Posts Tagged ‘Working class’

Thomas Frank on why Trump won

June 27, 2018

Thomas Frank has a new book out, an essay collection called Rendezvous With Oblivion: Reports from a Sinking Society.  The videos above and below consist of interviews he gave about it.  Here’s how he introduced it.

The essays collected here scan over many diverse aspects of American life, but they all aim to tell one essential story: This is what a society looks like when the glue that holds it together starts to dissolve.  This is the way ordinary citizens react when they learn the structure beneath them is crumbling.  This is the thrill that pulses through the veins of the well-to-do when they discover there is no longer any limit on their power to accumulate.

In headline terms, these essays cover the years of the Barack Obama presidency and the populist explosion that marked its end.  It was a time when liberal hopes were sinking and the newly invigorated right was proceeding from triumph to triumph.  When I wrote the earliest installment in the collection, Democrats still technically controlled both houses of Congress in addition to the presidency; when I finished these essays, Donald Trump sat in the Oval Office and Republicans had assumed a position of almost unprecedented power over the nation’s political system.

For a few, these were times of great personal satisfaction.  The effects of what was called the Great Recession were receding, and affluence had returned to smile once again on the tasteful and the fortunate.  The lucky ones resumed their fascinating inquiries into the art of the cocktail and the science of the grandiose suburban home. For them, things transpired reassuringly as before.

But for the many, this was a period when reassurance was in short supply.  Ordinary Americans began to understand that, recovery or not, things would probably never be the same in their town or neighborhood.  For them, this was a time of cascading collapse, with one trusted institution after another visibly deteriorating.

It was a golden age of corruption.  By this I do not mean that our top political leaders were on the take—they weren’t—but rather that America’s guardian class had been subverted or put to sleep.  Human intellect no longer served the interests of the public; it served money—or else it ceased to serve at all.  That was the theme of the era, whether the locale was Washington, D.C., or the college your kids attended, or the city desk of your rapidly shrinking local newspaper.  No one was watching out for the interests of the people, and increasingly the people could see that this was the case.

Source: Thomas Frank | American Empire Project

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Could the GOP become the pro-worker party?

August 15, 2016

My parents were New Deal Democrats, and I was brought up to revere the memory of Franklin Roosevelt and to believe that the Democrats were the party of working people.

DCdivided-300x253But a strange thing happened in American politics during the past 20 years.  Blue-collar workers and high school graduates have become the base of the Republican Party, while college-educated professionals are now the base of the Democratic Party.

As recently as 1992, when Bill Clinton ran against George H.W. Bush, he had a huge lead among workers earning less than $50,000 a year, and high school graduates and dropouts.  The elder Bush won by a similarly large margin among workers earning $100,000 a year or more, and narrowly carried college graduates.

In contrast, a CNN poll conducted right after the 2016 conventions gives Hillary Clinton a 23 percent lead among college graduates and an 18 percent lead among voters earning more than $50,000 a year.  Donald Trump is competitive among voters earning less than $50,000 a year and has a 26 percent lead among whites with high school educations or less.

This isn’t because Republicans actually represent the interests of working people.  Leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan—and including Donald Trump—still believe that the key to prosperity is deregulation and tax cuts for rich people, policies which have been tried and failed for the past 25 years.

But Trump, in his saner moments, at least talks about the concerns of working people.  Hillary Clinton at the moment seems more interested in reaching out to conservatives and anti-Trump Republicans.

My guess is that she will win in November, probably in a landslide, based on an alliance of racial and ethnic minorities, women and college-educated white professionals, plus the disgust of middle-road voters with Trump’s antics.

But if she governs in the interests of Wall Street, as her political record and donor list indicate she will, Republicans could reinvent themselves as champions of the working class.

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The difference between Trump and Sanders

May 2, 2016

Bernie Sanders promises to address the grievances of American working people.

Donald Trump promises to address the grievances of white American working people.

Clintonism, Trumpism: a win-win for the 1%

April 28, 2016

In American politics today, there are three main factions and only two parties to represent them.  One faction has to lose and, if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are nominated, it will be the Bernie Sanders progressives.

fatcatHillary Clinton represents the Washington and Wall Street elite, committed to perpetual war and crony capitalism.  Wall Street bankers have made her and her husband rich, neoconservative war hawks praise her and Charles Koch has said she may be preferable to either of the possible GOP nominees she may be preferable to either of the possible GOP nominees.

Donald Trump speaks to the concerns of working people—especially pro-corporate trade deals and deindustrialization—but he has no real solution.

His economic nationalism, while not a complete answer to U.S. economic problems, is preferable to the corporate trade deals of the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

But by pitting white working men against Hispanics, blacks, immigrants and feminists, he prevents the working class as a whole from ever having enough clout to defend their interests.

Thomas Frank wrote an excellent book about how the Republicans may be the party of the wealthy elite, representing the upper 1 percent of American income earners, but the Democrats are the party of the educated professional elite, representing the rest of the upper 10 percent.

This year’s political realignment may change this, as he himself implicitly acknowledged in a new article in Vanity Fair.  Under Hillary Clinton, Democrats are becoming the party of the upper 1 percent as well.  Here is the meat of what Frank wrote.

Rich Americans still have it pretty good. I don’t mean everything’s perfect: business regulations can be burdensome; Manhattan zoning can prevent the addition of a town-house floor; estate taxes kick in at over $5 million.   But life is acceptable. Barack Obama has not imposed much hardship, and neither will Hillary Clinton.

And what about Donald Trump?  Will rich people suffer if he is elected president?  Well, yes.  Yes, they will.  Because we all will.  But that’s a pat answer, because Trump and Trumpism are different things.  Trump is an erratic candidate who brings chaos to everything.  Trumpism, on the other hand, is the doctrine of a different Republican Party, one that would cater not to the donor class, but rather to the white working class.  Rich people do not like that idea.

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Why don’t politicians care about working people?

March 28, 2013
Mark Thoma

Mark Thoma

Mark Thoma, professor of economics at the University of Oregon and host of the Economist’s View web page, wonders why politicians in general and Democrats in particular are so little concerned about the plight of American working people.

Consider… four facts from a recent speech by Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Raskin.

  • First, around two-thirds of the jobs lost during the recession were in moderate-wage occupations, but more than one-half of subsequent job gains have been in low wage jobs.  As she says, recent job gains have been largely concentrated in lower-wage occupations.
  • Second, since 2010 the average wage for new hires has actually declined.
  • Third, about one-quarter of all workers are “low wage” (just over $23,005 per year in 2011 dollars).
  • Finally, involuntary part-time work is increasing, and more than a quarter of the net employment gains since the end of the recession involve part-time work.

[snip]

I don’t blame Republicans for their efforts.  I wish the working class was more important to Republicans, and I cannot understand their indifference to the struggles of so many people.  But that’s not who Republicans are.  Fundamentally, it’s the party of the rich and this is a chance to lower government spending and reduce the pressure for tax increases on high-income households.

I do, however, blame Democrats for allowing them to be successful.  Even though unemployment is extraordinarily high and job opportunities, when they exist at all, are mostly at reduced wages, and even though the future for the working class looks increasingly bleak, too many Democrats have aided and abetted Republicans in this diversion of attention from jobs to the national debt.

Click on Why Don’t Politicians Care about the Working Class? for Thoma’s entire article.

Click on Focusing on Low- and Moderate-Income Working Americans for Sarah Raskin’s speech.

Hat tip to occasional links & commentary

Working class is middle-class no more

October 18, 2010

It is a proud boast of the United States that we were the first country, and for a time the only country, in which members of the working class could enjoy a middle class income and standard of living.  Unfortunately this is becoming a thing of the past.

What’s happening is well-described in an article by Andy Kroll on the Tom Dispatch web site.  Here are some highlights.

Sometime in early June — he’s not exactly sure which day — Rick Rembold joined history. That he doesn’t remember comes as little surprise: Who wants their name etched into the record books for not having a job?

For Rembold, that day in June marked six months since he’d last pulled a steady paycheck, at which point his name joined the rapidly growing list of American workers deemed “long-term unemployed” by the Department of Labor. In the worst jobs crisis in generations, the ranks of Rembolds, stranded on the sidelines, have exploded by over 400% — from 1.3 million in December 2007, when the recession began, to 6.8 million this June. The extraordinary growth of this jobless underclass is a harbinger of prolonged pain for the American economy.

This summer, I set out to explore just why long-term unemployment had risen to historic levels — and stumbled across Rembold. A 56-year-old resident of Mishawaka, Indiana, he caught the unnerving mix of frustration, anger, and helplessness voiced by so many other unemployed workers I’d spoken to. “I lie awake at night with acid indigestion worrying about how I’m going to survive,” he said in a brief bio kept by the National Employment Law Project, which is how I found him. I called him up, and we talked about his languishing career, as well as his childhood and family. But a few phone calls, I realized, weren’t enough. In early August I hopped a plane to northern Indiana.

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