Saturday, February 16, 2008

Obama and Hillary Follow the Loser

Today's WSJ provides an important gut check for Americans infatuated with "change."

Gentle readers will recall a certain faux populist, noted for his excellent hair and recently retired from the contest for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, who tried to get the big prize by pitting American business interests against American workers. It worked so well for him that he lost every primary in which he ran, including his home state's.

Now the two remaining Democrat candidates, per the perceptive reporters at Murdoch's Crown Jewel, have adopted the soon-forgotten John Edwards's William-Jennings-Bryan-redux rhetoric. NAFTA is bad, trade is bad, corporations are bad, profits are bad. Workers are good, jobs are good, staying in the same assembly-line job all one's life is good.

We draw attention to the obvious, which is our spiritual gift:
  • Stable manufacturing jobs depend on corporations that make a profit, as the recent history of the American automobile industry illustrates negatively.
  • The candidates of "change" are this week running on rhetoric that eschews change in favor of somehow restoring the American economy that existed briefly between the end of World War II and the beginning of the microchip revolution.
  • This political strategy failed Edwards but is for some mystical reason now embraced by his surviving former rivals who are locked in life-or-death struggle.

Pardon us if for genuine change we continue to look toward the GOP, whose sole surviving candidate is sensibly recommending that we reduce our highest-in-the-developed-world rate of corporate taxation as a means of becoming more competitive globally. That's true populism.


Bryan D said...

I'm jealous of you're spiritual gift. I got stuck with tongues. I look like one of the kids from X Men. I don't know why it was so popular with the Corinthians, but hey; what happens in Corinth, stays in Corinth.

I've been chewing this over (chewing takes twice the time with twice the tongues), and am afraid that barring a Harry Potter-like surge in the popularity of Paradise Lost or a film adaptation of Phaedrus this Obama "change" rhetoric might just work.

Who knows, maybe a little of the varnish will come off in the election, but the problem is while one should be being inspired to take the rhetorical turpentine to Obama's glossy finish, listening to his opponent makes one want to drink *real* turpentine.

If Hilary and Obama have gone the way of the loser, McCain has gone the way of another loser, Dole; the way as well of many other venerable souls who got very old shortly before they died.

In other news, I know you've spent some time in Kosovo, any thoughts on their declaration of independence?


Nathan said...

what about the globalization that is aided by NAFTA? What about the fact that when factory jobs move to countries south of the border they are married with human rights violations? I am not saying NAFTA is "bad" and I'm not saying NAFTA is "good", but there is a downside to not looking at it critically and not seeing the harm it does to people in other countries and the job loss here.

Chris said...

I don't think NAFTA harms people south of the border. It just shortens their commute.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Chris is impressively correct in his succinct summation of NAFTA, in the SWNIDish view. All economic policies have downsides for some, but the net, long-term benefits of free trade are demonstrable from every angle one can summon. Adam Smith realized this in the 18th century, and we've been catching up to his insight ever since.

That includes the political angle, i.e. the concern for human rights. First, Mexico is hardly a totalitarian state. Its democracy functions, albeit with significant government corruption. But the beneficent influence of other countries is better felt on a country like Mexico through the strengthening of economic ties, not protectionism in the guise of highmindedness.

Actually those concerned for the economic and political well being of people in developing countries should be very concerned about Obama's recent rhetoric about using the tax code to "reward" corporations that "keep jobs in the United States." This amounts to a government subsidy of companies that do not outsource, which has the pernicious effect of neutralizing the economic advantages of workers in developing countries, thereby styming their development. The same has been the case for generations with our ill-conceived program of agricultural subsidies.

Meanwhile, McCain is offering to lower the rate of corporate taxation in general, so that American corporations pay taxes more in line with global rates and so aren't penalized simply for doing business in our country. You can bet that no Democrat will ever run on a platform of reducing corporate taxes, even though it's the best way right now for the federal government to improve the economic competitiveness of American business, thereby creating and preserving American jobs and investment.

We've begged Obama for specifics. Now that the campaign is in Ohio, the specifics he has begun to announce are the awful ones declaimed by John Edwards. These ideas will play well in hapless and hopeless Youngstown, but they won't do well anywhere.

Anonymous said...

"All economic policies have downsides for some" - the problem is that far too often the downsides affect the people how can least afford it (the poor). NAFTA has had a positive affect on Mexico’s overall economy according to the countries GDP. However, the gap within country between the rich and the poor as widened – the poor are getting poorer while the rich are getting richer. This seems to be a trend – not a big fan of Neoliberal/trickle down economics.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

We question the notion that a rising gap between rich and poor necessarily means that the poor are worse off. If the tide rises for many but faster for some, are those for whom it rises less fast really worse off?

Do you suggest that Mexican factories that have been built since NAFTA was ratified have made life worse for the people that they employ?

This line of illogic is too often followed in this country as well. If the rich are getting richer faster than the poor are getting richer, that's bad. But what if everyone is getting richer? Do we do the politics of progress or the politics of envy?

Actually, we don't just question this line of reasoning, we vigorously dispute its factual basis. N.B. that global poverty is in decline at a rate unprecedented in global history, and free trade ("globalization") is clearly the engine of transformation.

Anonymous said...

I hope this is the case, but from my understanding the poor are actually getting poor (like there are more people living on less than two dollars a day than before).
The link you posted didnt work.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Weird that the link doesn't work. At any rate, there's massive evidence, and we mean massive, coming from such right-wing, pro-business organizations as the United Nations, showing that global poverty is in epic decline.

For reports, copy and paste this into your browser:

And then copy and paste this too:

The evidence is so compelling that we have serious reservations about the sincerity of public figures who paint a different picture.

We're glad that you're raising this point, frankly. We think it is a hugely underreported reality, something to be celebrated and learned from. Redistribution of wealth is not the primary means to changing the lot of the poor. Creating wealth is, and trade is the engine to that, as it has been since the farmers started trading grain for the shepherd's wool and milk.

Anonymous said...

1. It is easy to look at sites like that, and to refer to people as a term ("poverty) and feel good about the fact that you support rich people creating wealth. It is a different story when you actually spend time with poor people. I guess surburbia life is really helping you to avoid the undesirables.
2. Jesus never said to care for the poor by making the rich people richer so that they can buy super mansions, go on great vacations, have private jets, and oh yeah pay their factory workers 7 dollars an hour. Or is that in the original Greek?
3. Workers ARE good. Jobs ARE good. And staying in the same assembly line job for your whole life is neither good nor bad- it is just reality for some people. Unfortunately, the Republic boot straps are not always able to be pulled up no matter how hard some people try.
4. I'm not so naive as to think you'll read this and think any differently, I'm just hoping that some of the 19 year olds who take everything you say as gold might learn to think from different points of view.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

It's also easy to think you know something about our SWNIDish life. But elaboration would be pointless when sentiment trumps facts.

But here's one that you should know: we don't discuss the policies of politics with students in class, only the values.

Jim Shoes said...

To Anonymous:
1. It's easy to look at statistical facts about the world at large and dismiss them because they don't match up with your view of the world or your individual experience. Maybe your experience in some trendy urban environment has shaped your sloppy thinking on such matters.
2. Jesus never said to care for the poor by having the government regulate commerce and tax the wealthy to redistribute their money so that the poor can buy expensive sneakers and cars with tinted glass and go on long benders. So maybe appropriating Jesus for our stereotypes of class conflict is modestly blasphemous on both sides.
3. Maybe the real human reality is constant adaptation to changing needs and opportunities, not stagnation in a changeless Marxist economy that pits a noble but hapless workers against powerful and ruthless capital. A lifetime of work at a single, unchanging occupation has never been normal at any point in history, so we should hardly expect it to be the case now when the pace of social and economic change is blessedly rapid.
4. I'm not so naive as to think that you'll read this at all, let alone change what you think. But as someone who has lived through multiple iterations of leftist cant, I intend to inform the rising generation that these ideas that sound so radical and idealistic are really factually erroneous and practically impotent. Everyone would like to believe that the world is bad because their parents were stupid and evil while they, being wise and noble, can grasp the obvious solutions. So far the record on that kind of thinking is uniform failure. Why try it again? Is it superstition or insanity that expects different outcomes from the same action as it is constantly repeated?