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Conservatism to the Middle Class

On Peter Robinson’s thread about Mike Murphy yesterday, we read that Republicans have a problem with substance, in addition to packaging. The substance problem is what we’re saying to the middle class.*  

So, in the comments section, I asked: What exactly is the Republican message to the middle class? Thus far, several people liked my comment, which indicates they might have the same question. As yet, h…

  1. Merina Smith

    We need to make the point that the greatest income inequality is in the blue states, which are also going down the tubes fiscally.  Exhibit A: California.

  2. Guruforhire

    A bubble in labor is bursting.  There is no getting off of this ride, the best we can hope for is at least have jobs for people that pay something.

  3. Austin Murrey

    People are not willing to accept that the regulations that they believe protects them from eeeeevvvviiiiilllll doctors and insurance companies and the easy money they get from student loans are driving the costs of health care and education up.

    Frankly I am approaching the opinion that the government has become so divorced from the average person that the average person is incapable of actually understanding the impact of what the government does on their lives.

  4. Ross C

    I think our hope is to point toward states that have enacted “conservative” ideas like fiscally sustainable budgeting, right to work, etc. Over the next few years if convservative ideas mean anything, states like Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and even Michigan may forge ahead while California and Illinois call for federal government bailouts.

    Assuming that works and and Medicare and Medicaid turn south maybe we will have something to explain to people.  Right now I fear we just look mean and stingy compared to the democrats.

  5. The Mugwump

    The problem we have is that conservatism is based (at least in theory) on principles.  When you stand for principles that are unpopular with the public, you lose.  Mike Murphy seems to be suggesting that we abandon our principles for power.  Then what?  If that’s my ambition, why not just join the Democratic party?  I stand for right because it is right, not because it’s popular.  The truth remains the truth even if only one man knows it.  If average Americans want to embrace popular immorality, let them have at it.  There will be a price to pay.  Maybe the survivors will eventually wise up.  

  6. Schrodinger

    In some battles, there is a time when all you can and should do is hold your position and wait. Save your resources for a better time to counterattack.

    The GOP should just do nothing, vote present.

  7. Trace

    I think blasting crony capitalism is a winner – draw attention to Buffet and Schmidt benefiting from their FOB status.I think education is a HUGE winner. We have to make the case for school choice even more loudly and forcefully.I think arguing for a free market for healthcare is a winner. Increasingly the effects of Obamacare are going to be felt. We can’t give up on the idea that there is a better way. And his time we get to call it healthcare reform!I think simer taxes is a winner.I think arguing in favor of the efficiency and value of the private sector (FedEx) over the public sector (post office) is a winner. I think we suffer from half-measures thinly supported. We have to convince voters that the economy can actually grow and that 1.5% need not be the new normal.

  8. Fricosis Guy

    Both wings of our agenda are crippled among the economically vulnerable.  Plenty of the commenters have noted the immigration, education, and wage problems.

    However, half the problem is that these people are so lost or damaged.  Unfortunately, it isn’t the elites who are divorcing, shacking up, skipping church, etc.  Folks we used to call “good people” have are becoming “trash” and lost to us.  See Murray, Charles and Situation, The.

    Thankfully, some churchmen and churchwomen have started to realize that it’s the single mom with the screaming kids or the gruff mechanic that need the pews.  The CPA, his wife and kids will show up on their own.

  9. RICHARD QUIGLEY
    Trace: I think blasting crony capitalism is a winner – draw attention to Buffet and Schmidt benefiting from their FOB status.I think education is a HUGE winner. We have to make the case for school choice even more loudly and forcefully.I think arguing for a free market for healthcare is a winner. Increasingly the effects of Obamacare are going to be felt. We can’t give up on the idea that there is a better way. 

    Edited 9 minutes ago

    I’d have to agree with this. 

    Also are we talking equality/inequality of opportunity or income? This needs to be defined a little better.

  10. Eeyore

    KC, it seems to me that when we have the greatest inequality, we also have the richest poor people (in the world). As you attempt to close that gap, inevitably by throttling those at the top, the bottom inevitably gets worse off, 

    I know of no model analogous to the Laffer curve which predicts that there is some point of income equalization where taking from the top stops helping the bottom and begins to make make them worse off.

    As Margaret Thatcher demonstrated visually (esp. after 1;27), redistribution shrinks the whole pie, not simply change its allocation.

    Show me where I’m wrong, but it seems, unfortunately for the “great income inequality is bad” argument. the wider the gap, the richer the poorest are. It might change for the better, however, if the Government wasn’t so adamant about getting involved in micromanaging every jot and tittle of existence.

    BTW, this is from someone near the bottom of the ladder. I figure if O wasn’t trying to make the rich pay their “fair share”, they might invest in hiring me and I could drop Food Stamps.

  11. Fricosis Guy

    Yes, but the GOP have to throw their own cronies overboard as well.

    Trace: I think blasting crony capitalism is a winner – draw attention to Buffet and Schmidt benefiting from their FOB status.

     

  12. Fricosis Guy

    Which bubble is this?  The one where I can get all the Urumqi-based “developers” I want for $12/hr so long as I tell them exactly what to code? :-)

    Guruforhire: A bubble in labor is bursting.  There is no getting off of this ride, the best we can hope for is at least have jobs for people that pay something. · 4 hours ago

  13. RICHARD QUIGLEY
    Fricosis Guy: Yes, but the GOP have to throw their own cronies overboard as well.

    Trace: I think blasting crony capitalism is a winner – draw attention to Buffet and Schmidt benefiting from their FOB status.

      · 16 minutes ago

    Yes. All political grouping must forswear cronyism.  Is that going to happen? No. Not as long as there is a K street in Washington, DC. Not as long as elected representatives put themselves up as providers of largess to their electorates. Not as long as voters can be bought.

  14. R. Craigen

    Your title generates cognitive dissonance for me.  As I understand conservatism it is about personal responsibility, universal opportunity, rewarded initiative, punished crime, wise use of resources and preservation of societal values.

    It is not class conscious at all.  “Conservatism for the middle class” is sort of like “Poetry for left-handed people” or “Shintoism for the hearing impaired”.  Huh?

    I grew up in a seriously poor family of 6 kids.  My parents didn’t have indoor plumbing until all of us had grown up and they retired and moved into a trailer.  Now I am well into my career as a professor at a major Canadian university and my own kids have grown up.  I have known need and I have known plenty.  I have known the “bottom of the barrel” of society and hob-nobbed with the elite.  I have experienced both fame and obscurity.  But my basic values … those that undergird my conservatism … have remained constant.    What has my socioeconomic class have to do with this?  In my view that is a category barely even acknowledged in conservatism.  Why frame our worldview according to Marxist categories?

  15. R. Craigen
    Trace: I think blasting crony capitalism is a winner – draw attention to Buffet and Schmidt benefiting from their FOB status.I think education is a HUGE winner. We have to make the case for school choice even more loudly and forcefully.I think arguing for a free market for healthcare is a winner. ….I think arguing in favor of the efficiency and value of the private sector (FedEx) over the public sector (post office) is a winner. I think we suffer from half-measures thinly supported. 

    I agree 100% with Trace here.  And I’d like to add:  None of these are particular “middle class” issues.  They are “everyone” issues.  If only conservatives would be full-throated about their values and stop toying with centrist wishy-washiness we’d have a lot of winners that appeal across all sectors of society.  How about this principle:  Pick those issues in our value system that resonate across the majority of society (ignoring special constituencies!), go all in on those and message them with a microphone. Trace has a good starting list here. If we’ve got other issues that resonate less, perhaps they should go on the backburner.  

  16. Dan Hanson

    Also, we have to draw a sharp distinction between income and wealth equality and income and wealth mobility.

    Inequality is bad in a system where people are not able to move between income quintiles.  Class warfare works best when people born into a class stay in that class.

    Conservatives believe in mobility, in the ability to move up in income if you work hard enough.   We can and should make the case that while Democrats implement programs that are ostensibly designed to help equalize incomes, they do so at the price of mobility.    

    If all your capital is taxed away, how are you supposed to open that business you’ve been dreaming of?   If barriers to entry are erected across the economy with regulations and taxes, how are people supposed to lift themselves up?   Do you really want to have to lobby the government or deal with a government bureaucracy every time you want to do something to improve your life?  

    Where would Silicon Valley be if all those venture capitalists who built the place had no capital to venture with because it was all taxed away by the government?  How many incomes has Silicon Valley lifted up?

  17. KC Mulville
    Eeyore: KC, it seems to me that when we have thegreatest inequality, we also have therichest poor people (in the world). As you attempt to close that gap, inevitably by throttling those at the top, the bottom inevitably gets worse off, 

    Is the only way to close the gap to throttle those at the top?

    I think Barro does make a point: who cares if you’re richer than you were … if the costs of living are growing faster than you can keep up? As Barro says: “The problem with rising inequality is not that lower-income families can’t afford ever-cheaper electronics; it’s that they can’t keep pace with the rising costs of health care, education and (in certain parts of the country) housing.”

    The problem is, first, that we can’t pay the bills. An iPad is a lot cheaper these days, but I don’t need iPads to live. I need car insurance, heat, gas … basics. They’re nearly unaffordable.

    Second, we note that our income hasn’t risen to meet those bills, even if we work hard and we’ve improved productivity. 

    That’s where the pressure comes from.

  18. KC Mulville
    R. Craigen: Your title generates cognitive dissonance for me. 

    It is not class conscious at all.  

    Jay Nordlinger agrees with you, and I agree with you. Nordlinger said as much on a recent podcast.

    However, I was replying to the articles I cited, which argue that Republicans lost the election chiefly because there is something disconcerting about the basic conservative economic message to the vast majority of voters, who are neither entrepreneurs nor are indigent on welfare. The articles referred to those people as the middle class; I just figured the damage of that term had already been done, so I used the term as they used it.

  19. KC Mulville

    My own experience, as a database developer, is that my situation gets better only when there are so many jobs out there that it becomes a job-seeker’s advantage in the market. That’s when my wages go up.

    As it is now, my employer hasn’t given raises in two years, and there hasn’t been much job movement. That’s when it gets irritating when they publish reports that upper management is getting whopping raises. 

    The volume of jobs in any given industry is what forces employers to pay more. 

  20. Guruforhire

    There is no getting off this ride.  For a long time the price of labor went up more than productivity did, now labor is returning.  This is a market correction.

    Also,

    With globalization the effect of huge global companies means that the incomes of the owners/managers scale with the size of the organization and not the input labor.

    The input labor is tied to productivity, and not to the scale of the organization.

    This is an unsolvable problem.

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