Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Suckers

The official liberal myth is that liberals, through selfless concern for the poor, have lifted the unfortunate out of misery, the brutality of the time clock and the speedup, the 12-hour day, the unsafe workplace.

Another way to tell the story is that the new ruling class of liberals gets its power by tempting the poor with free stuff.  Liberals don't care about the poor; they care about political power and comfortable sinecures that liberal politics delivers to them.

The latter story fits with the description of democracy in Joseph Schumpeter's Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy.  Democracy cannot be the rule of the people, Schumpeter writes, because the people cannot rule.  All they can do it vote to elect the people who will rule them, and it follows that the people competing for the right to rule will become experts, professionals, in the art of getting elected.  Thus it is that democracy is really the rule of the politicians, professionals whose lifework is getting elected to public office.

Conservatives like me profess to be puzzled that Democrats seem to be uninterested in "fixing" the entitlements.  After all, it is Democratic voters that have the most to lose if the government runs out of money.

But the Democratic disinterest in entitlement reform makes complete sense if you think of the Democrats as elected politicians.  All they are interested in doing is saying the right things to get elected.  What comes next is beside the point.  Now humans are beings that like the idea of getting "free stuff."  They are also beings that hate the idea of giving up "free stuff."   So you tell me what would happen to Democrats that told their supporters to cinch in their belts.

Now comes an article in The New York Times that worries about the poor and college.  It turns out that many poor students rack up a pile of student debt and then don't graduate.  Golly, who could have seen that coming!

And it all filters down to the dreaded problem of rising "inequality."
Thirty years ago, there was a 31 percentage point difference between the share of prosperous and poor Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees, according to Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan. Now the gap is 45 points.

While both groups improved their odds of finishing college, the affluent improved much more, widening their sizable lead.
 Golly.  Why could that be?
Likely reasons include soaring incomes at the top and changes in family structure, which have left fewer low-income students with the support of two-parent homes. Neighborhoods have grown more segregated by class, leaving lower-income students increasingly concentrated in lower-quality schools. And even after accounting for financial aid, the costs of attending a public university have risen 60 percent in the past two decades.
The charming innocence of these liberals.  Thank goodness they haven't read Coming Apart by Charles Murray.  Or they might cotton on to the idea that their administrative welfare state has done wonders for the income and prospects of well-born liberals.  But it has hammered the very people it is supposed to help.  As in:

Item: The poor, through the workings of the welfare system, experience extremely high and variable marginal tax rates.  That's because as you generate more wage income you lose your welfare benefits not gradually, but chunk by chunk.

Item: We now learn that the people that have been hurt the most in the real estate crash are African Americans.  And no wonder.  It was the "redlining" of minority neighborhoods that the Community Reinvestment Act and the subprime real-estate loans were supposed to fix.  The result was that many people got loans that didn't have a hope in hell of servicing them.

Item: The wonderful and compassionate entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment insurance have the perverse effect of sterilizing the savings of the poor and the near poor.  The money that normal people would save against a rainy day, or starting a business, or putting a big down-payment on a home, or sending a kid to college, is sequestered by liberal program administrators to be given back later.  Meanwhile, liberal politicians have the use of the money in bribing the voters with "free stuff."

It was well said by the neo-Marxist J├╝rgen Habermas that the administrative welfare state is a system of internal colonization.

One day an American politician will figure out how to explain all this to the suffering American people.  My guess is that we already know this politician; he is already beginning to be a household word.

Will he make his move in 2016?  Or 2020?  Who knows?

But never forget the Instapundit Rule: "Something that can't go on forever, won't. Debt that can't be repaid, won't be. Promises that can't be kept, won't be."

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