The Elephant in the Room

~by Dennis Sanders

Within a few moments of knowing President Obama had secured the 270 electoral votes needed to win a second term, the explanations and recriminations had begun.

The two that bubbled up to the surface were demographics and social issues. People saw this victory as proof that the new minority-majority America that we have been told was coming finally arose. This meant the dawn a new Democratic era where the the GOP would be reduced to regional rump of a party.

The other issue that came to fore was the party’s views on same sex marriage and abortion rights. If only they were able to pass an immigration bill to please Latinos or support same sex marriage, well, the party would be saved.

Now, being a gay African American/Puerto Rican such talk should be music to my ears. After all, I am the mythical diverse voter that the GOP needs. But this mythical voter doesn’t think making a few changes such immigration reform or allowing my partner and I to legally wed will bring salvation to the party of Lincoln.

First off, it’s not like the GOP is openly hostile to minorities. The George W. Bush Adminstration placed not one but two African Americans in the positon of Secretary of State. The 2012 GOP convention in Tampa had the likes of Marco Rubio, Susanna Martinez and Condaleeza Rice as speakers. A racist political party would not have such people speaking in front of them. As for the gay issue, the party has been making some halting moves towards inclusion. Lost in the headlines was the fact that an openly gay Republican ran for a House seat in Massachusetts.

Diversity is important, and I do think there is room for improvement. But demographics is only the dessert to a bigger issue: the economy.

It’s easy to get more black folk up on the dais of a convention to speak; it’s a lot harder to figure out how to help people in a changing economy.

Walter Russell Mead has talked about the disintergration of the blue social model. For those who don’t know that phrase, it talks about the guiding rule of American Society from the New Deal onward. Here’s how Mead describes the model:

The blue model rested on the post-Second World War industrial and economic system. The ‘commanding heights’ of American business were controlled by a small number of monopolistic and oligopolistic firms. AT&T, for example, was the only serious telephone company in the whole country, and both the services it offered and the prices it could charge were tightly regulated by the government. The Big Three car-makers had a lock on the car market; in the halcyon days of the blue model there was no foreign competition. A handful of airlines divided up the routes and the market; airlines could not compete by offering lower prices or by opening new routes without special government permission. Banks, utilities, insurance companies, trucking companies had their rates and, essentially, their profit levels set by federal regulators.

The stable economic structure allowed a stable division of the pie. Workers (much more heavily unionized then than now) got steady raises and stable jobs. The government got a stable flow of tax revenues. Shareholders got reasonably steady dividends.

This system was all about security and stability. This was the system my mother and father encountered when the arrived in Michigan from Puerto Rico and Louisiana respectively. You got a job at one of the Big Three automakers and you were set.

But life started change in Michigan and the rest of the nation in the 70s. Mead notes:

The blue model began to decay in the seventies. Foreign producers began to erode the market share of lazy, sclerotic American firms–like the Big Three automakers. The growth of offshore financial markets forced the financial services industry to become more flexible as both borrowers and lenders were increasingly able to work around the regulations and the oligopolies of the domestic market. Demand for new communications services created an appetite for competition against Ma Bell. The consumer movement attacked regulations that were clearly designed to protect companies; Teddy Kennedy was a cosponsor of the bill to deregulate the airlines. Anti-corporate liberals rebelled at the way government power and regulation was being used to allow corporations to give their consumers the shaft.

As the old system dissolved, companies had to become more flexible. As industry became more competitive, private sector managers had to shed bureaucratic habits of thought. Lifetime employment had to go. Productive workers had to be lured with high pay. The costs of unionization grew; in the old days, government regulators simply allowed unionized firms to charge higher prices to compensate them for their higher costs. The collapse of the regulated economy (plus the rise of foreign competition from developing countries) made unions unsustainably expensive in many industries.

If you haven’t already guessed, this system was powerful during the years of Democratic party dominance. As that system started to decay, the Dems started to lose power.

As this old model is passing by, there has not been a response from the Republicans. There has been no Red Social Model. When people look to the party for answers on how to deal with the new economic uncertainty, they get an odd response about lowering taxes- an answer that seems to fit all situations.

I think that’s the reason the GOP lost so big this year. Yes. the President hasn’t done much and the economy is still in the doldrums. He hasn’t really told the public what he will do in his second term. But when people looked to the GOP for an alternative, they found…nothing. The voting public would rather go with the devil they knew.

Take for example health care. People are not crazy with Obamacare. The GOP latched on to that and used to make big gains in the 2010 midterms. Mitt Romney said one the first actions as President would be to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

But as much as people didn’t like the President’s plan, at least it was a plan compared to…..well, nothing on the Republican side.

In his weekly column, Ross Douthat explains that middle class Americans are facing economic pressures and are not finding good answers from the GOP:

What the party really needs, much more than a better identity-politics pitch, is an economic message that would appeal across demographic lines — reaching both downscale white voters turned off by Romney’s Bain Capital background and upwardly mobile Latino voters who don’t relate to the current G.O.P. fixation on upper-bracket tax cuts.

As the American Enterprise Institute’s Henry Olsen writes, it should be possible for Republicans to oppose an overweening and intrusive state while still recognizing that “government can give average people a hand up to achieve the American Dream.” It should be possible for the party to reform and streamline government while also addressing middle-class anxieties about wages, health care, education and more.

The good news is that such an agenda already exists, at least in embryonic form. Thanks to four years of intellectual ferment, Republicans seeking policy renewal have a host of thinkers and ideas to draw from: Luigi Zingales and Jim Pethokoukis on crony capitalism,R
amesh Ponnuru
and Robert Stein on tax policy, Frederick Hess on education reform,James Capretta on alternatives to Obamacare, and many more.

The bad news is that unlike a pander on immigration, a new economic agenda probably wouldn’t be favorably received by the party’s big donors, who tend to be quite happy with the Republican Party’s current positioning.

In light of the disintergrating blue social model, there needs to be a red social model to come and fill its place. People want to know how they can pay for college or have some kind of health care even if they lose their job. The GOP circa 2012 couldn’t find an answer to give the people and they chose accordingly.

Becoming a bit more diverse is a good thing, but in this post-civil rights era, is not as pressing as some have made it out to be. What really matters to the middle class family in the suburbs and the single mom in the inner city is how to keep their heads above the raging economic waters.

Trying to answer these “bread and butter” issues will take some time. But I think if the GOP can find away to address the anxieties of millions of Americans, they might have a shot of having the chance to govern again.

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70 thoughts on “The Elephant in the Room

  1. From where I sit – the problem is that the Republicans can’t make up their minds between the two kinds of capitalism that exist in America. They want both, and that desire means that they often sound like a split personality. (Note: I’m going to use the word capitalism, but you can mentally substitute “private enterprise” or “the American way of life” if you want; for my purposes it’s the same thing.)

    If you ask the average American what capitalism is he’ll tell you it’s what he believes in: work hard, keep your nose clean, pay your debts, don’t do drugs or engage in crime, be responsible, and you’ll retire safely independent, in a paid-off mortgage-free home, surrounded by your (first) wife and children and grandchildren. Capitalism is how that person both contributes to and benefits from the marketplace. He takes pride in his work and his job (the same thing to him), joined the company bowling league, worked well with his peers and in general was a good company man. Capitalism to him is personal and cultural. This is how America works, or should work.

    Then there is the global capitalism that many people like Mitt Romney have benefited from. It’s more classically economic, more textbook: companies do well depending on their share of the marketplace, their use of technology, willingness to play on a worldwide stage. These companies can take over others or get taken over themselves. The actions of the workers at a particular company has little impact on the company’s strength or it’s ultimate fate.

    For many years these two capitalisms were parallel systems but that came to a close in the past ten years. Romney was put in a hard place (and did nothing to help himself) by talking about the cultural capitalism (actually let’s call it George Romney capitalism while we’re at it) but obviously benefiting personally from the second kind. He had no real suggestion to make to Americans who needed reassurance that their personal efforts still mattered to their personal destinies through their work.

    No one wants to hear that they’ve wasted 30 years working at a company that got taken over and let go all its workers, with the pension fund disappearing in a puff of smoke. Maybe another politician could have faked it but not Romney – there was too much Bain in the air. That cultural conservatism is what most Americans believe made them special all through the last 60 years – exceptional, even, if you want to use that word.

    The political party that comes up with a viable cultural capitalism that replaces successfully the old, dead one, is going to own the next 50 years of elections.

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  2. Great post Dennis!

    I’m a big fan of the tax-based, family-friendly plan that Douthat put forward in Grand New Party. It’s the best way to assist families from a conservative perspective by not giving them money but instead not taking as much.

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  3. There has been no Red Social Model.

    My immediate thought when I read this sentence was to remember the church I rejected.

    While it’s possible to create a social model that would appeal to someone like me, I do think that the Republicans had a social model there for quite some time that had aspirations to the good (Leave it to Beaver, Happy Days kinda stuff) while also doing stuff like shunning people who got divorced, shunning people who were widowed, shunning people who didn’t “fit”.

    It worked really well… until half of the country watched their parents get divorced or watched a friend’s parents get divorced.

    There is a lot of bad blood out there toward the idea of a new Red Social Model. Given what the Blue Social Model has adopted and adapted to in recent years, I don’t know that there is a whole lot of room for the Red Model to make a comeback… until the people who still resent the Red Model are old enough for the young people to start ignoring.

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    • for the Red Model to make a comeback
      I think that’s what he’s getting at here is that it doesn’t need a comeback, but a complete redesign.
      What you’re referring to, I would call the so-con wing of the party.
      What Dennis (seems to me) is addressing is what I would call the Chamber of Commerce wing of the party.
      While I think the COC does a lot of good at the local level, at the national level, they’re rotten (sound familiar?)

      There has to be something else, some solid core of principles, that the Right can rely on (other than tax cuts) to move away from so-con dominated or COC dominated policies.

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    • I’m not asking for “Leave It to Beaver.” I’m talking about developing a new economic model that addresses the world as it is now. The Red Social Model would be based on ideas such as the ones expressed in “Grand New Party” by Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat. I’m asking for an upgrade of conservative economic policies that’s not stuck in 1982, which is what we have been getting recently. Tax cuts worked in 1981 when the top rate was 70 percent. But these days, when taxes are lower, there isn’t that much bang for that buck. So we need to ask what can grow the economy and lift the boats of the middle class and poor.

      As for social issues, I would call for a more libertarian outlook, but that’s another post.

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      • An argument that says that economic issues *ARE* social issues would be refreshing, but there is a lot of baggage when it comes to the Republican Party saying that they want to nudge things a particular way.

        Well… *I* have that baggage. I assume I’m not anywhere unique in that.

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        • For a long time when I was in my teens I assumed “social issues” meant social programs, ie “economic liberalism”.* It took a while of reading political debates before I worked out that “social” issues were abortion and gay marriage, and “economic” issues were everything else.

          * And if you read books from the 1700s-1800s, “economic liberalism” meant unregulated capitalism. Terminology is remarkably fluid.

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  4. Liked this Dennis. One quibble:
    “A racist political party would not have such people speaking in front of them.”

    Why not? Political parties hold their collective nose at all sorts of things if it will help them get the desired results.

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  5. This post rings true. Zingales talks about this transition in terms of relationship capitalism to arm’s length capitalism. The former is more stable but less transparent and ultimately less just. The latter leads to more growth and opportunity, but also more fluctuation and inequality. The GOP has had a hard time lately establishing a clear voice when it comes to government’s role in the new kind of economy.

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  6. First off, it’s not like the GOP leadership is openly hostile to minorities.

    In the grand tradition of Slashdot: FTFY.

    The GOP leadership isn’t hostile to minorities. In fact, they are so desperate for minorities to put on camera that they’ll even elevate intellectual lightweights like Bobby Jindal and Herman Cain to positions representing the party. And when they only had the one guy in the House, boy howdy did JC Watts get a hell of a lot of camera time. He was the Jesse Jackson Jr. of the Republican Party, if he saw a camera it was get out of his way or get body-blocked to the floor as he rushed to get in front of it.

    The GOP rank and file, on the other hand, is very hostile to minorities and that’s not something that can even be factually disagreed with. They responded so well to Gingrich’s baiting and to the constant calls about the “invasion” from the southern border and references to taco trucks…

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    • IIRC, the first black men casting votes in Congress were Republicans, although I’ll grant that Reconstruction was a different historical era than now.

      In the postwar era, was it not also the case that when faces with more-than-standard-European melanin counts started showing up in the Democrats’ cloakroom, they were showcased as well? I seem to recall studying about Adam Clayton Powell, and that he got a lot of press coverage in his day as the FDR- and Truman-era Democrats tried to lay the groundwork for getting the black vote.

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      • Reconstruction a different historical era from now: heck yes. In those days the Republicans were the ones referred to as “liberals.”

        The interesting thing about FDR and Truman laying groundwork for getting the black vote is they actually started talking to the black population about issues that were relevant to them.

        Powell’s ascendancy was as much about the growing movement of blacks to enter into politics in order to shape policy, a goal which among other things grew into the formation of the Congressional Black Caucus. You’ve also got others who were in at the same time as Powell; Charles C. Diggs, Jr., Gus Hawkins, William L. Dawson – it was a concerted effort, not just “ooh we got a black football player to run, quick keep him in front of a camera” level tokenism.

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  7. I don’t know if this was discussed in the podcast last night since i only saw part of it. However the 47%/moochers/makers v takers idea ( or i’d say BS that has infected the R’s) alienates a lot of people. You can’t persuade or communicate with many working and middle class people when you so obviously look down on them. I know its part of Conservo speak that liberals look down on good ol Americans but the 47% is pure self-righteous superiority from R’s. It also gets in the way of actually finding solutions to problems. This is more than just messaging. Many R’s clearly do believe they are superior to all those other weak lesser peoples.

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    • A random UKer: “As the old hip hop saying goes “Don’t hate the player… hate the game”.

      If I knew I would be as well off on the dole, as spending 40+ hours a week working, Id choose the dole. Because I’m afraid it makes sense, under those circumstances not to make a complete mug of yourself, nothing more than a slave, who is payed to just survive. Hell, slave masters fed and housed their slaves, back in the day…and if your in low paid work, that’s all your getting too, just enough to scrape by…oh but you still have your pride though.

      well sorry…but if Im being made a fool of, working for peanuts, living in a awful neighborhood..and I cant escape…then id opt out altogether and sign on.
      this is the actual truth about it all…people in the UK are brainwashed morons.
      The only point in working, is if the work actually improves your life. If the work just makes your boss rich and ensures you get to eek out your years in a deprived area..then whats the point in being proud about that?

      Proud to be a fool, to be a sucker? Where is the pride in that?

      And its these proud people, who hate the people who in fact are not worth hating, the people on the dole know they are in a trap but accepted it, whilst the people in low paid work seem to think they will eventually crawl out of the same poverty trap…Well good luck.

      Because its called the poverty trap for a reason…its designed to trap and enslave you and your kids…just like it enslaved you parents and grandparents. ”

      http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread892650/pg6

      TVD: I usually have the UK in mind when I consider these things, the road to perdition.

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      • oy Tom just oy.

        I haven’t yet heard one conservative who can both explain why the 47% are moochers and also factually explain who makes up that group. Why is the EITC, which Reagan loved, so evil? Why are disabled people or seniors whose only income in SS moochers? This is the typical R answer. This has nothing to do with poverty traps at all. Most poor people work. Lots of poor and middle class people need health care and will only get it through OCare or some other fed HC.

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          • I know exactly what Romney meant. It wasn’t some stuff about poverty traps or an actaul issue. It was all about looking down on those lazy people. It wasn’t about fixing/making a good safety net, it was about spitting on the moochers. Come on Tom, surprise me, talk about the groups that make up “the 47%”. How many are working and use the EITC? How many don’t pay taxes because they only have SS or SSD?

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            • Socialist George Bernard Shaw wrote:

              “A government with the policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul.”

              That’s what Romney was saying and any other interpretation is faulty or dishonest. And when I write of such things, I’m contemplating the UK. I have no anger at my fellow Americans, but I think this plan isn’t working.

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              • OMG a quote from a famous guy….what are argument.

                Nonsense Tom. I guessing you are just refusing to discuss the EITC or really poor old and disabled people. Got it. Keep dancing, never stand still.

                Throwing out a quote is all cute and everything, but there is no depth there. Are you saying you are against taxes? social safety net? EITC, Medicaid/Care, Social Security? Tossing quotes explains nothing and elides all the issues.

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                  • What??? You’ve made all these grand claims without doing any reasearch???

                    From Bruce Bartlett
                    ttp://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/28/who-doesnt-pay-federal-income-taxes-legally/

                    “But the growth of the non-income-taxpaying population is largely a result of Republican tax policies. The earned-income tax credit is the main reason those with low incomes are largely exempted from federal income taxes. Originated by Gerald Ford, it was expanded by both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush as a better way to help the working poor than raising the minimum wage, which they believed would increase unemployment.”

                    http://www.dailyfinance.com/2012/09/19/mitt-romney-surprising-facts-pay-no-income-tax/

                    “According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, 53.6% of Americans pay a portion of their income in federal income taxes, and 46.4% don’t. Of those who don’t, 61% (28.3% of the population) pay payroll taxes, such as Social Security and Medicare, but have enough deductions and tax credits that their federal income tax liability has shrunk to zero. In other words, 81.9% of the population is gainfully employed and sends some measure of their income to the federal government.”

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                    • I know this will go nowhere. But i’m a bit bored and trying to stay awake after flying, so it keeps me busy. And you never know when he might give me a laugh or someone with substance on the conservo side might join in.

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                    • No, actually, I thank you for the numbers, Greg. I find them a relief, actually. I knew 47% was inaccurate, of course, and I don’t trust the Tax Policy Institute as remotely “non-partisan.” Still, I’m sure they’re generally correct.

                      Cato Institute’s Dan Mitchell is more to my argument:

                      Mitt Romney is getting criticized for his surreptitiously recorded remarks about 47 percent of voters automatically being Barack Obama supporters because they don’t pay federal income tax and thus see themselves as beneficiaries of big government. I think Romney raised an important issue, but he used the wrong statistic and jumped to the wrong conclusion.

                      Yes, we have almost half of households not paying federal income tax, and there’s a risk of an unhealthy political dynamic if people begin to think they get government for free. But many of those folks have private sector jobs and believe in self reliance and individual responsibility. Or they’re students, retirees, or others who don’t happen to have enough income to pay taxes, but definitely don’t see themselves as part of some “moocher class.”

                      If Romney wanted to be more accurate, he should have instead cited the share of households receiving goodies from the government. That number also is approaching 50 percent and it probably is much more correlated with the group of people in the country who see the state as a means of living off their fellow citizens. But even that figure overstates the dependency mindset since many government beneficiaries—such as Social Security recipients—spent their lives in the private sector and are taking benefits simply because they had no choice but to participate in the system.

                      But while Romney picked the wrong statistic and overstated the implications, he started a very important discussion. As seen in both Bank of International Settlements and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data, the United States is at risk of Greek-style fiscal chaos at some point in the not-too-distant future because of a rising burden of government spending.

                      We desperately need fiscal reforms, particularly to deal with poorly designed entitlement programs. But it’s much easier to adopt necessary reforms when a nation has a spirit of self reliance and personal responsibility.

                      Many European nations, by contrast, are having a hard time implementing reforms because too many of their citizens—as seen in polling data—think of government as Santa Claus.

                      In other words, if we want to maintain American exceptionalism, it would be a very good idea to figure out how to avoid trapping more and more people in lives of government dependency.

                      Bold face mine. Those are my 2 major reservations, both more through the eyes of a failing Europe as a harbinger of our future than as a persecution of my fellow Americans.

                      But this doesn’t mean we can’t find some common ground here. Have a nice trip. Perhaps you’ll return a little less jaded.

                      ;-)

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                    • I’m still not seeing the point. Mitchell says that Romney’s stat isn’t the right one. Then he gives us another stat which also isn’t the right one. Traditionally, this is where the writer gives us the *right* stat that really drives his point home. But Mitchell throws us a curveball by not doing so.

                      Is there a stat that indicates a concrete problem in the US?

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                    • Mr. Frog, I could be flippant and point to the percent of Republicans who still believe in birtherism and/or the idea that the POTUS is a secret closeted “muzlim”, but those are the low hanging fruit.

                      However, there are these numbers:
                      http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3505

                      And these numbers:
                      http://www.forbes.com/sites/janetnovack/2012/09/17/memo-to-mitt-romney-the-47-pay-taxes-too/

                      The problem with the GOP is that their entire sales pitch is a flim-flam, a scam, the entire economic idea being trying to get gullible, dumb poor people to vote for tax cuts for the rich on the hopes that said poor person will somehow win the lottery (or the lawsuit lottery, or “hit it rich” with some clever get-rich-quick scheme or scam) and doesn’t want to pay a little more in taxes “when” that happens.

                      Because as the recent report the GOP House members tried to censor showed, raising or lowering the top marginal tax rates is – contrary to the GOP/Libertarian lies of the past 3 decades – completely unconnected to economic growth.

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                    • Tom my first inclination was to say nasty things about the Cato Ins, based on this tired old Europe bashing, treating Europe likes its one country and the spectacle ignorance of not knowing that plenty of European countries have cut their budgets and gone full on austerity. The entire santa claus silliness is what conservatives like yourself just can’t seem to get. Its not about free stuff or sucking of Uncle Sam’s teat, its about using Gov to meet needs that can’t be met on our own. R’s failure to get this leads to your looking down on others from your superior perch and for being unable to defeat a beatable candidate this year. When you shoot blanks don’t be surprised when you can’t finish off you opponent.

                      You still haven’t been able to answer the facts that most of the 47% are working and benefiting from tax breaks pushed and supported by conservatives. If only conservatives were as effective at finding solutions for other problems, then D’s could put them in place and R’s could then start hating on their own solutions.

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                    • I’d like to see as much lamenting about companies that are dependent on the government. Companies like Booz, Boeing, and CCA. Or in a different way, companies like Disney and Time Warner that rely on the government to extend their monopolies forever.

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                    • TVD,
                      BULLFUCKING SHIT. 100% of American Households get goodies from the government. I can enumerate mine if you like:
                      0% tax rate within one of the past 3 years. (yay bush)
                      3% unsecured loan
                      Public Transportation (okay, so that actually MAKES money, still…)

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                    • Kim, everybody getting stuff for free isn’t particularly sustainable.

                      There pretty much has to be a line where people are, at a minimum, at least paying for the stuff they’re getting… and, one hopes, there are people above them paying for the stuff other people are getting as well.

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                    • Until we privatize every single road, especially the US highway and interstates, and require every citizen to pay a toll to drive on them, the GOP/conservatarian “makers and takers” idiots ought to learn to shut the hell up.

                      You all get something from government, and very few people pay in zero to the public coffers over the course of their lifetimes, so stuff it already. “Makers and takers” is raw unadulterated BS.

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                    • I’m with Kim. 100% of the population gets “goodies” – also known as “services”, or things that it’s government’s job to provide – from the government. They include education, transportation systems (both roads and public transit), public health & sanitation, pensions and (in Canada) health care. Everyone will, at some point in their lives, use these things. They also include things like shelters and publicly-subsidized housing, because multiple studies have shown it’s cheaper for everyone to provide the homeless with places to stay than to have them on the street (because if they’re on the streets, they’re clogging up emergency rooms, courtrooms and jails). They include employment insurance.

                      (And by the way – a lot of liberals and people on the left have also pointed out that it’s not useful to have income supports cut out as soon as people start making any money. Welfare systems should absolutely be income-graduated rather than having strict cutoffs. That’s a very different thing from arguments that income support and EI shouldn’t exist at all because people prefer them to working – and I personally doubt the latter contention. I’ve been unemployed, and even though I wasn’t in financial hardship, it’s boring as all get out. If having a job doesn’t outright reduce your income – and as I said, it shouldn’t, and if it does it’s true that there’s some perverse incentives being created – I think most people would take the job over EI, unless they had other issues that precluded it, like having kids to care for and finding daycare so costly it exceeded what they were making from work.)

                      The difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals support these things, and believe that they’re valuable and should be paid for through taxes. Conservatives embrace low taxes as their first principle, meaning that they’re stuck with debt financing or with removing basic services that most people value and use.

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              • Let me push back on who’s being robbed from a different direction.

                Areas that vote Republican consistently tend to be rural. Red states are typically much more rural in terms of where the population lives than blue states. On the county-level map of most red states, there are blue islands that are the urban areas. Eg, Atlanta in Georgia; Indianapolis in Indiana; Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso and Houston in Texas. Arguably, red states are red because their urban population simply hasn’t grown enough to dominate the rural areas. Look at the Census Bureau’s maps of population growth by county, though, and every state is getting more urban.

                Now consider urban-to-rural subsidies. I like to use the Medicaid FMAP figure as a simple measuring stick at the national level. For FY 2012, there are 14 states that get the minimum match; 12 of the 14 were blue in the election last week (the two red states were Alaska and Wyoming, whose energy revenues make them peculiar for lots of things). Of the bottom 14 states, those that receive much larger matches, 12 were red last week (the two blue states were Michigan and New Mexico, which also have some peculiarities in their incomes). You can pick other measures, but you get similar results: blue (more urban) states subsidize red (more rural) ones.

                Then look at the blue islands in the red states. I live in Colorado, which is only recently blue, but will use it as an example because I was a staffer for the Budget Committee here for three years and am familiar with the cash flows. Most areas that vote consistently red receive large subsidies from the areas that are consistently blue. Among other things, roads, schools, and social services in the rural areas are very heavily subsidized by the urban Front Range. And Lord, do the red counties howl if anyone suggests changing the formulas in ways that would take away those subsidies.

                One of the features of the New Deal that doesn’t get remarked upon enough is the commitment liberals made to keep rural America — where social conservatism is now the strongest — from falling into a permanent second-class economic status. Despite those subsidies, and some newer ones, rural socially-conservative America is once again slipping behind. The bottom 14 states on the Medicare FMAP list get larger matching rates today than they did 15 years ago. The formula hasn’t changed; their income has fallen behind. In Colorado, we now have rural school districts that get more than 60% of their budget from outside. Again, the formula hasn’t changed; rural income is falling farther and farther behind.

                Indeed, if I lived in one of the areas that is dominated by Republican voters, one of my worries would be that some day the liberals are going to get irritated enough at us to cut off the subsidies.

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  8. FWIW-
    The “traditional” Social Model, whether red or blue, was in the form of a Grand Bargain;

    Families and communities had a moral duty to deliver child care, elder care, disability insurance, unemployment insurance, health care, and outright welfare; the recipients in turn were obligated to use the services only sparingly, and had a moral duty to return to self-sufficiency as soon as possible.

    No of course it didn’t work perfectly- people on both sides shirked their end of the bargain-but it was effective enough that it worked for thousands of years in various societies, and still does.

    In addition to its many flaws, it also had strict prerequisites- communities needed to have intact large extended families, with a high degree of social cohesion, and a shared moral/ religious outlook.

    When contemporary liberals advocate for The Pores, we unfortunately fail to respect the other half of the bargain- we speak of rights to services, as if there is no reciprocal obligation. And when conservatives denigrate the 47% as moochers, they insult and demean the very religious values that they claim.

    The winning side will be the one that can craft a new Grand Bargain, in a secular, pluralistic society.

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    • Families and communities had a moral duty to deliver child care, elder care, disability insurance, unemployment insurance, health care, and outright welfare; the recipients in turn were obligated to use the services only sparingly, and had a moral duty to return to self-sufficiency as soon as possible.

      This is good, but there’s one other factor. Back in the good ‘ol days, a family could live a middle-class life style on one income. Mom stayed home to take care of the kids, the aging parents, to volunteer in the community, and dad went to work.

      In the 1970’s, women began entering the workforce in large numbers. And then there’s a whole new set of social pressures for child and elder care, a void in volunteerism.

      I’m not here to condemn women working; it adds great value to our country. I’m quite convinced the growth we experienced in the 1980’s happened not just because of the birth of the internet, but in part, because so many women were working. Nate silver has a chart of economic growth forecasting in his book to demonstrate how often forecasters are wrong. In the mid-’80’s, they underestimated growth consistently; those women working added a lot of value, likely on a par with the increase in college education from the GI Bill after WWII.

      But women did work of value before they officially entered the workforce in great numbers; and we really didn’t do the work to make sure that void was being filled on other ways. I think for a lot of conservatives, this looks like social decay, and they want to go back instead of find alternative solution. (As evidence of this, I recall a poll of GOP women voters about what Sarah Palin should have done after her run for VP; majority said stay home with her children.)

      Sadly, over this time period, average household income has relatively flat. But hours worked per household has significantly increased.

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  9. It’s common to see references nowadays to Romney being “routed”. But, in looking at the outcome, another interpretation that can be advanced.

    Romney lost the popular vote by about 3.5 million. About 1.2 million voted for the Libertarian, Gary Johnson, who is the furthest thing from a “Blue Model” guy and not at all like the Democratic Party stalwarts and mouthpieces.

    Then, look at the Coastal California results, county by county. I did it rather casually, and came up with a Romney “shortfall” of about 2 million votes in a combined dozen or so counties up and down the coast.

    So, Johnson plus the Coastal California Democratic stranglehold is virtually the difference in the popular support for Romney, flawed as he was.

    Of COURSE the Republican Party, to be a viable organization in future elections, needs to shift its positions some, and shut down, reject, or at least tone down the ones who run for office with their feet in their mouth and their idiotic views on full display. But it’s not as if this was a coast-to-coast landslide for Obama. Far from it.

    I’m guessing that the leadership of the party will now be coming primarily from GOP governors, and there are a lot of them (30?) and most of them are pretty vigorous; by definition, they are “winners”.

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    • …it wasn’t a landslide for Obama, I agree, but I don’t understand how “let’s just not count coastal California” qualifies as an argument for that.

      If arbitrarily decide not to count the Great Plains states on the basis that they’re solid red, it really looks like an Obama landslide. You can make the totals do anything you like when you’re deciding who not to count.

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      • Heh, and let’s add in Jill Stein’s almost half million votes, not to mention the ridiculously large Republican vote in the secessionist states (eliminating those traitors shows that Obama overwhelmingly won among true patriotic Americans).

        There’s also the fact that I was a Johnson voter, and I would have voted for Obama before Romney.

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  10. This is a fantastic post Dennis, and I hope to read more from you here in the future. One of the things I heard floating around after the 2010 midterms was that after GWB the R’s had not spent enough time out in the woods to reflect on what went wrong, and to redirect the ship, so to speak. I think this is half right.
    Romney ran against Obama. He didn’t run for the Republican Ideal.
    He couldn’t, as that hasn’t been laid out for the internet/globalized era. Until that happens, they will be a rump party. And this will still be a problem even if there are further economic problems (which I believe to be the case.) They may win elections at that point, but will not be a party for all until they do.

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  11. The post is good, but it just seems like Obama’s debate theme of “where’s your solution?”

    Which is something you hear on the Internet all the time. “(solution)” “(points out problem)” “well I don’t see you offering any suggestions so we should do it my way even if there are problems!”

    Like that’s a response.

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    • Besides, we already know what healthcare would look like if ACA were repealed. We know what it would look like because ACA only got passed three-ish years ago. It’s not like he’s talking about going back on the gold standard, here.

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        • There are significant structural changes throughout the health care system in anticipation of ACA; insurers, hospitals, clinics, and on. It would, on that level, have been impossible to repeal ACA, it’s already happened. What could have been repealed is the stuff people want — elimination of pre-existing conditions, life-time payouts, etc.

          The other thing that could be eliminated is funding for research into evidence-based medicine; but that’s the seeds of actually bringing down the cost.

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      • The issue is that health care three years ago was pretty terrible (and still is today, per Tod’s comment)! The U.S. spent more than any other developed country, but still had tens of millions without insurance. If your answer is “repeal, full stop”, you can’t really fault people for asking what they should do about their preexisting conditions, or what happens to them when they lose their jobs and can’t afford COBRA.

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        • Get rich or die.

          In the end, there is one basic choice with health care: Should we restrict health care of ANY sort solely to those who can afford it?

          If yes, then ER’s can turn away anyone failing a credit check. If no, welcome to socialized medicine – -let’s figure out the most efficient way to pay for it. Step One: Look at the rest of the industrialized world, investigate their setups, pick one, implement it.

          Which is, IIRC, what Singapore did. They ran screaming from our system.

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  12. Great post, Dennis, which invites the question–nay, demand–why don’t you write more often?

    I hadn’t thought along the lines of your argument before, but I think you’re on to a very important point.

    I think of my neighbors when I think of Republicans and the economy. He works in a Big Three factory. Has a love-hate relationship with the union (distrusts the union, distrusts the bosses even more). Could be a classic Reagan Democrat…except he thinks the GOP is nuts. His wife, who works part-time as a school aid, went ballistic when Ann Romney talked about what working moms want. Her precise words were, “What does that bitch know about working?”

    So why is the GOP throwing away the demographic that Reagan captured, and that helped them become more than an also ran in national politics?

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  13. I’m late to the party here, but I largely agree with your argument.

    Let’s divide America, very roughly, into four groups along two axes: economically and socially conservative (GOP base); economically and socially liberal (Dem base); economically liberal (ie: in favour of at least some government action to improve people’s lives) and socially conservative; and economically conservative and socially liberal (ie, libertarians).

    Ditching the social conservatives, as many have been suggesting, would hurt the GOP’s support with their base, destroy their chances with the third group, and bring them relatively minor gains with the libertarians, because there aren’t actually a lot of libertarians, and a lot of the ones who do exist already vote Republican.

    Following your suggestion would do less damage with their base, since “actually offer something in the way of practical policy” doesn’t have to mean abandoning conservative ideas generally, and it would give them a much better shot with people who lean socially conservative but feel like the Democrats offer more policies that can directly improve their lives. And while I’m only theorizing here, I’d guess that group makes up a fair portion of people in the Midwest, which is the key area where the Republicans need to do better at competing if they want to win the next presidential election.

    Whereas social liberalism plus economic conservative gets them what? Maybe Colorado turns back red, but I don’t see it swinging anything else. Folks on this site are pushing it because libertarianism (or libertarian-ish sentiments) are fairly common here, and certainly overrepresented relative to their prevalence in the overall population.

    And if the Republicans would turn against interventionism and switch to a policy of “don’t get involved in overseas conflicts unless we’re actually attacked”, they’d probably get a fair portions of libertarian-leaning people on side anyway regardless of their actual policies, and maybe even capture some of the left. Although the circles I read may well overrepresent the popularity of this area of opinion as well.

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    • I’m with Katherine. It isn’t 1963 anymore. Most people who don’t like war also don’t like tax cuts or social spending cuts. OTOH, most people who don’t like gay marriage also don’t like welfare or Obamacare.

      The people who are truly libertarian is small and overrepresented on the Internet. Even people who say they’re “libertarian” are mostly either liberals or conservatives with one issue they might drift on (ie. gay marriage/public sector unions/etc.).

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