Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tom Joad in western PA

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.


3rd Way said...

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.

The top 1% have received more than $400 billion worth of tax breaks since Bush's cuts went into effect. During that same time we have run up a debt so large that we are going to need Aidan's, Caleb's and my child's help to pay it off.

Our next president is going to be elected based on their economic policies. Arguing against rolling back these tax cuts is going to lose McCain the election. Especially since he used to agree that they should be eliminated.

Anonymous said...

Remember when Obama was telling people that he was against NAFTA but sent a letter to Canada telling them not to worry because it's just campaign stuff.

Isn't this like the letter he sent to Canada but now telling a group of elitest that he really is one of them and not like all the hicks in this country.

He is one of the most divisive people ever to run for President. I think we should raise the voting age.

Terrence Berres said...

By patronizing his California audience with patronizing comments about others, might it be that Senator Obama is not using patronization but co-opting it, reaching out to unify people by means of patronization and thus transcending the superficial meaning of his words.

Dad29 said...

Rick, you're saying 'it's a Democrat year' and I'm watching the Democrat party dissolve in a shower of sparks.

The press is no longer fawning over Obama, and they are not too happy with the Hildebeeste, either.

Obama just alienated the Reagan Democrats and most actual men cannot stand listening to HRC's voice--much less her lilting and nuanced delivery.

McCain COULD lose. But if the Dems keep it up, McC would have to be caught in flagrante delicto with a dead deer or a 6-year-old.

Sure, it will be tight, and McCain will wish that he had the boots-on-the-ground assistance of the right.

And it MAY be a Dem year in Congress. But not for the CinC job.

Rick Esenberg said...

Third, I am not sure, given the extent of the tax cuts and the amount contributed by the top 1%,that the number really is 400 billion. But, putting that aside, in a government that spends three trillion per year, that number is spare change.

And, of course, if you roll back "theBushtaxcutsfortherich," you're going to affect everyone.

Terrence Berres said...

Here are some Congressional Budget Office statistics.

Effective Individual Income Tax Rate on the top 1% was 21.8% in 1979, 24.2% in 2000, and 19.4% in 2005 (p. 2).

Share of Individual Income Tax Liabilities of the top 1% was 18.3% in 1979, 36.5% in 2000, and 38.8% in 2005 (p. 5).

reddess said...


I agree with you but can't get Rick to listen to me (as usual).
Maybe he will now that I did so well on the shooting range last weekend (first time too).

3rd Way said...

I am not sure, given the extent of the tax cuts and the amount contributed by the top 1%,that the number really is 400 billion.

You are right Rick it isn't $400 billion. It is more like $431 billion.

Read the link below before you claim that the cut for the top 1% amounts to small change. It is small change to the top 1% (whose average income is north of $1.3 million per year). It is a big deal to the America's economy and society in the grand scheme of things. Do you know how many schools and teachers $400 billion can pay for? Over our lifetimes we are talking about trillions of dollars that can either be spent on Maserati's or text books.


Anonymous said...

I think we can add to Obama long list that he voted against making English our official language.

Of course, Clinton also voted against it and both of them are making McCain look very good. Apparantly, 91% want it to be the official language.

It appears that Lieberman maybe did know what he was doing by supporting McCain.

Publius said...

The rich pay a lot in taxes because they are successful.

They deserve it.

They create opportunities and investments.

Anyone here ever been hired in private industry by a poor man?

However, the whole system may not sustain itself.

Why is the Reddess practicing shooting?
Does she cling to her guns and religion because she is bitter?

Duck Prof. Esenberg!

I am an NRA Member and a Church Deacon; therefore, I must be bitter also.