Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Politicians Don't Pander. If Only They Would!

Oren Cass comments in the Financial Times on the two essays by myself and Henry Olsen that he just published on American Compass. Here's his take; he makes some excellent points.
"In the popular imagination, politicians are calculating crowd-pleasers: poll-tested and focus-grouped to death, delivering messages honed to win an election. In fact, they are just people, susceptible to the same biases as everyone else. Most of what they know about public policy and voters they learn from the advisers who surround them and the donors who pay to be near them. Most of their judgments about popular opinion reflect the views of their friends.
As US society has stratified, the highly educated and compensated professionals who dominate politics can rise through the system while interacting only with people like themselves. As a result, parties have unmoored from working families’ priorities and become preoccupied instead with the passions and bugbears of elites in universities and on Wall Street.
Progressive political analyst Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, laments that advocates of identity politics “in place of promoting universal rights and principles now police others on the left to uncritically embrace this . . . approach [and] insist on an arcane vocabulary for speaking about these purportedly oppressed groups.”...
Across the aisle, Republicans embrace a market fundamentalism that leaves them little flexibility. “The notion that whatever happens in private affairs is good per se, and that government action can never be countenanced to restore justice to our lives, leads too many Republicans to see only the cost of government and not its outcomes, and to ‘just say no’,” says conservative political analyst Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center....
None of this accomplishes anything for American workers and their families. That the national parties have enthusiastically defined themselves this way is political malpractice. It represents an abdication by leaders of their obligation to pursue the common good. Government will always be of and by the influential, but its legitimacy depends upon it still being for the people.
If workers’ interests were of primary concern, the presidential candidates would be talking about the fact that most young Americans still do not complete even two years of college. Among those who do earn a diploma, about 40 per cent take jobs that do not require their degree. A sensible agenda would seek to shift the US education system away from its counterproductive obsession with college and towards the creation of strong vocational programs and employer partnerships that could provide alternative career paths.
Likewise, politicians addressing America’s broad middle would talk about revitalising its labour movement, to give workers more power in the labour market and better workplace representation. The US’s dysfunctional system forces unions to organise company by company, setting off vicious conflicts and badly wounding the firms where unions succeed. Just 6 per cent of the private-sector workforce has union representation, a lower share than during the Depression, before the current laws were enacted. An alternative model, successful in many European countries, brings together unions and trade associations representing all workers and employers in a sector. They then bargain over terms and conditions to which all competitors will adhere."

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