Friday, September 24, 2010

They Just Don't Get It

As liberals survey the wreckage of the car they drove into the ditch, they ask themselves: how did it happen?

It feels like one moment they were accelerating rapidly into the fast lane, and the next moment they were in the ditch.

But there is a glimmer of understanding over at The Atlantic. Joshua Green rewinds to the successful effort of Sen. Schumer to elect Democrats to the Senate in 2006 and 2008.

Democrats have always claimed to be the party of ordinary working families, but Schumer thought they were deluding themselves. Most Democratic policies, such as the earned income tax credit or increasing the minimum wage, were geared not toward the middle class but the poor. When middle-class Americans heard Democrats describe their problems, it did not resonate because they were actually the problems of the working poor. Schumer believed that the true middle class comprises people in the prime working years of 25 to 60, whose median household income is around $68,000. He urged his candidates to tout aspirational policies that would appeal to them.

So Schumer concentrated like a laser on appealing to the middle class with candidates that ran on aspirational themes in their campaigns. But now it's all in the toilet. How could that be?

Democrats did health care. And they fixed the financial system, which will help middle class 401(k)s.

Pursuing a different agenda might have been more popular. But the real frustration for the White House is that each of these policies does benefit the middle class, but the benefits tend to take the form of increased security or cost savings difficult for most people to quantify. Over time, health insurance will be more comprehensive, secure, and affordable; Wall Street meltdowns won’t occur as often, and when they do occur they’ll cost taxpayers less. Clearly, these advances have not registered, or have not been sufficient.

What planet are you on chaps? The fact is that Obamacare is going to hurt most Americans, now and forever, and only help wasters that ought to have health care, but are skating, for now. The bank bailout was necessary, but the middle class rightly feels that it should never have been necessary. The bailout was government cleaning up the mess it made of the credit system, not government cleaning up after a natural disaster.

Get real Democrats, and stop deluding yourselves. You had the sense to know that you had lost your appeal to the aspirational middle class. What you didn't have the sense to do is dump your policies that screw the aspirational middle class. Obamacare, stimulus, auto bailouts, cap-and-trade: these are all policies aimed at the Democratic base, from union stalwarts to the benefit recipients, to the government employees to the gentry liberals. There is nothing in the Obama record that benefits the aspirational middle class.

If Democrats really wanted to appeal to the aspirational middle class they would have ditched the entire agenda and implemented a program of spending cuts, to release resources for new businesses that could hire the aspirational middle class.

But they didn't do that, and now they are going to pay. The only question remaining is the price: will it be a modest 40 seats in the House, or a massive 80 seats? Will it be 6 seats in the Senate or a massive 10 seats?

We will know in about a month.

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