That Old Time Class Warfare

This is an article I have been meaning to pen for some time now although I doubt one article will do it, so we’ll see.  It involves that “great defining issue of our time” according to Obama- income inequality.  Actually, the idea first entered my conscience after reading Alan Greenspan’s “The Age of Turbulence.”  In that book, Greenspan warned somewhat about the growing economic disparity between the haves and the have-nots not so much as an indictment against income inequality, but to illustrate politically what can happen if the disparity grows too wide.  In a nutshell, as he illustrates in other countries, the political result is a growth of populism where the rich become the scapegoats at the hands of the misfortunes of the non-rich- the lower and middle class.

What prompted this writing, however, was a recent article by “Professor” Paul Krugman who just could not help himself when, in criticizing recent comments by Paul Ryan, he brought up the inevitable liberal ace-in-the-hole-  the race card.  According to Krugman, we conservatives are stuck on race and it blinds us to the light of liberal economics.  He does acknowlege that Ryan has since said he was “inarticulate,” but in reality Paul Ryan had nothing to explain nor nothing to apologize for.   To us conservatives, any attack on the burgeoning welfare state is yet another “dog whistle” racial attack.  His most recent article is full of distasteful inaccuracies.  For example, he accuses the Tea Party of railing against food stamps and social welfare programs yet remains silent on corporate executive bonuses and bank bail outs.  If memory serves me correctly, I believe the Tea Party was essentially born of a movement against bank bailouts.  He states that conservatives view those who receive welfare are “bums.”  He then states that they were neither “bums” nor is there “welfare.”  In fact, he goes further and states that food stamp fraud, for example, is either non-existent or vastly overstated.  I will remember that the next time the person in front of me in the grocery line whips out their EBT card while talking on their new I-Phone then placing their groceries in their 2014 SUV as I climb into my 2003 Saturn Vue.

Interestingly, he states that the plight of decreased wages for urban dwellers started with the flight of high paying manufacturing jobs from these urban areas.  Then, he states, the remaining black population just could not get to these new jobs in new locations.  I suppose Krugman would be in favor of a job-relocation stipend.  The problem with liberal thinkers like Krugman is that whatever bad happens, it is never the fault of the ultimately aggrieved.  Detroit can’t help it if car manufacturers moved to states with a better business climate.  Blacks can’t help it if manufacturing jobs moved out of their cities.

Hence, the government steps in and “helps” the aggrieved, yet never lets them go.  To do so would put too many unionized bureaucrats out of work and dry up the need for wonkish progressive technocrats.  Therefore, Ryan is exactly correct in asserting that the government instills a culture of victimization and dependency and a “it’s not my fault mentality.”  The resulting policy solutions are simply to increase the spending on social welfare programs or try to reach more people.

The recent debate over raising the minimum wage is a perfect example of a populist message emerging among the electorate.  No amount of evidence will convince the vast majority of Americans that increasing the minimum wage will do very little for too few people to make a difference.  But it sounds great and it looks great on paper and who is going to turn down a few extra bucks in a paycheck if you are in the extreme minority of adults who work for minimum wage (and I mean the non-tipped minimum wage jobs).  Unfortunately, it hurts the very people where unemployment is the highest- the young people just entering the job market.  The minimum wage was never intended to be some baseline to live a life of no poverty.  People do not nor should they aspire to a minimum wage occupation.  But, if you are an 18-year-old with no job experience, it may be a great way to get a start and learn that showing up for work on time has its rewards.  Most minimum wage people earn an increase within a year anyway.

Likewise, the president and his Democratic/liberal allies are decrying that fact that unemployment benefits were not extended.  They lay this at the feet of Republicans when in fact Republicans are only asking that it be paid for.  Nancy Pelosi herself has stated on the floor of the House that this represents an “emergency” and that there is no need to find a way to pay for these extensions.

Then there is the debate over the recently passed and signed $1 trillion agriculture bill that has little to do with farming and a lot to do with food stamps, that “wonderful” program where Krugman insists there is no fraud.  To illustrate how this government views entitlements and welfare programs, they have hired recruiters to fan out across the states and sign up more people for food stamps.  A USDA guide talks about dealing with so-called “mountain pride-” the propensity of some people to forego food stamps or other welfare programs because they are too proud to participate in these programs.  About 67% of food stamp recipients are granted “categorical eligibility” because they receive some other kind of government assistance.

All these facts- unemployment extension, the minimum wage debate, and food stamps- illustrate one glaring fact: the failure of Obama’s economic policies.  While the administration talks of how the economy is growing and of how his policies are working and jumping on every bit of good financial news, they are arguing for these other things out of the other side of their collective mouths.  If unemployment extensions were so dire, then why didn’t Democrats find a way to pay for it?  Why did they not use the Murray-Ryan plan as a means to get GOP concessions on the minimum wage?  I venture that not too many Republicans would have voted against some form of a minimum wage hike.  And if the economy is so good under Obama, why are we debating this?

Meanwhile, the income gap under Obama has increased dramatically and the reason is simple.  The monetary policy of the Federal Reserve where they were monthly dumping money into the system has certainly benefitted the stock market and, by extension, the investor class which already started at an advantage over the have-nots.  Yet, the Democrats even today (and, unfortunately many Republicans) resist changes to the social security system which would allow more people- young, old, black, and white- to join the investor class.

It is almost universally believed by liberals and conservatives that enhancing one’s education has serious implications for one’s future income.  The evidence is irrefutable.  Yet, why do Democrats and their liberal allies, especially in the union-organized educational establishment, fight to prevent poor inner city minority children the same opportunities to attend better performing private schools which their white, affluent counterparts almost treat as a birthright?  Krugman can theorize about conservative racial code words and “dog whistles,” but it is the Democrats and liberals who act like racists while asserting the position of being on the side of minorities.  Access to private education is a political message that will resonate with those in the minority community truly interested in their child’s educational outcome.  And in every poll and survey I have read from a variety of sources, the number one priority of the growing Hispanic population is education.  The Democratic/liberal solution of more spending on failing public educational institutions sounds good, but history has proven it a losing proposition.

Ironically, if one looks at the top 5 states with the greatest income disparity, they are all blue states, but none worse than our nation’s capital itself.  Meanwhile, the 5 states with the lowest income disparity are all red states.  That should be some tangential proof that Democratic policies exacerbate the problem while conservative solutions lessen the problem.

I say “lessen” and “exacerbate” because there will always be income inequality in a capitalist economic system.  Not everyone is a winner.  The other option- no income inequality- is socialism pure and simple.  But, liberals believe that everyone is or should be a winner and that the loser is never responsible.  The choice to drop out of school and get pregnant at 16 does hold real world ramifications.  The choice to stay at home and smoke pot with your friends instead of showing up at the minimum wage job does hold real world ramifications.  The choice to skip school and hang out on the corner selling drugs does hold real world ramifications.  And the list goes on.

That being said, there are those who clearly, through no fault of their own, have fallen on hard times.  The person who lost their job because bankers in New York City sold exotic financial instruments that went south is one such person, but not the person who used the equity in their home to refinance their mortgage and use their homes like an ATM.  In sum, not everyone is personally responsible for their current state of affairs, but to deny that a culture of dependency exists or that it is part of the problem is either pure liberal ignorance or liberals being blinded by their own strange worldview where the Big Bad Banker is the root of all economic evil.  The thing is we have been down this path before with this liberal mindset.  In days gone by when populist ideas and rhetoric ruled the day, there were the Big Bad Railroads, the Big Bad Trusts and more recently Big Bad Tobacco, Big Bad Oil, and Big Bad Pharmaceuticals.

And the Republican Party needs to address this head on without reservation or equivocation.  In the next part, I hope to advance a few viable  ideas that should resonate across a wide swath of the electorate.  But in the meantime, it would serve everyone well if the likes of Paul Krugman and his ilk would cease trotting out race at every opportunity.  If there is racist motivations it comes from those who see race in everything and behind everything.  The fact is that conservatives are well aware that poverty exists and there is a need for safety nets.  But unlike most Democrats, liberals, and Paul Krugman, we realize that poverty knows no racial lines and that safety nets are there regardless of race.  And in the interim, we need more people like Paul Ryan speaking the truth.