrich them with extracurricular activities. You’ll supervise their homework, deliver them to Kumon and hockey games [recall, Wente is Canadian], take them to Europe and send them to Harvard (if they get in). Either way, university is a given, and maybe postgraduate studies too. All this is phenomenally expensive, which is one reason why elite parents have so few children and are motivated to keep working at full tilt.
Wente also maintains that alpha women spend a lot of time trying to improve things for their female elite, a fact that causes her to suggest, “they could reflect a bit more on some of the unintended consequences of women’s liberation, including the growing gulf between the elites and everyone else:”

The rise of alpha women results in a decline in social mobility as the elites perpetuate themselves. “The tendency for children born into the ‘top fifth’ of the developed world to stay there is both high and surprisingly uniform” in many different countries, Wolf writes.

Wolf’s “top fifth” reference is for me almost eerie. We had already found that the “top fifth” of American households represents in fact a quarter of our population, making up 26% of the electorate, paying 86% of income taxes, and in contrast to those below, with 87% living in families. The top 20% of households hold nearly six times as many full-time, year-round workers as the bottom 20%.

Wente concludes,
We never think of ourselves as agents of a new class system, with people just like us at the top. The idea of it horrifies us. Yet without meaning to, we’ve become them.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Government Shutdown Lessons Learned

Progressive commentator Eugene Robinson writes in the Washington Post:
Apologists say that Boehner had to go through with the shutdown and go down to the wire on the debt ceiling to show the hard-core tea-party members of his caucus that "we control one-half of one-third of the government," as the speaker has said -- that a slender House majority has limited power.
“Apologists say”? I actually hadn’t heard the “apologist” line of reasoning, but it strikes me as 100% right. Boehner clearly has a tiger (his “tea party” faction) by the tail. The tiger had to see for itself there was no way forward. It’s a big victory for Boehner the tiger realized this before it allowed Obama’s Treasury secretary to take the country into default (Treasury has great latitude in how it manages government’s continuous revenue stream--October 17 was Treasury’s own deadline, not a date set by statute).

House Republicans had the power to stop payments to government and to hold off raising the debt ceiling, but with Democrats controlling the Senate and White House, did not have the power to take any positive step. Boehner couldn’t argue a hypothetical though; the “tea party” tiger had to find out for itself. As Boehner foresaw it would.

Robinson neglects to remind us the government shutdown was costing Republicans dearly each day it lasted. The loss would have turned catastrophic had the country gone into default--a catastrophic result that would have greatly benefited Democrats. Boehner saved the country and his party while denying Democrats the spectacular screw-up for which Democrats secretly hoped.

Robinson also neglects to note that Boehner achieved the result he wanted at little cost to his control of House Republicans, even though he broke the “Hastert rule”--former House speaker Dennis Hastert’s insistence that any House action have the support of a majority of Republicans. Boehner broke the rule, and the “tea party” folks, instead of being furious, were happy to have been able to vote against the bill reopening government without at the same time blocking the result.

Finally, Robinson only mentions in passing that Republicans are unlikely to repeat their stunt anytime soon, underplaying what a great achievement it is for Boehner in future battles to be able to keep government open and to cover our debts. As a partisan Democrat writing for fellow Democrats, Robinson is blinded from seeing how Boehner achieved exactly the result he was looking for.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Redefining American Class Warfare (II)

“Obama's . . . view of government is cast from the bronze of Franklin Roosevelt and the '30s. He puts our . . . public sector at the top of American life, to mandate redistribution and prosperity.”

--Alex Castellanos, CNN

Castellanos’ words, quoted in the immediately preceding blog entry, echo a much earlier discussion of how Obama parallels Roosevelt’s poor job creation record, along with Roosevelt’s brilliant political path covering that failure. Both use interest-group-based coalition building. Both rely on “the best and brightest” out of academia. Both preach class warfare, and both practice enlarging government.

For Roosevelt, it was easy to to unite his special interest groups in class warfare against the Republican “old order” of country club WASP businessmen, especially those in industry and finance. The Great Depression “old order” truly had failed the working class, farmers, veterans, the elderly, and others.

But today, Obama represents--he does not battle against--the new upper class of meritocracy winners: our progressive establishment, our top university graduates, New York Times-reading national elite.

Q: So why do Democrats engage in class warfare against their party’s own base?

A: Our elite understands 1) privilege comes with obligations to share wealth, and the rich and their lawyers make out o.k. in any case, 2) meritocracy does open doors for some bright, hard-working lower caste members, keeping the class warfare temperature down, 3) catering to the disadvantaged masses seems a sound re-election strategy, 4) enough “old order” Republicans exist for Democrats to carry on as if Roosevelt’s class warfare enemies of 80 years ago had never gone away, and 5) if Democrats don’t continue the class warfare that underpins socialism, someone else will pick up the cudgel (as Roosevelt did in the 1930s, when he took the fight away from Communists).

“Old order” Republicans--country club WASP businessmen--provide progressive Democrats a symbolic, desirably unattractive cover target for the party's true enemy--the masses of white males and their spouses centered in small businesses, the South, in churches, in rural areas, and in traditional American culture.

Democrats’ enemy, in other words, is the Nixon-Reagan-Bush “silent majority” that opposed “crime in the streets,” forced bussing, affirmative action, women’s lib, welfare queens, abortion, illegal immigration, and America’s youth-based cultural revolution. Subtle Republican appeals to white racism helped hold the white tribe together through most elections from 1968 to 2004. Race worked for Republicans.

But not since Barack Obama pulled enough unmarried women, minorities, and youth together with his progressive elite to put white males and their spouses in their place. The worm has turned.

So race no longer is the answer for Republicans, nor did economics work for Republicans in 2012. Instead race (allied with feminism, adding in youth culture including gay rights) helped Democrats win last year.

Here’s why it’s time for Republicans to take up the mantle of class warfare against the meritocratic elite, to fight under a new banner for the bottom 75% now that Democrats are the upper class:

1. People need jobs that the Democrats’ inefficient, monopoly big government focused on protecting itself doesn’t provide.

2. Buying off blocs of voters with racial (or gender) appeals doesn’t work when the other party offers jobs (Romney’s pitch didn’t connect; the Republicans’ bad).

3. Flattening America by spreading power to the private sector and to the people--drawing upon the hard work and creativity of tens of millions --is the surest path to prosperity. People want to work and will if able to do so, as they did from 1941 to 2000.

The new establishment will protect their privileges, they will fight back hard, but Republican class warfare on behalf of the people against the national elite represents our nation’s best hope; our path to a brighter future.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Redefining American Class Warfare (I)

Progressives such as the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman believe we are on the verge of solving major problems, if only the “tea party” would get out of the way:
The Republican Party is being taken over by a Tea Party faction that is not interested in governing on any of the big issues — immigration, gun control, health care, debt and taxes — where, with just minimal compromises between the two parties, we’d amplify our strengths so much that we’d separate ourselves from the rest of the world. Instead, this group is threatening to shut down the government and undermine America’s vital credit rating if it doesn’t get its way. This kind of madness helped to produce the idiotic sequester — the $1.2 trillion in automatic, arbitrary and across-the-board budget cuts from 2013 to 2021 — that is already undermining . . . our strongest assets.
In other words in Friedman’s eyes, we have nearly arrived at the progressive paradise of “philosopher kings” rule discussed in the previous blog.

Friedman’s New York Times colleague, conservative Ross Douthat, has a different take on the “tea party,” viewing these populists as more the Republican future than the establishment Republicans favored by Friedman’s progressives:
the populists tend to have 1) decent ideas and 2) a better sense than their [GOP] establishment rivals of how to brand the party as something other than just a tool of rich people and business interests. . . it isn’t [right] for the Republicans to escape their current cul-de-sac, for the party leadership to “win” and the populist base to “lose” . . . Instead, somebody. . . has to both integrate and purge — leaving the Tea Party’s baggage by the roadside while [speaking] to populist impulses and taking up populist ideas, and folding both into a strategic vision . . . more connected to political reality.
Robert W. Merry, writing in the less-well-known National Interest, suggests Republicans are
a party that lacks discipline, that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to accomplish, that can’t put forth a consistent and coherent message, that can’t get its focus on the fundamental questions of our time[, first:] What is the U.S. government going to do about the debt overhang—currently approaching $17 trillion—that is tied increasingly to runaway entitlements and threatens the financial stability of the nation? The second is: What kind of nation are we going to be—a European-style social democracy or a nation committed to traditional U.S. concepts of limited government and measured federal intrusion into the private economy?
Douthat and Merry agree Republicans made a mess trying to force Obamacare funding cutoffs on a Democratic senate and president. Yet Merry advocates a traditional “shrink government” libertarian agenda instead of the European social democracy model progressives love, while Douthat favors populism that includes middle class-favored government programs.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
As these admitted setbacks and differences suggest, Republicans are fumbling in the aftermath of last year’s crushing presidential defeat, which has yielded up a progressive triumphalism colorfully described by self-identified GOP commentator Alex Castellanos of CNN:
Today's Democratic Party belongs to Elizabeth Warren. It is the party that just nominated a Sandinista trainee who returned from Nicaragua with "a vision of unfettered leftist government" for mayor of New York City, according to the New York Times. And today's Democrats think this is a good thing.
They dream audaciously, as Ruy Teixeira wrote in the Atlantic, of a new "Emerging Democratic Majority." As Peter Beinart noted in a Daily Beast piece, "The Rise of the New New Left," "Bill de Blasio's win in New York's Democratic primary isn't a local story. It's part of a vast shift that could upend three decades of American political thinking."  The Democratic Party is now animated by the "mobilized left," Beinart writes, emboldened by Internet activism. Their cause was galvanized by President Obama's seemingly impossible re-election.
This blog agrees with Castellanos’ conclusion that
Obama's answer to every economic challenge has been top-down. Our governing class knows best, he believes, especially since Washington's elite now includes him. . . His view of government is cast from the bronze of Franklin Roosevelt and the '30s. He puts our . . . public sector at the top of American life, to mandate redistribution and prosperity.
Except we don’t have prosperity, now or in the near future.

The progressive victory is top of the mind to conservative Matthew Continetti, of the “Washington Free Beacon”:
Democracies love consensus—to a large degree democracies cannot function without it. But the premises of the American consensus today, whether a Democrat or a Republican holds them, are liberal. You have heard them before: the status of illegal immigrants must be made legal, so-called austerity harms the economy, governments must do something to forestall climate change, free trade is all benefits without costs, economic integration with China is a net-plus, diversity is a compelling state interest, health insurance is a right, abortion on demand is a right, Islamophobia is a bigger worry than Islamism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of Mideast turmoil, and at the end of the day human beings across the world, no matter their nation or religion or culture, are basically alike.
Continetti doesn’t believe this agenda works for most of us, citing the example of California:
California has been a laboratory experiment in liberalism, for illegal immigration, progressive taxation, generous welfare benefits, union-run public schools, generous public service pensions, and the most cutting edge environmental policies. The result. . . a hollowed-out economy and politics that satisfies the moral imperatives of rich liberals by buying off interest groups and the poor, and sends the middle class to Nevada and Arizona.
in the words of the New York Times. . . “the skill level of the American labor force is not merely slipping in comparison to that of its peers around the world, it has fallen dangerously behind.” [We are left with] an America governed by liberal or libertarian principles, an America that has adopted economic and social policies that benefit the established and the ascendant, the smart and the wily, while ignoring or bribing the poor and low skilled.
Of the commentators, Continetti most precisely suggests progressive rule isn’t working for the rest of us. The progressive ideal is reality in the sense that progressives truly rule today. Yet the progressive ideal of equality, no classes, or rather one healthy, all-encompassing middle class, is far from reality in a political order run top-down by a meritocratic elite delivering unemployment in place of jobs.

Friday, October 11, 2013

People the same, different, better?

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.

 --Paul, Romans 3: 23-25 (around 55 AD)  

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

--Declaration of Independence (1776)  

“the pursuit of happiness.” People are the same before God, and each person is an individual, unique creation endowed with a combination of apparent talents (and handicaps) that will enable him or her to take one's own road through life.

Once we humans grab a measuring stick to judge others, we affect them as well as us. While our path should be right for us, what about the rightness of measuring others? The word “equality” is different from the “created equal” that enables one to engage in “the pursuit of happiness.” “Equality” means introducing a “measuring stick.” It means someone else saying who is “unequal,” who needs help, who should be restricted or brought down. It means, in the words of Isaiah Berlin, “positive liberty” over “negative liberty.”

“Justice” is, like “equality,” another word highly valued in progressive America. And it too uses someone else’s “measuring stick,” the collective imposing its will on the individual, according to the collective’s value system. Yes we need rules and laws to live by, developed and modified by a democratic majority. But the battle to check the collective from imposing their will on the individual goes on every day, hour, and minute.

We want to minimize the collective embrace as much as possible, and maximize to the greatest extent possible each individual’s ability to achieve his or her own “pursuit of happiness.” Jared Diamond, in Guns, Germs, and Steel, so disliked what the state had done to primitive “bands of brothers” and sisters that he branded government a kleptocracy. For the benefit of those running the show, government takes our money. And it takes away individual freedom--the freedom Jefferson so esteemed, the individual freedom Paul 2000 years ago in Romans saw God granting each of us to follow--or not follow--the path of faith.

Is hierarchy inherently good, now that it has reached its highest form in university-led American progressivism, our rule by “philosopher kings”--our national elite meritocracy--as documented in the New York Times on behalf of all of us, our era of “all’s right with the world”? Isn’t this the choice Democrats offer us today?

Or is hierarchy what we seek to leave behind, living in a world where people truly shape their own lives, pursue their own version of happiness, free as much as possible from state interference? Living as libertarians, free thinkers, and today’s conservatives advocate?

Let’s look at government-run schools for insight into the problems progressive leadership has left with America today. Government schools are relics of the industrial era, an earlier time when Darwinism and genetics seemingly predetermined human destiny.

We now know better. The New York Times’ own Nicholas Kristof in 2009 reported that studies of three groups that have been unusually successful in American schools--Asian-Americans, Jews, and West Indians--establish that what we think of as intelligence is quite malleable and owes little or nothing to genetics. Success depends on perseverance and drive.

This fact is so important. We have an entire school system filled with educators who believe they are stuck with genetically-defined average to slow learners they can do little to nothing about. To cope with the bad hands dealt them, teachers strive to give their little hopeless cases a sense of “self esteem,” offering them less strenuous paths to success, denouncing “teaching to the test,” preaching that everybody is a winner, while quietly rejoicing in the progress of “high IQ” learners who come their way, winners under today’s “philosopher king” meritocratic hierarchy of the alphas, betas, gammas, and deltas government schools seem designed to serve.

In an ideal non-hierarchal America, by contrast, parents and students would choose their own paths to happiness, beginning with freely selecting a school run by the principal him- or herself with no superstructure interfering from above, with teachers empowered to encourage and help each unique individual through applied, dedicated work to achieve his or her full potential--to shoot for the stars. To succeed. To pursue happiness.