Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Duck and Cover, Mr. President

I suppose that President Obama knows what he is doing with his class warfare strategy for reelection.  His State of the Union speech was complete with Warren Buffett's secretary, the one that pays more, percentage-wise, in tax that her boss.

But I'd like to warn you, Mr. President, that there is a ballistic missile en route that may well change the terms of trade in the current political argument.  The missile is Charles Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010.  It shows that it's not a question of the One Percent versus the 99 Percent, as our Occupy friends suggest.  It is not a question of millionaires and billionaires not paying enough in taxes. It is more a question of the top 20 percent of the upper-middle class doing fine in America while the bottom 30 percent does not.

Last time Charles Murray had a blockbuster it was Losing Ground in the 1980s. That book was an analysis of the effect of the welfare state and its welfare programs.  It led to the reform of welfare in the 1990s.

The point that Charles Murray tries to make, over and over again, is that "inequality" is not a problem of millionaires and billionaires making too much money.  It is a problem of the governmenet spending too much money on the welfare state.

It sounds very caring and compassionate for the government to spend money on the poor.  If only it were true.  Instead government spending leads to the breakup of families and the idleness of men.

Government spending doesn't lead to idleness in the upper-middle class because, oddly enough, the government designed by the upper-middle class helps the upper-middle class do what it wants to do anyway: go to school, get a degree, get a job, start a family.  But the welfare state has the opposite effect on anyone below the upper-middle class.  It encourages women to choose the government over marriage, and it encourages men to abandon the mothers of their children.  Unmarried men tend to work less than married men--a lot less.  Also, of course, a bums-on-seats education system may work very well for the sons and daughters of the middle class, but not so well for the sons and daughters of the working class, where people learn more by doing that by listening to teachers.

I just have this feeling, Mr. President, that when we look back on 2012, we will remember not your 2012 State of the Union Speech, but the publication day of Coming Apart: January 31, 2012.

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