Tag Archives: poverty

“Power and Respect for the Working Class”

New Orleans   I’m sorry, but whenever there’s a subhead in the Wall Street Journal in bold, italics heralding “Power and Respect for the Working Class,” it’s a signal that we have to pay special attention to what the professor might be saying.  This one turned out to be Michael Lind from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin from his new book, The New Class War:  Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite.”  Yes, it’s true that every time we turn around these days, we find out there’s a new class war it seems.  Usually, it’s the same class war with new recruits attacking the same old targets, low and moderate income and working families.

Professor Lind has an interesting argument though and the heart of it follows, so here goes:

“The new class war is very real – and the managerial class is winning.  A few decades ago, corporate managers, politicians and university professors had distinct subcultures.  No longer.  What we might call ‘woke capitalism’ represents a fusion of the three elites at the commanding heights of the economy, the culture and politics; they increasingly constitute a single conformist caste.

“This newly consolidated ruling class is best described as ‘liberaltarian,’ combining moderately libertarian views in economics with cultural progressivism in values.  From its citadels in a few big cities, this oligarchy periodically notifies the working-class majority what values and opinions about sex, immigration and other topics it must immediately adopt without debate, on pain of being blacklisted by the private sector, prosecuted by government or censored or erased by the media.

“Many elites in history have justified hereditary privileges by a doctrine of noblesse oblige, which imposes special military or economic obligations on members of the ruling class.  But today’s managerial elite is different.  The pretense that it springs solely from ‘merit’ – from individual talent and hard work – creates a false sense of superiority for its members, stoking resentment among their fellow citizens, who are defined as failures in fair competition.

“The managerial overclasses of the West understand that the policies they prefer on trade, immigration, entitlements and other issues are unpopular and can be threatened by voter rebellions.  That is why for the last few generations they have sought to remove decision-making authority from legislatures, which are somewhat accountable to working-class majorities, and deliver it to administrative agencies, courts, and transnational institutions such as the European Union.”

It’s an interesting argument.  Not a perfect one, obviously, but it hits enough of the issues squarely to be worth serious consideration.

He goes on to argue that unions have been “driven into virtual extinction,” but argues that the solution is that “21st-century equivalents are needed, in the form of mass membership organizations accountable to working-class people rather than to elite donors or grantors.  Only genuine bottom-up institutions can allow working-class citizens to exercise countervailing power against the elite by pooling the only resource they have:  their numbers.”

I’m a thousand percent behind that recommendation.  Let’s keep this professor in mind.  I have my ear cocked to the wind, because I swear for a minute it seems like he’s singing our song!

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Government Policies and Inflation are Making the Poor Even Poorer

San Juan   There was something to celebrate on the first day of a new decade.  President Trump for only the second time in his term of office did NOT tweet.  What a relief! The other time was the day after the Mueller investigation report was made public.  This time, who knows?  He may have been kidnapped for the day by a roving band of pirates off the coast of Florida.  Maybe they came from Puerto Rico in protest of the lack of support for their hurricane recovery because of, as some may remember, his earlier claim that the island territory was “in the middle of the ocean” and too far away to help.  Certainly, almost all the restaurants in San Juan were closed on New Year’s Day, so the wait staff could have been the ones manning the boats.  I’m not sure.  I’m just offering some alternative facts.

The war talk and chest thumping over Iran pulling the strings on a US embassy takeover in Baghdad did decrease as the protestors withdrew after the Iraqi government promised to support a resolution asking the US to withdraw troops from that country.  On the other hand, the war on the poor continued to accelerate as the Department of Agriculture doubled down on its plan to take another 700,000 people off of food stamps.  The Secretary claimed it is all about getting them to work without reckoning with the fact that most recipients are already working, they just aren’t making enough to adequately and healthily feed their families.  The New York Times Upshot column noted that when lower income families ate better it saved $1400 a year per person in health care costs and had led to reductions in Medicaid spending in a number of states.  Does the administration care or is this all about a body count?

Even as many bemoan the rising gap between the rich and the poor and the federal government pushes to make the poor even poorer, other studies, including a recent one from a team of researchers connected to Columbia University and the Groundwork Collaborative have found that they are already poorer than previous statistics had determined.  Reported in The Hill, they found that “Real income for low-income Americans fell more than 7 percent between 2004 and 2018, in part because of rising costs for items and services purchased by those Americans.”

Inflation in goods that are already more highly priced for poor families is under-reported, making the income gap experienced by lower income families more pronounced.  Seven percent may not sound like much, but in a country the size of the United States it means that,

Using their inflation measure, the paper’s authors estimate that 3.2 million more people would fall below the poverty line, bringing the nation’s total to 41.4 million. The U.S. population in 2018 was about 327 million.

It seems hardly the time to intensify the war on the poor, when they are already getting poorer.  What would it take to get the Trump administration to finally negotiate a peace in this war and withdraw its bureaucratic troops at USDA, DHHS, DHS, and the other agencies?  It’s past time!

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