Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Over the Cliff? Or Not?

There's a chilling article by Nicholas Eberstadt from last weekend in the Wall Street Journal about the progress, if you like, of entitlement spending.  Back at the beginning of the 1980s about 30 percent of US households were getting benefits from the government.  Today it is about 50 percent.

So you can understand the pessimists that say it is useless to expect anyone to fix the federal budget.  After all, since the time when the Franks were invading the German lands a thousand years ago for loot, politics has been about paying off your supporters.  What politician is going to do that?  Before the money runs out.

When the money runs out, of course, things get interesting.

The Republican line in 2012 is simple.  Let's "do something" about entitlements before the money runs out.  But are the American people listening?  If 50 percent of the people are already receiving federal government benefits (like me) then won't they opt for continuing the benefits in the hope that the next generation will the one that goes over the cliff?

It's interesting to wonder what the voters will decide, especially in light of the analysis of Joel Kotkin.  He argues that the Democratic Party has moved away from Bill Clinton's attempt to appeal to the center.  The party is now an "upstairs/downstairs" party of the urban gentry and the minority dependent class.
After decades of fighting to win over white working- and middle-class families, Democrats under Obama have set them aside in favor of a new top-bottom coalition dominated by urban professionals—notably academics and members of the media—single women, and childless couples, along with ethnic minorities.
And, of course, the center of gravity of this coalition is single women, as "more than half of all American women are single."  Now you understand the "war on women."  But the problem is that the new coalition has pushed away the center ground,
the predominately white working- and middle-class families whose goals centered around achieving home ownership, basic essentials, and the occasional luxury. These groups have been leaving both the core cities and the Democratic Party for generations.
The problem is that the "upstairs" part of the new Democratic coalition has done very little for the economic improvement of the "downstairs" folks, the minorities.  It's all very well to have cities that appeal to the single twentysomething.  But what about the minorities living in the city that don't got no jobs?

The truth is probably that the "downstairs" people will, like the servants in the TV series Upstairs Downstairs, identify more with the reflected glory of the "upstairs" family and be content to molder their lives away achieving nothing rather than take the risk to break away from the basement in Eaton Place and climb up into the challenge of middle-class responsibility.

Of course, if the government goes over the cliff, then the "downstairs" folks are screwed.  And the "upstairs" folks will somehow get by.

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