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We can see the same contrasts right here in America. Liberalism has had dominant control in most major cities for generations now. But the working classes have fled those cities, which have declined dramatically in population and fallen deeper and deeper into economic failure. In his recent bestseller Real Change, Newt Gingrich documents this in the example of Detroit, where a conservative hasn’t been seen in government for probably a hundred years. Since 1950, the population of Detroit has fallen from 1.8 million to 871,000. From 1947 to 1967, Detroit lost 120,000 manufacturing jobs. Today, it enjoys the highest unemployment rate in the nation, with one third of its residents in poverty. The largest employer in the city is the public schools, with the city government second largest. Less than one-fourth of freshmen in the city’s public high schools graduate in four years, even though the city spends more per student than rich Marin County, California, which graduates 97% of its high school freshmen on time.
This is the result of government by the progressive proud liberals Frank yearns for. When the nation focused on the squalor and poverty in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina, what it was witnessing was the result again of decades of liberal programs and misrule.
The working class of Kansas votes for capitalist candidates because they understand this. They know that they are not going to prosper by sharply raising taxes on investors, employers and American corporations trying to compete in a global economy. Prosperity is not going to be achieved by crippling the economy with harsh economic and environmental regulatory burdens. They are not going to gain the robust prosperity they work for by voting themselves burdensome government handouts that will drive the economy down through overwhelming government spending. They know their economic goals are only going to be achieved by real economic growth that empowers them to earn their own way.
THE FORMULA FOR PROSPERITY for working people is no great secret. Enforce property rights and freedom of contract. Keep taxes as low as possible to maximize the incentives for investment, entrepreneurship, business expansion, innovation, inventiveness, and work. Minimize regulatory burdens to what is essential for public safety to avoid unnecessary economic costs. Maintain a stable currency. It has worked all over the world, and throughout history, wherever and whenever it has been tried. Again, the working people of Kansas, and all across America, know this, even if Frank and the increasingly left-wing Democrat party base doesn’t. Indeed, even uneducated Central American campesinos know it. That is why so many of them embark on risky adventures to sneak into America.p>But, still, Frank crucifies the DLC for its “criminally stupid strategy”. Frank argues that the DLC, br> /p>
has long been pushing the party to forget blue collar voters and concentrate instead on recruiting affluent, white collar professionals who are liberal on social issues. The larger interests that the DLC wants desperately to court are corporations, capable of generating campaign contributions far outweighing anything raised by organized labor. The way to collect the votes and — more important — the money of these coveted constituencies, “New Democrats” think, is to stand rock solid on, say, the pro-choice position while making endless concessions on economic issues, on welfare, NAFTA, Social Security, labor law, privatization, deregulation, and the rest of it.br> Frank continues, writing that “the Clinton Administration’s famous policy of ‘triangulation’, its grand effort to minimize the differences between Democrats and Republicans on economic issues” was, “as political strategy…the purest folly. It simply pulled the rug out from any possible organizing effort on the left.”
Frank indicates the solution in saying, “by dropping the class language that once distinguished them sharply from Republicans, [Democrats] have left themselves vulnerable to cultural wedge issues like guns and abortion and the rest whose hallucinatory appeal would ordinarily be far overshadowed by material concerns.” What Frank is preaching is for the Democrats to go on the offensive against people like those of Mission Hills and Johnson County with taxes high enough to really hurt, and regulatory takeovers of their businesses, and to offer the working class a sweeping array of new government handouts that will expand the politics of dependency. If the Democrats would do that, the working class would forget about abortion, guns, and Jesus, and start voting Democrat again.
This doesn’t give credit to the reality of social conservative issues. Indeed, the whole thesis makes no sense. Not only is the economics all wrong, as discussed above, but the political analysis is missing something also. Why would social conservative issues make the working class vote for conservative economic policies supposedly contrary to their interests? There is nothing stopping always opportunistic candidates from running as social conservatives and economic liberals. Frank is missing something in failing to explain why this hasn’t worked. We will see what is missing next week when I discuss Grover Norquist’s new book, Leave Us Alone.
YET FOR THIS YEAR’S politics, Frank’s analysis is seen as the new strategic foundation for the Obama, Pelosi, Dean Democrats. Obama slew the DLC Clintons by running explicitly to the Left. And he is not shy about continuing to run on proposals not just to raise taxes, but to sharply increase every federal tax, to fund the most massive increase in new government programs and handouts in world history, not just for the poor but for the working class and the middle class as well. The confidence that this will work grows out of Frank’s analysis.
It won’t work. I don’t think Obama’s unabashed, ultraleft liberalism will work even in this year when the hip business community still thinks the Democrats will just bring back Clinton’s DLC business friendly policies of the 1990s. They have no inkling that the Franks of the world see them as the new lambs to be slaughtered on the altar of the latest neo-socialist political and economic experiment.
And it won’t work over the long run, because the Left has never been living in the real world. That is why they failed so spectacularly throughout the 20th century. If elected, either Obama will abandon the neo-socialism of Frank, and of his own past, or it is he and Frank’s new new Democrats who will be crucified on a cross of gold, after they bring the glories of the economic policies of Hugo Chavez to these shores.
What Frank and his cohorts most fundamentally fail to recognize is that the rise of socialism was itself a “backlash” against the rise of industrial capitalism. It tried to address the resulting concerns and dislocations of that time, roughly from the 1870s to the 1930s. It is based on a fundamentally wrong, rudimentary, economic analysis of the time, of the great class conflict between workers and employers, when real capitalist economics is based on the cooperation of workers and employers, of capital and labor, to great mutual benefit. Consequently, the persistent neo-socialism of today does not address real problems, needs and concerns of the modern world now close to a hundred years later. It has been left behind in our politics because it is hopelessly outdated, not because of confusion over God, guns and gays.
A real problem, however, is that a huge portion of Western intelligentsia is stuck in the nostalgia and romance of the intellectual and political battles of that 1870s to 1930s era. The loss of their intellectual resources, and their actual persistent battle against the modern world and its highly effective economic system, is a huge drain on the West, and America in particular, the hugely successful bastion of capitalism that is the target of the worldwide Left’s religious rejectionism. It would be a huge breakthrough for America, and the entire world, to bore through to this frozen-in-time intellectual class, and get them to realize that they need to move on. Capitalism is here to stay.
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In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
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It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?