Why Doesn’t The Middle Class Revolt?

Why isn't the American middle class and working class angrier at the 1 percent?

Bernard Finel is frustrated with Scott Walker’s handily surviving his recall fight.

Here we have a case — a clear case documented in the Scott Walker’s own words — of a governor lying to the public, using a false pretense to launch an assault on public employees, and doing so in coordination with a reactionary billionaire from out of state… and yet, he wins. I mean, wow.

[…]

It is almost as if the American middle class and working class wants to get screwed over by moneyed interests.

He dismisses the Democratic talking point that Walker’s win was mostly a function of Big Money giving him an unfair advantage, instead seeing something more deeply rooted in our culture. Despite all the attention that the Occupy movement shined on the divide between “the 99 percent” and the top one percent, Americans by and large just don’t resent the rich.  The conventional explanation is that most Americans aspire to be rich themselves and think, perhaps falsely, that they have the same opportunity as everyone else to do so. Bernard rejects this:

I think the more important dynamic is that poverty and wealthy now provide different visuals and different visibility.

Let’s talk poverty first. I think one of the key changes in poverty over the past several decades is that it is just generally less shabby. There was a time when the poor could be readily identified — tatteredclothes, poor nutrition, desperate material privation. When the “War on Poverty” was announced in the 1960s, the face of the poor was the rural poor is Appalachia.

But, as right-wingers constantly note, being poor in American in 2012 is a different thing on the whole. Aside from the homeless, even poor Americans now have running water, electricity. They have, if not designer clothes, at least presentable ones thanks to Wal-Mart. They have a lot of material goods — TVs, appliances, cars.

Now, the essence of poverty is not much different. The oppressive weight of never quite getting caught up on bills, the constant stress knowing that one is operating right on the margin, where any illness, any layoff, can blow everything up. There is that sense of being trapped because better education seems unaffordable, unachievable. There is frustration at being unable to provide ones kids with enrichment opportunities — sports, music, camps, travel.

What makes poverty oppressive in modern societies, in short, is increasingly invisible. For a middle class family, the poor look a lot like them. Middle class folks live in nicer communities with better schools, but that is easy enough to blame on people not caring about their communities or being bad parents. But the face of poverty has changed, and the real grinding aspects of it are now mostly captured by psychological dynamics — stress, anxiety, frustration, resignation — rather than physical privation.

This is all true. But it bolsters the conservative argument rather than showing it based on illusion. The working poor have what not too long ago was considered a middle class lifestyle. Indeed, the lifestyle that Bernard describes is the one that I grew up with in the 1970s: we had a decent roof over our head, enough to eat, and a few luxuries–but we were living paycheck to paycheck and didn’t have money left over for vacations and the like. That the bar for middle class living has since been raised and those well under it still feel a strong relative deprivation means that the psychological oppression of poverty remains. But most of those we define as “poor” are at least spared the physical deprivation that used to come with that label.

On the flip side, I don’t think most middle class people have any idea about how the wealthy live. They live behind gated communities, vacation in exclusive hotels that are priced so that only people of means can stay, they just move in different social circles. Boats, vacation homes in exclusive areas, private schools that cost more than the annual income of many families, and so on also serve to create distance.

But that’s always been the case.

Yachts have always been a luxury good; they likely always will be. Ditto, fancy private schools. The Kennedys, Rockefellers, and Bushes were never sending their kids off to school with the hoi polloi. Even in my neighborhood, there are $40,000 a year academies–and they’re just day schools. And the rich have always lived in houses that normal people could only dream of.

Indeed, I’d argue that the gap has been lowered dramatically in recent years. The rapid proliferation of technology has driven the price down to the point where even the lower middle class has the latest smart phones, sophisticated automotive and home entertainment gizmos, and other luxuries that used to mark success. So, the rich have a Lexus rather than the comparable Toyota or wear Zegna rather than Jos. A. Bank; those are really pretty small differences.

Take vacations, for example. In the 1960s, when the early James Bond flicks were made, the notion of jetting off to the Bahamas or Jamaica was wildly exotic. Now, those places are teeming with working class American tourists. Hell, air travel alone has democratized radically in my memory–so much so that, even aside from the indignities of airport security, it feels like one is riding a bus.

For that matter, living in a mini-mansion in a gated community is  several steps down from owning your own estate, well out of eyesight of even your rich neighbors, and surrounded by a staff of servants.

The only difference is that Bernard now travel in circles–as do I–from which we can see how the other half–or, really, half of the one percent–live. I can’t afford to live that way, but I’ve had bosses and otherwise rub shoulders with people who do. But those people have always existed.

In terms of the more fundamental question, middle- and working-class Americans aren’t overly concerned about the fate of the poor or the relative luxury of the rich because that’s not their reference point. The poor are “hidden” because most of them really aren’t all that poor. And the rich are perceived to have gotten there either through genuine hard work, which is to be admired, or through inheritance, natural gifts, or other strokes of good fortune which are to be tolerated.

For people to demand change, they’ll have to first come to believe that the game is rigged. Right now, Americans think that they live in the Land of Opportunity–a country where, to an extent not possible anywhere else in the world, people can climb their way to the top through a combination of talent and hard work. The fact that this isn’t true and hasn’t been for quite some time really doesn’t matter; it hasn’t yet altered popular perception. (The same is true, by the way, of our health care system, which is by almost no measure “the best in the world.”)

It looked for a little while there that Occupy was going to help get that message out–and that the Democrats were going to seize on their rhetoric and message–but that doesn’t seem to have happened. Indeed, Democratic stalwarts from Bill Clinton to Cory Booker have fought back at attempts by the Obama machine or the party apparatus to paint venture capitalism as an ignoble venture.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    Why doesn’t the Middle Class Revolt?

    I’d say that they are revolting, they’re electing people who are dedicated to: reducing taxes for the most wealthy among us, and privatizing MediCare and shifting more health care expenses on to the middle class.

  2. Why Doesn’t The Middle Class Revolt?

    Because they’re aware that history shows that the middle class tend to be the one that suffers the most in a revolution?

  3. Dave-0 says:

    Let’s look at some 1%-ers to see who they are:
    Joy Behar, Net worth $8m
    Bill Maher – $23m
    Anna Wintour – $40m
    Alec Baldwin – $65m
    Chris Rock – $70m
    Jon Bon Jovi – $125m
    Beyonce Knowles – $300m
    Etc, etc.
    -and-
    Barack Obama – $10m

    Yep, pretty much the folks griping about the 1% *are8 the 1% themselves. A better example of Liberal self-loathing you’d be hard pressed to find.

  4. James H says:

    I sit roughly at the lower upper end of the middle class. I earn better money than a lot of people, but I have commensurate expenses. I am fully aware that the game is rigged, as you put it. Yeah, it’s frustrating as hell. But at the same time, I’m not up in arms about it. Why?

    First, I’m actually in a pretty decent place. While my lifestyle isn’t ideal, it’s better than it was years ago, and while I’m not going to make it into the upper upper class, much less the lower upper class, I’m still content with where I am and I don’t need more. My motivation to hit the streets with my rendition of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” is pretty low.

    And second … if I’m going to keep myself in a decent place, and even advance myself, then I need to focus my energy my career. That means improving my knowledge, improving my skills, strategic schmoozing with superiors, and so forth. I’m fully aware I’m never going to reach Romney levels of financial success. But with hard work, I think I can be moderately successful in my chosen vocation. And this precludes joining the Glorious Revolution.

    I suspect a lot of people are in a similar circumstance, sympathetic toward the motivations of the Occupy crowd and of the poor … but at the same time, not bad enough off to be motivated to press for systemic change.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    @Dave-0:

    A better example of Liberal self-loathing you’d be hard pressed to find.

    How is it self loathing to want our taxes to support the government we use? Why is it self loathing to want to pay more taxes to ensure the viability of Medicare and Social Security, or fund higher education, or fund important scientific research?

  6. Your thesis, that the poor have better lives, is contra the data in Steven’s post.

    I’m not saying that we should only care about the bottom 10 or 20 percent, but I’d say that how a nation works for the bottom half, the bottom 50 percent, is a good measure of both prosperity and compassion.

    And also, perhaps more importantly, I think there is a psychological and cultural holdover to days when there was greater and growing prosperity.

    I betcha, that if I dropped this one factoid, people would just rejected it, and believe it can’t be true, because we were raised to believe otherwise:

    Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe.

    How do you process that, James? Do we go with our gut?

  7. Oh yeah, just down-vote uncomfortable truths.

    That is politics in 2012, isn’t it?

  8. We used to be a nation of doers, who succeeded, and prided ourselves on being the best.

    Now we are a nation of stubborn losers, who insist on calling ourselves the best, rejecting better ideas, with the hidden and sullen fear that our path is the best we can do.

  9. al-Ameda says:

    @john personna:

    We used to be a nation of doers, who succeeded, and prided ourselves on being the best.

    Now we are a nation of stubborn losers, who insist on calling ourselves the best, rejecting better ideas, with the hidden and sullen fear that our path is the best we can do.

    Exactly right. I cannot say it any more clearly than you did.

  10. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: Not sure which data and which Steven post you’re referring to? As to the social mobility gap, that’s what the last two paragraphs of the post are about: perception hasn’t caught up to reality.

  11. @James Joyner:

    OK, I admit a skimming error 😉

    I thought I had enough data.

  12. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: Ha! The mobility thing is a problem and it’s one I’ve lamented on this blog quite a bit over the years. The game being rigged through rent-seeking is a big problem. But even beyond that, the children of the rich and well-educated start off with a tremendous advantage in that they have an easier path to the best schools, can afford post-school unpaid internships, and–maybe most importantly of all–simply know how important it is to go to the best schools and do unpaid internships.

  13. @john personna: Well, in fairness, James notes this very point.

    I guess where I disagree with James is the notion that the poor are not really poor. I think the issue of poverty ends up being one of being trapped. And there are many people who are, really trapped. Not because they are lazy — though some are. And not because they are incapable — though some are. But rather because through some circumstances which are not always in our control, they are now in a situation where, even running as fast as they can, they can barely keep up. We’re not in Zimbabwe here. I don’t think we need to conceive of poverty as living in rags with distended bellies.

    Poverty in the United States is a situation where people cannot — or at least usually cannot — break out of their circumstances due to structural impediments. And their inability to achieve their goals serves to impoverish all of us, as it wastes human capital.

    The issue is that the working poor are essentially invisible, but not fundamentally less poor for it. They are still trapped.

  14. Bennett says:

    They can’t revolt because a revolution has become impossible. The middle and lower classes possess none of the means of control over society, other than mass protest and violence, which we know would either be laughed at by our so-called “elites”, or pepper sprayed until we go back to our Ipads and finish Angry Birds. We have the vote, but when one has to be independently wealthy to run as a candidate, the only ones to vote for are those who are not in your socio-economic group. When left-wing populism is reduced to “socialism, communism, Marxism”, and right wing populism is “patriotism, responsibility”, it is no wonder we just accept our plebian fates.

  15. @James Joyner:

    When I was in a particular job a few years ago, the punch line among OC conservatives was always “or you could go to Canada!”

    You know, something funny happened in the last 20 years. They kicked our butts a lot of ways. They have higher happiness (subjective well-being). They have lower cost health care. They have longer lives. They have, as we’ve mentioned, more mobility.

    They also managed to avoid a credit crisis and a real estate crash.

    Of course “they suck, we’re the best” … right?

  16. James, one thing I think needs to be taken into account is this: a huge part of the higher standard of living (exotic vacations, first-class electronics, etc) that the middle class in enjoying now but didn’t enjoy in your childhood or mine is due to massive loads of debt they have taken on. Less so in the past three or four years, of course, but still, a huge proportion of living larger than before has been because of much higher consumer debt.

    At the same time, the gap in quality of goods between what the one percent buy and what you and I buy has narrowed considerably. Take common household items, for example bedding, something everyone needs whether rich or poor. A couple of years ago my wife and I bought a dual-mode, electrically-adjustable mattress and foundation set with a 20-year warranty for $2,400 that would not have been available at any price even for the one percent not so many years ago. (Yes, I paid cash.)

    I think one reason that consumer debt has rocketed since we were kids is that the actual essentials of life are more affordable than ever, leaving most families with more disposable income to leverage to live larger. Add that more households now than then have two full-time earners and the ratio rises even more.

    I think, though, that if we accept your new definition of “poor” as not being so much the lack of materiality than of living on the edge of financial meltdown, then a lot more people are poor than ever. I have known quite a few people with decidedly middle-class incomes who are poor by that definition because they never learned financial discipline and spend almost all of what they bring home. I am astounded at the number of people I have known over the years who make north of $50K and yet have told me that they don’t even have $2,000 in the bank.

    I remember what a woman told me who had worked more than 20 years in a welfare office in West. Va. “Poverty is a habit,” she said, and not usually because of lack of financial or material resources.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    Joyner answered his rheorical question in the last couple paragraphs. It’s largely a timing issue. The present is OK, the threat is in the future. The period of prosperity, growth, and genuine small d democracy we enjoyed from the end of the Depression may be ending. If current trends continue Finel’s past poverty of

    Tattered clothes, poor nutrition, desperate material privation.

    will be back and the middle class above this will be small. But the average voter doesn’t see this yet.

    Our supposedly liberal media are greatly at fault for accepting conservative frames and conservative narratives. Most people believe the recession is like rain, it just happened, or they blame poor brown people defaulting on mortgages. They don’t blame the .01% bankers who really caused it. People believe the nonsense about job creators and low taxes on the rich. They aren’t aware that social mobility has fallen. Ressentiment against supposedly over paid union workers is too easy to gin up. Nobody’s going to revolt until the situation becomes obvious.

  18. mike says:

    Maybe they want to become a 1%er.

  19. As an aside, the rich don’t buy Lexus (pl?). They buy McLarens.

    (or, as humorously related, they have the handyman ferry golf clubs out in his truck, so that they can take the Tesla.)

  20. @gVOR08:

    The present is OK, the threat is in the future.

    This is what bothers me about the other thread, reduction in pension benefits to government workers.

    On the one hand I quite agree that government benefits got ahead of the private sector (for the low and middle class), and that “in the present” an adjustment seems reasonable.

    The thing is, if private sector wages and benefits fall again, do we adjust again? And repeat?

    It strikes me that this path might be different than what other happy and successful countries do.

  21. c.red says:

    Well I would hazard a guess that the middle class just doesn’t feel hopeless. The lifestyle of most middle people is better than the expectations of their youth -they grew upon stories of privation and crushing poverty of depression and ww2, or repressive dystopia’s that were regularly speculated about in the 80s and 90s. We don’t have either of those to the point people go out looking for them and making them up to feel validated. It will be interesting when the current youthful generationgrowing u with high expectations is regularly dissappointed.

    Doesn’t mean that the loss of the middle class isn’t creeping up on us – how many people are trapped in a job because they need healthcare or need a second job to make ends meet? How often is inflation out pacing pay raises? How many people have been locked out of credit needed to get a house or better skills? How many people have given up fighting the system even when justified because tthe other side has lawyers and they don’t? Companies (and governments) institute ‘cost savings’ but the material benefits of the measures always seem dissappear into shareholders pockets and ceo pay and never trickle down to the people maling the actual sacrifices.

  22. James Joyner says:

    @Bernard Finel: I agree that a large number of people are trapped, in the sense of having neither the obvious means of getting out from their present circumstances or even a real understanding of what it would take to do so. But that’s, oddly, the type of problem that’s more likely to be on the radar screen of the upper middle class and wealthy–who have both the consciousness and the time to think about it–than of the working- and middle-class voters.

    @Bennett: That’s increasingly problematic. On so many issues, there’s not any substantive choice presented by the two party system. Aside from economic issues, see military intervention in the world’s trouble spots.

    @Donald Sensing: Easy credit is fantastic in theory but it has created a mess for most.

    @john personna: The very, very, very rich yes. There are cars out there that cost more than my house–and my house ain’t cheap. Or, at least, it wasn’t when we bought it. But at the 1% level, households with, say, a lawyer and a bank manager, they’re driving a Lexus or a BMW or a Mercedes, not some exotic car.

  23. c.red says:

    Sorry for the many typo’s commenting from my phone.

  24. Mikey says:

    @john personna: I saw a political cartoon not long ago. Two guys sitting at a bar, each crying into his beer. One labeled “public employee,” the other “private employee.”

    The public employee says, “They’re cutting our pension!”

    The private employee replies, “What’s a pension?”

  25. jan says:

    @Donald Sensing:

    I think, though, that if we accept your new definition of “poor” as not being so much the lack of materiality than of living on the edge of financial meltdown, then a lot more people are poor than ever. I have known quite a few people with decidedly middle-class incomes who are poor by that definition because they never learned financial discipline and spend almost all of what they bring home. I am astounded at the number of people I have known over the years who make north of $50K and yet have told me that they don’t even have $2,000 in the bank.

    You’ve hit on an important point — how self-discipline, and budgeting what one has to fit into their own given lifestyle, plays into the scheme of poor/wealthy definitions.

    Many people want to be rich. So, much of the money coming their way is invested in creating that image or lifestyle. They lease the luxury cars, buy the latest technical gaget, iphone, xbox, designer clothes. Their kids go to the best colleges. On the outside, they appear to be thriving. But, on the inside they are in debt over their ear lobes, living on credit. People don’t save. Like the government, most only know how to spend; and the more money they make, the more of it they spend. Then they look at ‘the rich,’ coveting their easy ability to have it all, sans the worries of how to pay for it all.

    The lesson I learned, early on, was not to be envious of another’s wealth nor try to keep up with the so-called ‘Jones,’ in showing off a lifestyle representative of our earnings. Consequently, my husband and I have been able to pay off debts, grow a business, be content with who we are, and not get caught up in any ‘status’ games.

  26. Scott says:

    @Dave-0: Irrelevant

  27. Scott says:

    @john personna: Public sector benefits did not get ahead of private sector. It is that the private sector is falling behind. Overall compensation of private sector employee (including pensions) are pretty much flat. The trouble with pensions is that neither private or public pensions were fully funded up front and we are paying for that now.

  28. jan says:

    @Mikey:

    “The public employee says, “They’re cutting our pension!”

    The private employee replies, “What’s a pension?”

    Exactly!

    And, that’s probably what many voters in yesterday’s WI recall, were asking themselves, when considering the so-called plight of being asked to cry in the beer of the public sector employees, by voting out a reformist governor.

  29. john personna says:

    @Scott:

    Do you think that normal working folks ever had the “retire at 70% salary” that my dad, as a teacher and school administrator, enjoyed?

    Now, in his day wages were lower too, and that made a bit of a balance. What happened in the 90’s and 00’s is that wages became “competitive” while benefits rose even higher, keyed as they were off wage.

  30. jan says:

    @Scott:

    The problem with public sector employees is that their benefits are guaranteed under their defined benefits package. No matter what turmoil the economy is in their monies are consequently immune to any fiscal roller coasters. This isn’t true, of course, for anyone in the private sector. And, they not only have to task their own financial problems, in down times, but must take on the burdens of complying with and keeping up the pensions/benefits of those in the public sector.

    With all the conversations of ‘fairness,’ these days, I don’t think it’s fair that such a burden be a forever more, politically correct policy.

  31. john personna says:

    @jan:

    There were fairly wide swaths of the private sector who did enjoy defined benefits plans at one point … rank and file workers at top corporations, public utilities, union manufacturing.

    I disagree with Scott that they were ever as well positioned as teachers, etc., but they did pretty well.

    That those have been rolled back to the 401K probably is not a societal win, overall. We have a generation heading into retirement with …

    Actually, no. We have a generation who says they expect to keep on working, because they don’t have the 401K balance.

  32. WR says:

    @jan: It’s not true in the private sector because the pension plans — which were actually contracted deferred salary — were looted by CEOs and handed to stockholders and executives.

  33. Drew says:

    I’ve always lived by a credo: look to the obvious first. And the obvious is that Bernard has no clue, and no solution that will actually help the less well off.

    He may be a stud on foreign policy, but he’s a zero on business and economics. And I mean a complete and total zero.

    I don’t mince words.

  34. mannning says:

    Whether you use quantiles or broad class deliniations such as lower, mid- and upper-middle class, the key issue must be jobs at all levels that yield the money needed to live and advance. Jobs started being difficult to find in many areas of the nation some years ago, as least a decade, as the main drivers of the economy began to slow down, such as housing, autos, and general construction, to name some big ones. This undercuts the lower classes first, and the middle classes second. Upper classes, especially at the elite levels, have simply driven their Caddys, Rolls, or Jaguars another year, postponed buying a bigger home, and perhaps not replaced a departing servant or two, or thought it best not to travel as much.

    Entrepreneurs have reined in their expectations throughout the Obama years, I believe, because of the twin question marks of healthcare cost uncertainties and regulation impacts whose full costs on all manner of enterprises have yet to be well-understood. Manufacturers, likewise see uncertainty in the market and have reduced their output and their staffing. Consumers have done the same, and reined in their outlays because of a lack of confidence in the market and job insecurity. The looming yearly Trillion dollar debits and Multi-Trillion dollar national debt have had their impact on confidence across the board as well, all of which seriously affects the job picture.

    Thus, it isn’t surprising that over the past decade upward mobility has suffered and has left many trapped in their class through lack of money. Opportunities for advancement have not been as available to them, and even the job they held has been at risk, witness the approximate 14 million unemployed, including those who have given up looking, as well as the 8.2% officially recorded.

    To highten the difficulties, many were encouraged to commit to mortgages that ended up being a foreclosure millstone around their necks, because of bankers being goaded by the government into handing out money to millions of dubious customers, and then selling the bundled mortgage papers to the world with disastrous results in the depression and job losses that followed.

    Jobs==>money==>education==>better jobs==>more money==>better lifestyle==>upward mobility…..but this chain has been broken, seemingly at every transition.

  35. Eric Florack says:

    There’s a revolt scheduled for November.
    And what was Walker’s victory but a revolt against the Union/Democrat/Socialist cabal?

  36. Jib says:

    Because revolutions are not started by old men worried about their health care. They are started by young people who have too much time on their hand and not much hope of that changing any time soon.

    As they have for decades, the aging baby boomers distort what is going on. Being within a few years of retirement and realizing your financially f$%ked is not a good time to man the barricades.

    People dont change their core beliefs once they have formed. For the boomers, those core beliefs formed during the 70’s have been that govt taxes and regulation is the problem, free markets will make us all rich, etc, etc. It is very hard for a 60 year old to look at the financial wreckage of a life time and say “Boy I really screwed that up! Lets change the world!” It much easier to think “Man, if they just lowered taxes one more time, just reduced regulations one more time… please God, give us one more stock market boom, please gives us one more real estate boom and I will be fine”

    The revolution is coming. It is in the younger people, people who have enough time to beneift from any change. Every year there will more of them and less boomers. Just like the changes in political theory that occurred in the 70’s did not take hold until the 90’s when most of the people who lived through the depression were gone. this revolution will take 20 years until it peaks. .

  37. john personna says:

    @mannning:

    Written for “planet America” with zero globalization.

    The “storified” morality tale does not fit Apple, sales, earnings, investment hand over fist, but a capitulation on US manufacturing.

    Your tale is for a lost age.

  38. “attempts by the Obama machine or the party apparatus to paint venture capitalism as an ignoble venture.”

    No one did that.

    People argued that Gov. Romney was not, in fact, a job creator, not in the private sector, nor as governor.

    What’s more, the criticism wasn’t about venture capital at all; it was about Bain’s practices investing in existing firms.

  39. “the criticism wasn’t about venture capital at all; it was about Bain’s practices investing in existing large, successful firms”, I should have written above.

  40. Rob in CT says:

    Well, I can’t answer the question in general, because “middle class” is a pretty big category, especially since everyone has differing definitions.

    Am I middle class? On the one hand, I’d call myself upper middle class or somesuch. But if we’re in the top ~5% of the population in terms of wealth, is it right to label that “middle” anything?

    Moving on: for me, it’s because I’m fat and happy. My wife and I are making really good money in comfortable jobs, we have a lovely home, etc. I get fired up about politics, I think the game is indeed rigged and I think that’s a problem, but at the end of the day I just don’t have the motivations required to put a pitchfork in my hand (note: would have to buy pitchfork). This rigged game has worked out rather well for me.

    I think the rigged game is, ultimately, going to result in serious problems that threaten my sweet, sweet deal and for that reason combined with some basic altruism, I favor policy changes, sure.

    But this is true, right here:

    Because revolutions are not started by old men worried about their health care. They are started by young people who have too much time on their hand and not much hope of that changing any time soon.

    Revolutions are typically made from mass youth unemployment and hopelessness. We’re not there (yet, anyway).

    I could quibble with a few bits of your post, James, but I’ll pass. It strikes me as basically right and I’ll leave it at that.

  41. Rob in CT says:

    I suppose someone should note something that usually surfaces in such discussions:

    Divide and conquer works rather well. Stuff is messed up? It’s because that school teacher is making too much money. [I do happen to think that negotiating an adjustment in compensation for public employees was fine, but I distinguish that from efforts to break the unions such that they will have diminished bargaining power in the future].

    People grouse about things like insane CEO pay and such, but basically nobody thinks direct action to curb it is acceptable (this includes me). Whereas school teachers are paid by the state, so direct action to curb their pay is pretty straightforward.

  42. @Rob in CT:

    People grouse about things like insane CEO pay and such, but basically nobody thinks direct action to curb it is acceptable (this includes me).

    If we eliminated things like the rent seeking, log rolling, and regulatory capture that allow artificially enlarged corporations to sustain themselves, this problem would likely take care of itself. A market with lots of little companies is better off than one with a few big ones, and would require them to be more efficient to stay competetive.

  43. al-Ameda says:

    @jan:
    Walker will retire with a substantial public pension
    As will the public safety employees he exempted
    From the collective bargaining take way

  44. Rob in CT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I’m in favor of trying that approach, though I’m not as optimistic as you are about the results even if we somehow (against the odds) succeeded.

  45. grumpy realist says:

    @jan: So what you’re saying is that contracts with public employees should be torn up as soon as the other side feels like it? It’s not the public employees that didn’t put the money into the pension funds, it was the state governments. So the state governments spent all the money in the kitty beforehand and now the promises are falling due and you want to be able to tear up all the promises and say: “sorry, not my problem”?

    Funny, all you conservatives keep talking about the sanctity of contracts, but I never see you people stick to it when it’s a public employee.

  46. Tsar Nicholas says:

    For people to demand change, they’ll have to first come to believe that the game is rigged. Right now, Americans think that they live in the Land of Opportunity–a country where, to an extent not possible anywhere else in the world, people can climb their way to the top through a combination of talent and hard work. The fact that this isn’t true and hasn’t been for quite some time really doesn’t matter; it hasn’t yet altered popular perception. (The same is true, by the way, of our health care system, which is by almost no measure “the best in the world.”)

    That graf and the article to which it makes reference embody quite amazing combinations of ignorance, irony, half-truths, non-sequiturs and faulty reasoning.

    The ignorance element is as such: Anyone who works for a living in the private sector encounters people nearly each day who’ve built themselves up via talent and hard work from nothing into quite more than something. There are major differences between college campuses or media newsrooms, on the one hand, and the front lines of American industry. You have to break out of the cocoon in order to see what’s out there.

    The irony component is that the cited article and the underlying studies on which it’s base are focused on the U.S. income gap, which is substantial precisely because urban minorities for decades have been locked in vicious cycles of dependence upon the government, as a result of left-wing policies espoused by the post-1960’s version of the Democrat Party, which in turn has resulted in various urban jurisdictions voting in lockstep for liberal Democrats.

    The half-truth element is that the income gap only tells part of the story. Wealth is not only a function of relative incomes. In how many other countries do the members of the true middle class regularly own 401(k) plans, IRAs, mutual funds, annuities, DRIPs, ESOPs, whole life insurance with substantial cash value, and their own homes, not to mention qualified pension and profit sharing plans?

    The non-sequitur element lies in that ad hominem reference to the U.S. healthcare system. 1+1 does not = 4 and, in any event, on the merits, the care offered by the U.S. healthcare system if not literally the best in the world is pretty darn close. Ask any wealthy Canadian or European with a major health problem. Better yet, ask any wealthy Canadian or European post surgery at any one of several dozen U.S. hospitals. They’ll tell you.

    The problem with the U.S. healthcare system is cost control, not quality of care. Now we’re back to the irony component. The cost control problem inherent in the U.S. healthcare system largely is a function of left-wing policy decisions. We substantially could contain costs if we block granted Medicaid, engaged in fundamental tort reforms, especially med. mal. lawsuit reforms and litigation reforms for the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, if we expanded the HSA program, and if we aggressively rooted out fraud in Medicare and Medicaid. Whom do you suppose is preventing all that? Rinse, cycle, repeat.

    The faulty reasoning prong lies in the fact that if the game truly was “rigged,” then perceptions would be based upon that “reality.” How dumb and idealistic do you believe the American public to be? Obviously the fact that perception directly is contrary is a pretty good indicator that that premise is wrong, not that the perceptions are wrong.

  47. grumpy realist says:

    Actually, I think we Baby Boomers should get scared, very scared. I’m at the tail end of the Baby Boom and realize full well that the money will run out of the kitty before it gets around to me. At some point you had better start worrying about the country you are leaving to your grandchildren, because if it gets bad enough what’s going to stop them from just coming up and taking it?

    Laws get obeyed for the most part only when people feel they are fair. If we get to a situation where we have a multitude of young, poor people having to sacrifice for what they see as a bunch of rich geezers who have rigged the laws in their favor, expect fireworks…..

    The reason why the US should worry about the continued health of the middle class is that it’s countries without a middle class that have revolutions….

  48. Scott F. says:

    James –

    I’d argue that the gap has been lowered dramatically in recent years. The rapid proliferation of technology has driven the price down to the point where even the lower middle class has the latest smart phones, sophisticated automotive and home entertainment gizmos, and other luxuries that used to mark success.

    The falling costs of (some) goods has been like manna from heaven for the rich. Affordable smart phones and wide-screen TVs are the 21st century equivalent of the “bread and circuses” of ancient Rome. They are a distraction to keep the middle and lower classes from giving too much attention to what is the truly pernicious inequality – not inequality of wealth, but the commensurate inequality of power. It is grossly unequal power that leads to grossly unequal rules (rent seeking, regulatory capture, etc.) that keeps the rich entrenched in their advantages. It is no surprise there is no longer mobility. It is by design.

  49. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    Now that must be the problem–those who think that my “story” is for a lost generation! I note that there is no specific refutation of what I wrote, most likely because every bit of it is true. It is quite obvious that there will be success stories even in the worst of times.

    But it doen’t fit the current liberal story line. We must insert revolution into the equation as good Marxists always do! There will be no revoution outside of the normal political changes that will occur in November. That is what America is all about, and has been for 230 or so years.

  50. john personna says:

    @mannning:

    Apple was the counter-example. The #1 or #2 in US market cap. Not a source pf US jobs. Not a GM. GM was of your lost era.

  51. george says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I think Stormy got it right in the second comment – it’s harder to revolt when you’ve got a roof over your head and a full belly, and reasonable prospects of having the same tomorrow … though they could potentially gain a lot, they also have a lot to lose, and that makes people cautious about betting it all on one throw of the revolutionary dice.

    Even the poor aren’t starving – which is why there aren’t general strikes and unemployed marching into police gun fire like there was in the ’30’s. Oddly enough, much of what the GOP seems to want is a return to those conditions, where the lack of any sort of public safety net will make people once again desperate enough to risk everything for real change.

  52. Scott O. says:

    If there were a propaganda machine like Fox and talk radio telling people that the Godless fascist evil rich were destroying the country instead of the Godless communist evil teachers, maybe there would be a revolt.

  53. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    Give Apple its due. Too bad that there aren’t a lot more of those kinds of success stories! One such “counter-example” (to what I am not sure) does not make a strong argument. Show me several hundred resounding success stories in today’s economic mess after three+ years of Trillions spent largely for nothing.

    I would add Google and a few other web firms to the success pot, but they aren’t moving the main jobless count (8.2% by government count, 14% by adding those who gave up) downwards by much.

    As I said, there are obviously a few success stories to be found regardless of the current state of the economy.

  54. Ben Wolf says:

    @mannning: Are you high, or do you literally not understand that there was a thing called “The American Revolution”, which launched the greatest social and political experiment in history to that point?

    The Founders would have been just fine with Marx.

  55. Racehorse says:

    There is a revolt that is beginning – against Mayor Bloomberg’s soft drink laws.

  56. john personna says:

    @mannning:

    Don’t miss the point of the Apple/GM comparison. At its peak, in the old universe, GM was the world’s largest employer. It had 600,000 workers in 1979, more than any other company. In those days the US jobs tension was indeed workers versus bosses, and about internal US political and economic forces.

    Today Apple, now our largest company by market cap, employs only about 60,000 workers, and outsources its manufacturing to Foxxcon in China.

    Foxxcon in China employs 1.3 million workers.

    I dogged you for your morality tale because it doesn’t work into that new reality. Apple would love to have US workers. They tried longer than most, with fully automated factories and etc. It wasn’t lazy workers, or powerful unions, or regulations that drove them away.

    Their competitors were using Asian labor at a buck or two an hour, and to even stay in the computer business, Apple had to joine that game.

  57. john personna says:

    (Basically Mannning plays the cargo cult game. If we’d only cut taxes and regulations again, and again, we’d win. Never mind that we’d really have to get down to Chinese wages and Chinese water quality, then we’d have a happy future.)

  58. mattb says:

    @john personna:
    Well said. Its also with noting that a lot of the cargo cult people tend to also ignore the massive government spending that takes place in developing nations (including China) to both subsidize and protect strategic industries.

    There is no “free market” where Foxcon is concerned … without the support, funding, and protections of the Chinese government, there could not be Foxcon.

  59. steve says:

    “. Ask any wealthy Canadian or European with a major health problem. Better yet, ask any wealthy Canadian or European post surgery at any one of several dozen U.S. hospitals. They’ll tell you.”

    I have. They stay in Canada or Europe. You find very, very few here in the US.

    Steve

  60. anjin-san says:

    three+ years of Trillions spent largely for nothing.

    Well, there are more stimulus funded infrastructure projects in the bay area than I can keep track of, and three of them are critical projects that had been delayed for lack of funding.

    Why do conservative love US tax dollars going to infrastructure in Iraq, and hate it in America?

  61. Rixar13 says:

    “Why Doesn’t The Middle Class Revolt?”

    I focus my efforts to vote Democrat 100%, I will never vote for a Republican or Tea-Baggie again ever… 🙂

  62. Jib says:

    @mannning: Leaving Apple and the outsourcing of manufacturing out of it, one of the real problems with the current economy is that our success stories are companies like Google, MS, even Amazon. These companies definitely create wealth but they do so with a much small number of the skilled tech class than previous corporation did.

    Turning ideas into designs and then into physical products involves a lot more skill than most people understand. There is a large number of highly skilled and paid people involved in producing real goods. The majority are not college educated. Instead they are experts at turning blue prints in working products. In assembly line bizs they are the ones who setup and tear down the assembly lines. In machine shops, they program and maintain the machines. In aerospace, they actually do almost all the work (jet liners are still built mostly by hand).

    They turn the engineers designs into real world stuff. They have their 10,000 hours in and they run every manufacturing company in the world. There are the corporate versions of NCO’s in the military.

    In classic manufacturing, the bigger the company, the larger the tech class but with software it is different. Since programmers can compile and deploy their own code, they dont need a tech class to interpret and build their designs. And since code can be copied at no cost, a small group of developers can drive a very large biz. As the company grows your dev teams dont grow at the same rate. Companies like Google do hire 1000’s of programmers, but they do so to filter them out and find the very few that they need. The core code at Google, Amazon, MS, Apple, is all written by small elite teams within the larger group.

    The bottom line is that the growth of these companies has not resulted in a corresponding growth in high paid employment. So Apple and Google and MS sit there with huge cash reserves. If they had to have larger work forces they would have ended up with less profit. But the money would have been distributed to their work force who would have spent it. Less profit for the companies but more wealth for the economy.

    We need to liberate that idle capital in corporate bank accounts. Not take it from them, we need them to pay their own people more and hire more people. We need them to be less efficient, make less profit while creating more wealth at the same time.

    This is not the 70’s people. We dont have a supply problem. We have a demand problem. The solutions of the 70’s wont work. We need to reverse direction.

  63. mannning says:

    As you may have realized, my earlier comment focused on jobs being the essential starting point. The fact that many jobs have been outsourced to Asia and are no longer available to US citizens is absolutely central to the argument. This was the case back in 1962 when we needed core memory modules stringed, which is highly labor intensive, and a Taiwan company did it for an enormous savings from US labor costs.

    This trend accelerated as Taiwan, Japan, China, and others created the capabilities for manufactrure of parts, assemblies, and the products themselves. So outsourcing is simply the current way of doing things in many sectors. This has led a number of high-tech companies to concentrate on next generation devices, enterprise system design and integration, program packages, and after sales service, and to reduce their dependence on hardware manufacturing significantly.

    So it is at this time a mixed bag where to compete effectively you need to utilize Asia’s lower labor costs, but to increase the “Made in America” content you need to find significat ways to beat the labor cost rap via automation, smarter work practices, and product designs that ease the Labor content, plus a contribution from just about every step in bringing a product to the market:
    Design==>Development==>Specification==>Subcontracting==>Parts==>
    Assemblies ==>Packaging==>Distribution==>Warehousing==>Distribution in country ==>Sales outlets==>Sales profits and commissions==>Documentation==>Maintenance==>Tech support==>Training==>Profits, just to give a simple schematic of where costs might be, and are, shaved.

    Toyota, for example, found it highly profitable to build 10 modern manufacturing and assembly plants in the US, and to create a US workforce. My Avalon is 85% built in the US. GM has been trying to match this challenge for years with limited success, partly because of the labor and labor perks costs of US cars that average over $2,000 per auto greater than Toyota’s costs. So Toyota has created a labor force and the rest of the steps here that are competitive in the US auto market and, I believe they are fully non-union, which is significant.

    Since this achievement of Toyota is very current indeed, it shows that for our market it can be done, and done well. We get auto manufacturing jobs back in the US, but most likely fewer jobs than would have been the case for GM. And there are others that have followed the Toyota route here.

    I could go into the Boeing case with the 787, where the plane is built in assemblies all over the place, for one instance–Japan, and put together in Everett. So the global reality is that jobs are created by enterprises involving labor from all around the world.

    Our challenge is to create more of them here in the US, which was my original premise.

  64. mannning says:

    @mannning:

    Agreed that corporations are sitting on enormous cash now, but I do not see forcing them to spend that cash unnecessarily from a business perspective, or forcing them to hire, pay more for labor, or any other government intervention in the situation. Most companies will begin to spend their cash backlog when they see that the business environment is substantially improved, and when they can with reasonable assurance predict the long term payoffs from major layouts of their cash. The holdbacks currently appear to be the uncertaities of costs of doing business, consumer reluctance, including possible rising taxes, greater health costs, greater energy costs, the unsettled economies of Europe, and the necessity for serving their stockholders a good return on their investment. Caution seems to be the watchword, probably until we see what happens in November. Many expect the business climate to improve if Romney wins, and to deteriorate further if Obama wins.

  65. anjin-san says:

    “. Ask any wealthy Canadian or European with a major health problem. Better yet, ask any wealthy Canadian or European post surgery at any one of several dozen U.S. hospitals. They’ll tell you.”

    A very wealthy Canadian or European with a health issue that demanded esoteric or cutting edge surgery might come to the US. The implication that everyone with money comes to the US for surgery is nonsense. And I know some rich Americans that have gone to Europe for surgery.

  66. G.A. says:

    Why doesn’t the Middle Class Revolt?

    We did… Ever hear of the TEA party?

  67. george says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Better yet, ask any wealthy Canadian or European post surgery at any one of several dozen U.S. hospitals. They’ll tell you.

    The thing is, living in Canada, I note that almost every wealthy Canadian stays in Canada for most major surgeries – for life/death surgery Canada is prompt and good (as I’ve said in another thread, I almost died in a car accident here, and despite what you hear in the US, the care I received was as quick and good as anything I’ve seen when living in the US … I’m alive because of it. So are many people I know – the death rate in Canada isn’t any higher than in the US (in fact the life expectancy is marginally higher here).

    What they go to the US for is mainly things like knee and hip replacement surgery, because non-lifethreatening surgery can mean waiting several months here (one old fellow I know had to wait 3 months for knee replacement surgery, which is the kind of thing which suggests a mix of private along with the public health system would be an improvement). If he was rich, he’d have gone to the US for it.

  68. george says:

    @G.A.:

    We did… Ever hear of the TEA party?

    That’s a revolution? Seriously?

    The American revolution, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution … and the Tea Party. Does one of those not really fit?

  69. @mannning:

    The holdbacks currently appear to be the uncertaities of costs of doing business, consumer reluctance, including possible rising taxes, greater health costs, greater energy costs, the unsettled economies of Europe, and the necessity for serving their stockholders a good return on their investment.

    That’s a pretty big grab-bag. It spans both market realities and conservative dogma.

    When you end with “many expect the business climate to improve if Romney wins” shouldn’t there be a “how” in there?

    Is the dogma, reducing taxes and benefits, again, enough?

  70. @Tsar Nicholas:

    Better yet, ask any wealthy Canadian or European post surgery at any one of several dozen U.S. hospitals. They’ll tell you.

    Think that through. Wealthy Canadians or Europeans go to a system built for maximum care at maximum cost. When they have maximum money, that’s fine.

    … what did you want to happen to our health care costs, for normal retirees, here in the US? Did you really want us all to get that care, and for the government to pick up the tab? Or did only want the rich here to get it?

  71. Tillman says:

    @G.A.: Oh, that’s rich.

    @mannning:

    Most companies will begin to spend their cash backlog when they see that the business environment is substantially improved, and when they can with reasonable assurance predict the long term payoffs from major layouts of their cash. The holdbacks currently appear to be the uncertaities of costs of doing business, consumer reluctance, including possible rising taxes, greater health costs, greater energy costs, the unsettled economies of Europe, and the necessity for serving their stockholders a good return on their investment.

    I notice in your sentence formation there you lump rising taxes, greater health/energy costs, and the unsettled economies of Europe as factors in consumer reluctance. (Am I wrong?) So, the reluctance of your average consumer reduces demand, which makes businesses cautious for the variety of reasons you already stated.

    So, the smart thing to do would be for government to fill that demand with spending since average consumers don’t want to or can’t, thus insuring that businesses don’t hoard money (that is, take it out of the economy) and spend it to hire more people, buy more materials, etc. Then, people have more money because businesses are hiring and paying them, and they spend and save that money as they see fit. It works because, while the government might be forcing businesses to do things they wouldn’t in other economic climes, it is acting as a giant conglomerate of consumers and pays that way.

    Anything wrong with what I’ve said? Because it seems like this logic has gotten a bad rap lately.

  72. Xenos says:

    @george: The original tea party was explicitly anti-corporatist. The modern Tea Party is mostly funded and organized by corporate interests.

    They are not tea partiers, they are lumpen-bourgeoisie, a/k/a protofascists.

  73. anjin-san says:

    There’s a revolt scheduled for November.

    Yes. Mitt Romney is leading people like you into battle to fight for him and other 1%ers to have a few more vacation homes and a bigger garage for the car collection.

  74. mattb says:

    @G.A.:

    Why doesn’t the Middle Class Revolt?

    We did… Ever hear of the TEA party?

    Actually, there is a lot to this and — while it will make GA’s and other heads asplode — the entire TEA Party movement actually fits quite nicely into a traditional paelo-Marxist reading (especially if you mash Marx and Weber together) of the general trajectory that leads to Marx’s idea of The Revolution.

  75. markm says:

    I’m still content with where I am and I don’t need more.

    That, in a nutshell, is your answer and I believe that applies to any quintile. Some are happy being your average Joe, some are fine with drawing unemployment or doing as little as possible to get by. Some are driven to excel.

  76. mannning says:

    @Tillman:

    So, the smart thing to do would be for government to fill that demand with spending since average consumers don’t want to or can’t, thus insuring that businesses don’t hoard money (that is, take it out of the economy) and spend it to hire more people, buy more materials, etc.

    So you say the government should take taxpayer’s money in order to spend and spend, because the taxpayer is reluctant to spend his own money, and the government can find innumerable ways to spend it, most times with little success. The government is notorious for spending $200,000 per job in an attempt to create employment, only to let those employees go when the business folds. Really smart thinking! Others want to take corporate cash and let the government spend it wherever they want, again with the usual lack of success. You are obviously not a free market affecionado. It is: let the government provide. I give that kind of thinking a big pass. The government must not be in business per se. They should stick to initiating efforts to seed new business areas, and not subsidize the creation of new companies in on-going manufacturing business areas in competition with existing firms.

    Even in the case of GM, why wan’t it possible for them to go through bankruptcy and come out the other side reorganized and lean without enormous sums of taxpayer’s money absorbed in the process, installing a government mandated CEO, capping the pay scale for CEOs, and never mind that some of the money has since been paid back to the government for them to squander elsewhere, and repeat the process ad infinitum? This is one area that contributes to our Trillion+ deficit. Smart, real smart. Of course, that the government stepped in meant that the unions didn’t have to shell out to tide their members over. Interesting idea: Too big to fail? No.

  77. @mannning:

    FWIW, I think this is a fine dividing line:

    The government must not be in business per se. They should stick to initiating efforts to seed new business areas, and not subsidize the creation of new companies in on-going manufacturing business areas in competition with existing firms.

    It is close to the one I’ve used, “research, not production.”

    And I recognize the higher ethics of a GM bankruptcy, even though I acknowledge that this path would have lead to more costs. GM would have bottomed much lower by that route.

    But, I still see missing “what would Romeny do?” Thinking about it, and squinting at your and other writings above … I think you just want him to be “not Obama.”

    Maybe all the cranky Republican businessmen (and women) who hate having Obama in plain sight, suspect that they themselves would be happier, and free up some of their money, if they had a Romeny.

    Perhaps they are honest enough in their soul to think that they’d be happier, and spend more, even if Romney did every single thing and policy just the same as (the surprisingly conservative) Obama has done.

  78. Tillman says:

    @mannning: I’m going to ignore my inference that you believe any government spending is automatically waste.

    So you say the government should take taxpayer’s money in order to spend and spend, because the taxpayer is reluctant to spend his own money, and the government can find innumerable ways to spend it, most times with little success. The government is notorious for spending $200,000 per job in an attempt to create employment, only to let those employees go when the business folds. Really smart thinking!

    First, you’re gonna have to throw some sort of link out about that $200,000 per job, ’cause you’re not making sense. That way, I can hopefully look at something that does make sense, and then critique its methodology and assumptions. Further, I didn’t say anything about the government creating jobs. I said the government pays the businesses for their services when in the aggregate normal consumers are cautious (that is to say, the economy is in recession), and the rise in demand created by the government eventually leads to hiring. More people in jobs leads to more people with money which leads to more people possibly spending that money. I’m led to believe by many smart people that this is fairly orthodox, conventional thinking.

    Even in the case of GM, why wasn’t it possible for them to go through bankruptcy and come out the other side reorganized and lean without enormous sums of taxpayer’s money absorbed in the process, installing a government mandated CEO, capping the pay scale for CEOs, …?

    Because they showed signs of entering bankruptcy before the credit freeze, and actually went into bankruptcy right around the, uhh, credit freeze. Navigating bankruptcy successfully requires there be someone around to invest in you.

    Actually, I’m giving up. I had more, but then I gave this a closer look:

    The government is notorious for spending $200,000 per job in an attempt to create employment, only to let those employees go when the business folds. Really smart thinking!

    And my mind shut down. I don’t get it. Why would you pay employees after a business folds? How would you pay them? Was the business employed by another business, and since Business A went down, Business B is required to garnish the wages of Business A’s workers? What would the progression of contract-drafting look like over time? What kind of loopholes could you exploit in that kind of framework?

    There’s a book in there somewhere.

  79. mannning says:

    @Tillman:

    First class deliberate obfuscation there Till. When the government invests in a business to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and only manages to create a few hundred jobs out of it before the business goes face up, the ratio of investment to jobs is at least in the $200,000 per job range. All down the tubes, too, and the unemployment roles increase again. Solyndra is only one of several current examples.

    Further, you tangled up the simple proposition that the czar in question and Obama declared that money paid back after the stimulus would be used again for similar purposes. So GMs payments just might have gone to Solyndra! or another of his business fiascos, those times, no payback, so the money is gone.

    It seems that many, if not most of our Leader’s initiatives in solar panels and other clean energy efforts have gone bust after a few years of feeding off the taxpayer’s tit. You must be from the Krugman school of nonsense.

  80. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    Obviously, I do not have any startling insight into what Romney would do if elected, since I am nowhere close to him or his people. Not to miss an opportunity to say something about what I think needs doing, here are a few ideas from my personal grab bag:

    1. Regulations: There should be a thorough review of the regulations and Executive Orders instituted by Obama with the intent to rework them to promote fiscal responsibility, job creation, and a sane environmental policy.

    2. Administrative Agencies: The enormous welter of agencies that have grown up in the last four or five administrations needs to be thoroughly examined for overlaps, redundancies and improvements, or even elimination, not to mention a hard look at the books for fraud and abuse. In this process. The senior levels of management across the board need to be examined for willingness to support Romney policies, and not Obama policies, and either let go or shifted to non-impacting positions, and replaced with willing executives.

    3. Energy: Do what is necessary to open up oil drilling wherever there are good finds, and get the pipeline situation solved. Ensure that the coal industry has what it needs to produce profitably, and as cleanly and economically possible, all the coal needed. Promote R&D for new energy sources, and make it simple for new starts to get through the regulation maze. Restore nuclear energy to a favorable status, and streamline the approval process, while remaining mindful of safety requirements. Get control of the EPA.

    4. Government Unions: Outlaw them and phase them out over a few years. Restore the government pay scales and benefits to a par with industry over time.

    5. Judges: Begin the process of vetting appointees to judgeships across the nation that meet the goals of good legal minds, willingness to interpret the Constitution and not actively work to change it, and that are conservative in outlook. No judicial activists, please.

    6. Small Businesses: Take a hard look at the workload imposed on small businesses to meet a host of regulations, and make every effort to reduce the load as far as possible.

    7. Healthcare: Start over. repeal Obamacare. Ensure it is a free market solution with minimal government intervention, possibly based on the existing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security structures, but streamlined and cleared of fraud and abuse, and put on a sound financial basis (not sure how all of this can be done, but it must be!). Phase it in over time, and allow existing participants to continue as is.

    8. Spending: Spending levels must be reduced to lower significantly or clear the current trillion dollar deficits over the next dacade, and to make headway in serious reductions to the national debt. This must involve every government agency and program currently existing or about to come into existence, including all entitlements. This cost review parallels #2 above.

    9. Taxes: Serious consideration to some form of Flat Tax should be given, so long as the current tax programs are halted in turn, and avoiding the horror of both a progressive income tax and a Flat Tax. I believe that Article 16 of the Constitution needs revision. Everyone should pay something in taxes, even if a mere token results.

    10. and up: Later!

  81. mannning says:

    @mannning: @mannning:

    10. Defense: This major function of government must be maintained at a war-winning level, perhaps not at the level of being able to fight two major wars simultaneously, but at least one of them, plus fighting a limited conflict somewhere, and defending the US and its possessions. The war-fighting gear and equipment, aircraft, ships, tanks, missiles, and ordnance must be first-rate and continually modernized to “avoid technological surprise” as the old saying goes. From a cost point of view, the gross level of expenditure in constant dollars would probably fall near where it is now, or a tad less.

    11. Various Subsidies: All subsidies should be reviewed for possible reduction or elimination by law over time.

    12. Education: The entire federal government education edifice should be reviewed for reduction or elimination, with the exception of student loans. The fundamental job here is for the states, not the federal government. There should be a needs-based allocation of grant funds for states, but without any federal strings attached. The basic courses being taught and the slant which has most recently been taught must be changed to return to thorough preparation for succeeding in life tomorrow in this nation, and including vocational training where possible.

    13. Foreign Policy: First of all, it must be made clear that the US will not accept any incursions into and reductions of the sovereignty of this nation in any form, whether UN-sponsored or otherwise. Second, we should downplay the role of the UN where it affects our goals and directions, since as a voting block most of the states are anti-American and work to our disinterest with a large sum of our money every year. That money should be reduced substantially. The organization is corrupt and should not be trusted. We should promote a coallition of what we understand as democratic states to adjudicate world conflicts. Let the UN be a forum for sounding off, but as a governing body it is not acceptable.

    (There is a book on directions that needs to be written here, but I have neither the knowledge, the energy nor the inclination to attempt it, so I will punt now!)

    To the degree that, if elected, Governor Romney adopts these directions, or something similar, and perhaps even better, I will be quite pleased.

  82. Will Wilkinson does a nice summary on the public interest over at The Economist.

    I think the problem with your list, points 1 to 13, is that they don’t break along ideological lines … except for us, the little people, the infantry.

    Generals, of both parties, are playing a very different game. Mr. Clinton married his daughter into the house of Goldman.

  83. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    So you believe THAT is the problem? Well, as Wilkinson said, we the people can fight back if we understand the issues and get our dander up. But not in an insurrection or full-scale revolt. We organize the opposition and vote our preferences in, just as the Tea Party has been trying to do. I am also not so sure that the alignment of my 1 to 13 issues is apolitical. Taken one by one, I believe they reflect ordinary conservative views of today. Do they reflect Romney’s views? I have no idea! They most certainly do not reflect a progressive agenda!

  84. @mannning:

    Maybe I should have phrased this differently:

    I think the problem with your list, points 1 to 13, is that they don’t break along ideological lines … except for us, the little people, the infantry.

    Better to say that the troops care more about the ideology than the generals. And perhaps this is particularly apparent with Romney and Obama. Mr. Obama is definitely not pursuing the kind of “progressive agenda” his ground troops would like to see, nor the one opposing troops might fear.

    I mean, consider Obama-Care as Romney-Care.

    WTF, right?

    Their plan was neither free market nor national health.

  85. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    Now I see what you mean, and I agree with it. We troops can yell all we want for this or that, but when the generals decide to go with something, they largely ignore the troops, it seems. This is depressing in that we apparently have at least three agendas for the Dems, and three agendas for the Repubs : 1) Generals; 2) Party; 3) People (troops).

    Once you reach the status of general, you thrash issues out with your counterparts to the satisfaction of both, decide the solution, and you needn’t respond to the people’s wishes on either political side. I suppose also that the class of generals do not have to be office-holders either.

    This ain’t exactly what was intended…

  86. No No NO says:

    You are all going to scream racist on this point, but it is undeniable.

    The continued abuse of taxpayer dollars via Medicaid and other entitlement programs over the past 30 years has RAPED this country.

    With the proliferation of the black race in the US, the quality of living among the lower class of society has blossomed.

    And white people cannot say ANYTHING about this or they are marginalized as racist. No other race squawks about injustice at every turn and does little to correct the situations they face daily.

    Watch the local news when you hear about an urban cleanup …these typically occur in black neighborhoods, yet I rarely see black faces chipping in to serve their own communities.

    Blacks kill blacks in Philadelphia every night, (yes, every night) but Whites are stilled viewed as the root of all evil to many of these folks. Perhaps some of these “unfortunates” should be grabbing bootstraps instead of handguns.

    These poor are not afraid to be speak their minds; why should the middle class be?

    You want a better way of Life in America?

    Stop giving it away and get mad at those taking without giving back.

  87. TemblorTom says:

    I think I know what you are trying to say, but I am not sure this is the topic at hand.

  88. Heh? says:

    @john personna: I doubt Bill had anything to do with courting his daughter’s husband.

    Come on man, this is not the 16th century.

  89. Bad Analogy says:

    @john personna:

    I own a 2008 Tesla and I am far from rich.

    What have you been into?

  90. Wow says:

    @G.A.:

    You are incredibly thick.

  91. Upshot says:

    @Mikey:

    A pension is what is now reserved for civil service employees who traded 30 years of wages (which are and were far lower) than the private sector only to find just before retirement their fat slob of a governor wants to cut these negotiated and promised benefits so he can use the state’s helicopters, pilots, and ground team ensure he gets his heft to his fat son’s baseball game on time – all at a minimum expense to Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Public.

    Granted, there are those in muni, state, and federal offices who milk the system and take far more than a fair share, but not most employees do not fit this stereotype.

    No more than all Tea Party Republicans are uptight redneck morons.

  92. Upshot says:

    @mannning:

    ” Everyone should pay something in taxes, even if a mere token results.”

    Then why change the tax code? This is exactly what you people want.