Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Illusion Of Choice

In a series of polls going back decades, the Pew Research Center and other surveyors have shown that America is divided on many economic issues in name only. A majority of Americans support Social Security and Medicare, a progressive tax system and a government that regulates business in the public interest, but most share deep skepticism about the government’s ability to do all this well. Compared with much of U.S. history and to many countries around the world today, America has already settled its most significant economic debates. From the 1780s to the 1930s, there were a series of profound economic questions that fueled deep discord. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton fought over the basic nature of the new U.S. economy (agrarian or industrial?) and who would control the nation’s currency (a central bank or the nation’s private banks?). Hamilton won the first battle and the second one wasn’t resolved until the creation of the Fed in 1913.

In the late-19th and early-20th centuries, the debates covered basics like whether the federal government could even regulate business or tax citizens at all. Then the 1930s brought all sorts of fundamental changes, including the development of Social Security, modern financial regulation and a government-managed housing industry.

Crudely speaking, Franklin D. Roosevelt shifted the nation to the left during the ’30s, and the nation has spent the last four decades moving slightly right. We are now in the process of fine-tuning. This becomes particularly apparent when comparing the United States with other industrialized nations. The United States is the rare state without a socialist or communist political party that wins significant votes. Europeans often have national debates about fundamental economic issues: how much industry should be government-controlled; what does private enterprise owe the state; what is the relationship between the European Union’s economic authorities and its member states. These debates are mild compared with the ones raging in China, India, Brazil and other rapidly industrializing nations.
The Big Secret of The Election - Mitt Romney And Barack Obama Basically Agree On The Economy (NYT)

Of course they do, they're funded by the same people. A true economic debate is off the table because “there is no alternative.” And then there's this:
One Tea Party supporter wanted to raise taxes on the rich and strengthen entitlements, like Medicare and Social Security. The teacher’s assistant, who said she was voting for Romney, echoed these traditionally Democratic sentiments. She had never been able to figure out where either party stood on these issues, she told me."
People tend to assume people vote for Romney (or Bush or Obama) because of their policies. In reality, people have no idea what their policies are. Most voters are simpering idiots. Here's more proof:
In Reno, Nev., I spoke with Scott Cooksley, a 46-year-old former casino restaurant manager laid off in early 2008 as gamblers and home buyers started fleeing the city. Jobless and homeless, he lived in a park off of McCarran Boulevard in nearby Sparks. He told me about two important people in his life: Jesus Christ and Ronald Reagan. The latter might not have agreed with Cooksley’s call for government to intervene on behalf of workers.

“My grandparents went through the Depression, and they had the jobs programs, all the social programs,” he said. “Maybe all they were doing is giving people a room and food, but gosh darn, they were working, at least they felt better about themselves. Why can’t they do that here?”
Whom do the unemployed blame for being out of work? (WP)

So does anyone still think Americans are going to wise up and turn things around? Ever?
ELECTIONS are supposed to give us choices. We can reward incumbents or we can throw the bums out. We can choose Republicans or Democrats. We can choose conservative policies or progressive ones.

In most elections, however, we don’t get a say in something important: whether we’re governed by the rich. By Election Day, that choice has usually been made for us. Would you like to be represented by a millionaire lawyer or a millionaire businessman? Even in our great democracy, we rarely have the option to put someone in office who isn’t part of the elite.

Of course, many white-collar candidates care deeply about working-class Americans, those who earn a living in manual labor or service-industry jobs. Many are only a generation or two removed from relatives who worked in those fields. But why do so few elections feature candidates who have worked in blue-collar jobs themselves, at least for part of their lives? The working class is the backbone of our society, a majority of our labor force and 90 million people strong. Could it really be that not one former blue-collar worker is qualified to be president?

If millionaires were a political party, that party would make up roughly 3 percent of American families, but it would have a super-majority in the Senate, a majority in the House, a majority on the Supreme Court and a man in the White House. If working-class Americans were a political party, that party would have made up more than half the country since the start of the 20th century. But legislators from that party (those who last worked in blue-collar jobs before entering politics) would never have held more than 2 percent of the seats in Congress.

And these trends don’t stop at the federal level. Since the 1980s, the number of state legislators whose primary occupations are working-class jobs has fallen from 5 percent to 3 percent. In City Councils, fewer than 10 percent of members have blue-collar day jobs. Everywhere we look in government, almost no one with personal experience in working-class jobs has a seat at the table.
Which Millionaire Are Your Voting For? (NYT)

1 comment:

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.