Sunday, July 17, 2011
Is There A Plan for That?
What does it mean to represent the working and middle classes today?
I think when there was a larger unionized manufacturing sector the Democrats were an ally for their interests in Washington. But now that that's dwindled so much, Democrats are seen to be picking winners and losers when they advocate for what remains - certain specific sectors like autoworkers, or public sector employes. Now the question is not, "Who will protect our pensions?", but - as Governor Christie dismayingly put it, "Who gets pensions anymore?" What once was an expression of solidarity, albeit self-interested, has now become a liability among the economic nihilists.
And the rightwing noise machine, cheerleaders for the big business race to sell out working class Americans in favor of profits, has been successful in selling the idea that what is good for big business is good for the working class. Pensions hurt the bottom line, which costs jobs - no matter that the savings have simply been funneled upwards and never trickled down.
To hear them tell it, the trickle down has all been taxed away. Yet this is clearly untrue. The working class surely isn't being taxed to death, and upper income rates have stayed low. Yet with all this savings in productivity, why is it that "no one gets pensions anymore?". Maybe much of it is the structural reality of a shift in manufacturing. But while those savings have trickled up, people are now forced to depend on fragile 401ks or social security - the latter there no longer exist tax revenues to pay for (or so we are told).
So the question remains: what is the Democratic response? And why is the Republican response seem to get so much traction?
Maybe the Republican response is simply to leverage people's sense of frustration and nihilism, running a platform of no one cares about you so get yours too. It seems that Republican populist success is largely based in class-resentment of liberals, who appear to be doing well, certainly with their decadent values, while Rome burns.
I'm loathe to tempt Godwin's law, but I'm struck by the dynamic of liberal-as-jew, seen to be in conspiracy with the levers of power (media, academia, government) to bring about the downfall of tradition and economic strength. The idea may be absurd, but it doesn't have to make sense. It just needs to feel like it does. The idea of tax increases seems almost as a back-door way to pad liberal coffers while loading the progressive cultural cannons and aiming them at main street.
So the Democrats can play into this caricature by showing they are on the right side of this image. They can ignore it entirely and push on with their limited agenda of gay rights, regulation and protecting the old and sick.
But the question remains: what are the Democrats offering the working class, aside from appearing culturally insensitive, redistributive to everyone but them, and making their employers seemingly miserable? They can talk until they are blue in the face about "creating jobs", but this just seems like bullshit. At the end of the day, jobs really do "trickle down", even if they're fragile, low-paying, non-union, with poor or non-existent benefits and retirement. Do Democrats have a plan for that?