One of the more interesting things about the reaction to Obama's latest fit of candor is the question of whether Americans are - or should be - bitter? How accurate is Obama's grapes of wrath portrayal of America in general and small town America in particular?
The loss of jobs to foreign competition is not new. Last month, the Reddess and I went to the Bruce Springsteen concert and heard his old song "My Home Town, treating that very subject. I used to sing that song to my son at bedtime when he was about 2He's expecting his second child in July. Maybe I should start singing it to little Aidan and Caleb.
Obama says that we've lost jobs and they have stayed lost as if we have weathered 25 years of high unemployment. The opposite is true. Since about 1983, we have generally had high growth, low unemployment and low inflation. If your town had a textile mill, it's probably gone but the next town over may have a Mitsubishi or Dell plant. Such is life. The alternative is stagnation.
We can make the argument about inequality and the Democrats want to talk endlessly about a handful of people who are extravagantly compensated. Obama is only going to roll back the tax cuts for the top one percent. Wonderful. There is, relatively speaking, a handful of spare change to be had.
There certainly has been a move away from well compensated lower skill employment. But nostalgia for an era when a person could graduate from high school and get a well paid union job fastening bolts on an assembly line is a longing for something that, to the extent that it ever existed (and it never did for most), has been long gone and won't come back. It was largely an artifact of a post-war era when America's economic competition had been devastated by the war. Globalization and technology seem to have put an irreversible end to that.
By almost all measures of consumption and quality of life, the average person has a lot more than she did thirty years ago. While we currently may be entering into a slow down, it comes after a rather lengthy expansion. While there is a credit crunch and a weak housing market,it is an extremely small percentage of folks who are in default on their mortgages or facing foreclosure.
But even assuming that there is reason for bitterness (you can always imagine a set of circumstances that you might prefer), the real problem with the Obama comment is that it effectively tells people that they don't know what's good for them. Are you concerned about social issues? Well, you shouldn't be. What's the matter with Kansas - and what's the matter with you?
I still think it's a Democrat year, but I'm beginning to imagine what an Obama implosion might look like.