Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kevin Drum and the White Working Class

I agree a bit less than usual with Kevin Drum who writes on the problem of Democrats and the White Working Class (which is defined as whites without 4 year college degrees including, as John Quiggin noted, the horny handed sons and daughters of toil, such as Bill Gates and Paris Hilton).

I quote bits here and cut and paste my comment

"white working class, which voted Republican by a 30-point margin last week:"

"As Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin observed this summer, 54 percent of the white working class born after 1980 think gays and lesbians should have the right to marry, according to data assembled from the 2012 election." -- Kevin Drum quoting Noam Scheiber quoting Teixeira and Halpin

"But if that's the case, why does the WWC continue to loathe Democrats so badly? I think the answer is as old as the discussion itself: They hate welfare. "

"So who does the WWC take out its anger on? Largely, the answer is the poor."

"That's because they're closer to it. For them, the poor aren't merely a set of statistics or a cause to be championed. They're the folks next door who don't do a lick of work but somehow keep getting government checks paid for by their tax dollars."

"Does it matter that the working class barely pays for most of these programs in the first place, since their federal income taxes tend to be pretty low? Nope."

"So sure: full-throated economic populism? That might work, though everyone seems to have a different idea of what it means. But here's one thing it better mean: policies that are aimed at the working and middle classes and that actually appeal to them. That is, policies that are simple, concrete, and offer benefits which are clear and compelling."

I comment

When Teixeira and John Halpin write "the white working class born after 1980 " they are basically not at all talking about the same "white working class, which voted Republican by a 30-point margin last week:"

Last week 12% of voters were under 30 and 37% over 60. The election told us what older people (such as myself -- age 54). You basically don't discuss age at all. This really makes no sense when discussing 2014, 2012 and how they are different.

OK what is to be done ? Look it's simple. There is a difference between not paying much income tax and paying less than zero. the number 47% horrifies Republicans for a reason. They fear that if the fraction whose income tax liabilities are less than 0 gets enough over 50% to make up for lower turnout of the less rich, then the "takers" will take over. I think they have a point, except that I think that would be a good thing (given the large numbers of takers who work full time year round and pay much more in payroll taxes than they receive in EITC).

I think that Democrats can win elections by promising higher taxes on the rich and lower taxes for everyone else. I think that few voters buy the Republican line that Republicans cut taxes for the non rich. I use the word "think" but I think that these claims are about as weak as the claim that the climate is getting warmer.

First try to name a Democrat with the following features

1. He was elected President

2. He was not an incumbant at the time

3. the top marginal income tax rate was under 69%

4. the income tax was constitutional

and 5 he didn't propose higher taxes on the rich and lower taxes on everyone else.

Hint, this is a trick question -- those 5 conditions have never ever been met. In contrast both Clinton and Obama were elected after promising higher taxes on the rich and a middle class tax cut (and Obama actually delivered).

I also recall a TV discussion of a focus group which watched a Bush senior Clinton debate with the dials. The group included declared undecided voters, declared Clinton supporters and declared Bush supporters. Clinton said something like " only the rich have received tax cuts" and the average declared Bush supporter twisted the dial to agree. Rage at the Republiscam of promising tax cuts for all and giving them only to the rich was strong in 1992 *among rank and file Republicans*.

Since then Gallup has polled again and againa and always gets solid majorities who support higher taxes on the rich (as I very much enjoy reminding you, long ago I pointed out these polls to you and you were very surprised). In 2005 polls showed that the only social security reform with majority support was raising the payroll tax ceiling. In 2009 and 2010 polls showed that the only provision of the ACA which reduced the deficit and had majority support was and is the surtax on high incomes.

People in the USA want to soak the rich and spread it out thin. This is a feasible policy (Obama did it -- mild on the soaking -- but he did it). I am sure it would be good policy. The popular populist policy and the practical way to address income inequality is to make the income tax more progressive.

This would, of course, creaate problems such as .... I mean we might return to the dread economic growth rates of the 50s when the top rate was 91% and the 60s when the top rate was 70%. I absolutely promise you that there is less than no evidence that a higher top marginal income tax rate would be bad for growth

see https://ideas.repec.org/p/rtv/ceisrp/281.html

. OK enough policy proposals, I want to whine about how unfair it is,

I note that the WWC includes a lot of people on food stamps and/or receiving EITC. I also note that the ACA has done a lot for a lot of white working class people including those under 4/3 the poverty line (who may be poor not working class by the original definition of the phrase but the few who vote are included in the numbers you quote), those who don't get insurance from their employers and those who might lose their job with benefits. That is almost all of them.

You note but do not focus on the deep deep irrationality of welfare hatred. The only huge means tested program is Medicaid which is almost as popular as Medicare. Many hard working people benefit from food stamps and the EITC. The people getting checks without working are over 65 (and that program is super popular) disabled (and that program is not hated) or very few and getting tiny checks. I am sure that welfare hatred is not based on knowing people who are actually living on welfare.

Also you don't note foreign aid hatred. On this issue, the delusions of the overwhelming majority of US citizens are so extreme that they are not discussed in polite debate. In polls The median US respondent guesses foreign aid is 10% to 28% of the Federal budget (I have a total of 2 polls in mind but the numbers are all in that range). This is absolutely not based on living next door to a foreigner who receives aid. This is pure fantasy (foreign aid is less than 0.7% of the US Federal budget). Foreign aid is a tiny program. But the vast majority of US voters think it is a huge program. That means that hatred of foreign aid is a big issue.

pulled back from comments: The counties in North Carolina that had the highest percentage of slaves to whites in 1860 are the same counties where more than 90% of whites voted for Mitt Romney. Links to follow at my blog. Thornton Hall Which reminds me that "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

1 comment:

Thornton Hall said...

The counties in North Carolina that had the highest percentage of slaves to whites in 1860 are the same counties where more than 90% of whites voted for Mitt Romney. Links to follow at my blog.