Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Monday, November 10, 2014

Policy RX

This is a very good take on the problems facing Democrats.  They have an advantage, in that people instinctively know that the GOP doesn't care about declining real wages.  But - as he notes - simply talking about rising inequality doesn't resonate with voters.  We are an aspirational society and want to grow up to be rich.  While the "lifestyles of the rich and famous" may elicit some moral tut-tutting and some anger on the fringes, it's not enough to motivate voters to vote in midterm elections.

Marshall is right that this is a tricky sell.  Running on "class warfare" won't win as many votes as running on a positive agenda.  He claims there isn't one out there.  Raising taxes on the wealthy will only move the needle somewhat.  However, I would argue that raising taxes on the 1% would give more money to the Treasury at a time when we should look to begin paying down our debt.

The other issue that several Democrats have started to flog - including Warren and Obama - is college tuition.  While we are struggling with globally depressed wages and structural weaknesses brought on by globalization, we can agree that the only real consistent options for economic advancement are in college, even two year colleges.

But they are so ridiculously expensive that college becomes a cost-benefit problem.  In fact, we see more social mobility in Europe now than in the US.  There are a lot of reasons for this, but part of it comes down to the affordability of college in Europe as compared to the US.

The other agenda item is wrapped up in Obamacare.  There are certain things we need in life to be happy: food, shelter, family, health... There are limits to what the state can do without upsetting various markets, but we know - empirically - that our health care markets don't work.  Part of the success of ACA has been it's retraining of the markets in certain ways.  But mainly it's about getting more people healthier for less money.

The question is where else are markets not fulfilling their promise.  Education and health care have always had difficulty harnessing market efficiencies.  But then again, it's market efficiencies that are causing wage deflation.  A robot makes more sense than a line worker, and the lack of line workers leads to the lack of wage inflation.

By making healthcare affordable and making education more affordable, you can increase the quality of life for people.  Wages ARE stagnant.  The 1% ARE making too much of our GDP.

And maybe we can never adequately address that, but we can make people's lives better.  And that has to be the message.  We have to kill the Reagan Lie: "Government isn't the solution to your problem, government is the problem."

As long as people believe the Reagan Lie, we will be powerless before the plutocracy.

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