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Archive for the ‘Welfare State’ Category
If you’re looking to figure out the Donald Trump phenomena, you could do a lot worse than reading this interview with J.D. Vance, the author of the book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. It’s a look at rural poverty and desperation most people never witness firsthand.
And Trump speaks to them in a big way:
RD: A friend who moved to West Virginia a couple of years ago tells me that she’s never seen poverty and hopelessness like what’s common there. And she says you can drive through the poorest parts of the state, and see nothing but TRUMP signs. Reading “Hillbilly Elegy” tells me why. Explain it to people who haven’t yet read your book.
J.D. VANCE: The simple answer is that these people–my people–are really struggling, and there hasn’t been a single political candidate who speaks to those struggles in a long time. Donald Trump at least tries.
What many don’t understand is how truly desperate these places are, and we’re not talking about small enclaves or a few towns–we’re talking about multiple states where a significant chunk of the white working class struggles to get by. Heroin addiction is rampant. In my medium-sized Ohio county last year, deaths from drug addiction outnumbered deaths from natural causes. The average kid will live in multiple homes over the course of her life, experience a constant cycle of growing close to a “stepdad” only to see him walk out on the family, know multiple drug users personally, maybe live in a foster home for a bit (or at least in the home of an unofficial foster like an aunt or grandparent), watch friends and family get arrested, and on and on. And on top of that is the economic struggle, from the factories shuttering their doors to the Main Streets with nothing but cash-for-gold stores and pawn shops.
The two political parties have offered essentially nothing to these people for a few decades. From the Left, they get some smug condescension, an exasperation that the white working class votes against their economic interests because of social issues, a la Thomas Frank (more on that below). Maybe they get a few handouts, but many don’t want handouts to begin with.
From the Right, they’ve gotten the basic Republican policy platform of tax cuts, free trade, deregulation, and paeans to the noble businessman and economic growth. Whatever the merits of better tax policy and growth (and I believe there are many), the simple fact is that these policies have done little to address a very real social crisis. More importantly, these policies are culturally tone deaf: nobody from southern Ohio wants to hear about the nobility of the factory owner who just fired their brother.
Trump’s candidacy is music to their ears. He criticizes the factories shipping jobs overseas. His apocalyptic tone matches their lived experiences on the ground. He seems to love to annoy the elites, which is something a lot of people wish they could do but can’t because they lack a platform.
The last point I’ll make about Trump is this: these people, his voters, are proud. A big chunk of the white working class has deep roots in Appalachia, and the Scots-Irish honor culture is alive and well. We were taught to raise our fists to anyone who insulted our mother. I probably got in a half dozen fights when I was six years old. Unsurprisingly, southern, rural whites enlist in the military at a disproportionate rate. Can you imagine the humiliation these people feel at the successive failures of Bush/Obama foreign policy? My military service is the thing I’m most proud of, but when I think of everything happening in the Middle East, I can’t help but tell myself: I wish we would have achieved some sort of lasting victory. No one touched that subject before Trump, especially not in the Republican Party.
And what do you have to say to liberals?
Well, it’s almost the flip side: stop pretending that every problem is a structural problem, something imposed on the poor from the outside. I see a significant failure on the Left to understand how these problems develop. They see rising divorce rates as the natural consequence of economic stress. Undoubtedly, that’s partially true. Some of these family problems run far deeper. They see school problems as the consequence of too little money (despite the fact that the per pupil spend in many districts is quite high), and ignore that, as a teacher from my hometown once told me, “They want us to be shepherds to these kids, but they ignore that many of them are raised by wolves.” Again, they’re not all wrong: certainly some schools are unfairly funded. But there’s this weird refusal to deal with the poor as moral agents in their own right. In some cases, the best that public policy can do is help people make better choices, or expose them to better influences through better family policy (like my Mamaw).
There was a huge study that came out a couple of years ago, led by the Harvard economist Raj Chetty. He found that two of the biggest predictors of low upward mobility were 1) living in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty and 2) growing up in a neighborhood with a lot of single mothers. I recall that some of the news articles about the study didn’t even mention the single mother conclusion. That’s a massive oversight! Liberals have to get more comfortable with dealing with the poor as they actually are.
Read the whole thing.
(Hat tip: Borepatch.)
While the reverberations from the Brexit vote are still being heard, here are a few interesting pieces you might have missed:
As several commentators, from Megan McArdle in The Atlantic to Rupert Darwall in National Review, have noticed, many liberal journalists, representing elites throughout the advanced world, have reacted with indignation to the fact that 52 percent of U.K. voters (many without degrees) have rejected the EU system of supranational government of which the elites approve. Naturally, these journalistic spokesmen argue, the common people could not possibly have good reasons for such an act of multinational vandalism. So they must be inspired by, er, racism, xenophobia, fear of globalization, and related other thought-crimes.
That account doubtless condenses and oversimplifies the elites’ response to the Brexit shock, which is just one small skirmish in a new class war in advanced societies between geographically mobile, liberal, skilled, high-earning professionals and more rooted, communitarian, particularist, and patriotic citizens (or what British journalist David Goodhart calls “nowhere” people and “somewhere” people). “Nowhere” people simply didn’t grasp the outlook of “somewhere people” in the referendum, not seeing that many decent people who voted for Brexit had such respectable anxieties as loss of community or, one step up, the transformation of their country as motives for casting their votes. So the elites thought the worst. They were still making the same mistake in their television and columnar explanations of the result on Friday morning. But what was remarkable was the Darwall-McArdle thesis that in other countries the elites reacted to the Brexit shock as if personally or spiritually affronted in their own lives. Alarmed, they asked: Why weren’t we told that they might vote for Brexit?
It’s a hard question to answer.
One aspect of it, however, is ideologically fascinating. Among the central arguments of those favoring Brexit was that the Brussels system was dangerously undemocratic and that British voters and MPs had lost the power to propose, amend, or repeal failed or oppressive laws. This was a passionate concern among English people who had grown up in a self-governing democracy, who may have fought for it in wars, and who simply couldn’t understand why the loss of their democratic rights didn’t worry their opponents. Yet again and again liberal journalists treated this passionate belief as either abstract or a cover for more primitive emotions and bigotries. Democracy as such was rarely given weight in Remain or liberal debates on the cost/benefit analysis of Brexit. They treat multinational political institutions as such unalloyed goods that it would be impolite to raise questions about such defects as a democratic deficit. Has the knowledge class/meritocracy/cognitive elite/nowhere people/etc., etc. developed not only an intellectual snobbery towards the rest of society, but even an impatient, dismissive contempt for democracy that cannot be openly avowed but that does influence its other political attitudes?
Today is a quadruple witching hour for markets, so try not to freak out if there’s more than the usual market volatility today.
Time for another Texas vs. California update:
California has earned quite a reputation for being openly hostile to business, as confirmed by numerous studies and surveys. Its plethora of taxes and regulations are driving away legions of entrepreneurs and workers, but they are doing wonders for one segment of the economy: the moving industry. It is almost as though that industry is secretly lobbying the state Legislature for its anti-business policies.
Joe Vranich, as president of Spectrum Location Solutions, an Irvine business relocation consulting firm, knows all about what drives businesses’ decisions to give up and leave for greener pastures. According to his research, in just the past seven years, approximately 9,000 businesses have decided to leave California or expand their operations out of state. Companies leaving California typically save between 20 percent and 35 percent of operating costs, he concluded.
Texas has been the biggest beneficiary of California’s business exodus.
California’s litigious climate has become a common complaint of business owners. No wonder the American Tort Reform Foundation once again named California the No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole” in the nation last year, based on the state’s excessive laws and regulations and a flood of disability access, asbestos and food advertising and labeling lawsuits, frequently more opportunistic attempts at extortion than legitimate attempts to seek justice for victims who have been truly harmed.
California has proven to be a particularly harsh climate for manufacturing businesses. “Even if California were to eliminate the state income taxes tomorrow, that still would not be enough,” CellPoint Corp. CEO Ehsan Gharatappeh told the Dallas Business Journal of the Costa Mesa company’s move to Forth Worth.
General Magnaplate Corp., which has made reinforced parts for the aerospace, transportation, medical, oil and other industries for 36 years, decided to shut down its California facility in Ventura altogether. “This is a very sad day for our employees and for my family, who have a long history of job creation in this area, but the simple fact is that the state of California does not provide a business-friendly environment,” CEO Candida Aversenti said in a press release. “Increases in workers’ compensation costs and government regulations, combined with predatory citizens groups and law firms that make their living entirely by preying on small businesses, have left us with no other choice but to shut down our California facility. This is in stark contrast to our New Jersey and Texas facilities, which are flourishing in small business-friendly environments created by the respective local governments and environmental agencies.”
Yahoo’s 279 workers let go this year contributed to the 3,135 tech jobs lost in the four-county region of Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and San Francisco counties from January through April, as did the 50 workers axed at Toshiba America in Livermore and the 71 at Autodesk in San Francisco. In the first four months of last year, just 1,515 Bay Area tech workers were laid off, according to mandatory filings under California’s WARN Act. For that period in 2014, the region’s tech layoffs numbered 1,330.
The nation’s largest public pension fund, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, has one-fifth of its assets in bonds and is down 1.3% since July 1, according to public documents. The system, known by its abbreviation Calpers, also has 53.1% of its assets in stocks, 9% in real estate and 9.4% in private equity. In 2015, Calpers posted a return of 2.4%, below its target rate of 7.5%.
Nor is CalSTARS doing much better:
The nation’s second-largest public pension plan, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, has shifted a significant amount of money away from some stocks and bonds to protect against a downturn. It moved assets into U.S. Treasurys and so-called liquid-alternative funds, which mimic hedge-fund strategies. Calstrs, as the pension is called, reported gains of 1.5% during a choppy 2015, with returns on its fixed-income investments up just 0.6%.
(Note: WSJ link, so you may need to do the Google thing.)
The newest outrage comes from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research in the form of a proposed “road diet.” This would essentially halt attempts to expand or improve our roads, even when improvements have been approved by voters. This strategy can only make life worse for most Californians, since nearly 85 percent of us use a car to get to work. This in a state that already has among the worst-maintained roads in the country, with two-thirds of them in poor or mediocre condition.
In essence, the notion animating the “road diet” is to make congestion so terrible that people will be forced out of their cars and onto transit. It’s not planning for how to make the ways people live today more sustainable. It has, in fact, more in common with Soviet-style social engineering, which was based similarly on a particular notion of “science” and progressive values.
(Hat tip: Instapundit.)
Time for another Texas vs. California update:
Still digesting the Trump victory and what it means. In the meantime, have some links: