Thursday, February 09, 2017

What the next Democrat should talk about

Adam Tooze shows us a very scary chart and writes,
The fact that pre-tax incomes for the least favored half of American’s citizens have not risen, but have fallen slightly over the last forty years ought to be a show stopper. Literally, all other policy discourse should surely cease. Insofar as there is any kind of reformist agenda it has to focus on this overwhelming and dramatic fact, which implies the breakdown at the heart of global capitalism, of any meaningful relationship between national economic success stories told in terms of GDP and the actual experience of half the population
Is it a "show stopper" though? Not as long as the "winners" in this game are running the show. Elite-owned media focuses on numbers that reflect overall wealth creation and obscures the distributive calamity.  Economic analysis stops at measures of productivity like GDP or number of "jobs created" but doesn't answer the more meaningful questions about who reaps the benefits of what is produced.

Nevertheless, if inequality is not the "show stopper" that Tooze tells us it should be, it can be useful to go on with the rest of the show to see what it can tell us. Oyster does that this week with the jobs numbers.  Republican Presidents (including and especially the current one) frequently boast that their standard regime of slashing environmental, financial, and labor regulations benefits the nation by freeing "Job Creators" to rain benefit upon the rest of us. But even if we ignore inequality and look solely at jobs numbers, this claim doesn't hold up.
Since 1977, Democrats and Republicans have each spent twenty years in the White House. So let's compare the job numbers from the Carter/Clinton/Obama administrations with the Reagan/Bush/Bush years. First government jobs, and then the private sector.

Net Public Sector Jobs created (in millions):

Dems: 2934
GOP:  4285

Net Private Sector Jobs created (in millions):

Dems: 41,813
GOP:  15,829

No matter how you slice it, that's a massive disparity. For every net 'gubmint' job created during Democratic administrations, Republican administrations doled out one-and-a-half. And for every private sector job produced during GOP presidencies since '80, Democratic presidents have seen net job growth that's 2.6 times better. You'll never see these statistics in a news story, or hear Dems crow about them. Nonetheless, they're amazing.
Oyster goes on to assert that "you'll never hear Dems crow about" their jobs numbers and argues that this supposed omission contributes to their party's electoral failures. I would dispute this somewhat. In fact, you frequently do see and hear Democrats crowing about their jobs numbers.  The problem comes into play when these sunny sounding statistics don't match-up with the experience of 50% of Americans who have been working longer and harder for less and less over the course of the past four decades.  When voters see their lives and their prospects growing materially worse, and elites can only clap back at them with meaningless numbers, this is how you end up in an environment where "alternative facts" are a thing.

Oyster concludes his post with some advice for the Democrat to whom it will fall to clean up Trump's mess (Lisa Simpson, most likely.) 
The successful Democrat to replace him will have to offer a solution to the problems that a lot of Trump supporters sensed but didn't correctly diagnose. And the solution will need to be tied to a fact-based story that makes sense.
Agreed. But that fact-based story has to be about inequality and not the less meaningful measures of jobs and wealth we currently limit ourselves to. 

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