Why Washington Doesn’t Care About Jobs
As an independent progressive, my take on Republicans is well chronicled. But hidden in my extreme distaste for Republicans is my utter lack of patience for some Democrats. Namely, Blue Dogs, DINO’s, conservative Dems or anyone else who has taken on the talking points and perspective of a Republican but somehow still wants to call themselves a Democrat.
The analogy that Chris Hayes refers to about the lack of heat in certain office buildings, I think, makes the point. Washington does not have the sense of urgency that is needed when it is the people’s interest they are supposed to be serving. The notion of servanthood is lost, in most part, it seems to me, in the milieu of money and lobbyists and self-grandizement that appears to rule the day in Washington…meanwhile, regular people need heat or the opportunity to get the heat turned back on. Washington seems insulated, figuratively and literally.
Social distance of this sort isn’t new, of course. The “out of touchness” of the Beltway is such a cliché that Beltway denizens themselves love to invoke it to demonstrate their self-awareness. But I’d wager the social distance that characterizes this moment is probably as bad as it’s been in at least a generation. We’ve had more than three decades of accelerating inequality that has placed the top 10 percent further and further away from the bottom 90 percent, followed by a financial crisis and “recovery” that has only exacerbated these distributional trends. There were already Two Americas before the Great Recession, but in the wake of that seismic disruption, those two continents have only moved further apart.
This manifests itself in our politics in two ways. For one, it just so happens that policy-makers, pundits and politicians are drawn from the classes that are in recovery, and they live in an area where new sushi restaurants are opening all the time. For even the best-intentioned and most conscientious staffers and aides this has, I think, a subconscious effect. Think of it this way: two office buildings are operating side by side in Chicago’s Loop in the middle of a brutally cold January day, when the heat in both buildings gives out. The manager of one building has an on-site office, so he finds himself plunged into cold; the other building is managed remotely, from a warm office whose heat is functioning. If you had to bet, you’d guess that the manager experiencing the cold himself would have a bit more urgency in restoring the heat. The same holds for the economy. The people running the country are not viscerally experiencing the depredations of this ghastly economic winter, and they lack what might be called the “fierce urgency of now” in getting the heat turned back on.
The other problem is that our system is responsive only to voices at the top of the social pyramid—the bankers and businessmen who are raking in record bonuses and the professional upper middle class, which is recovering much faster than the nation as a whole. In a 2007 paper titled “Inequality and Democratic Responsiveness in the United States,” Princeton political scientist Martin Gilens analyzed 2,000 survey questions from 1981 to 2002, looking for the relationship between public opinion and policy outcomes. He found that “when Americans with different income levels differ in their policy preferences, actual policy outcomes strongly reflect the preferences of the most affluent but bear little relationship to the preferences of poor or middle income Americans.”
There is only so much social distance a society can take. The social science literature shows that as social distance increases, trust declines and aberrant and predatory behavior increases. The basic mechanisms of representation erode, and the social fabric tears. “An imbalance between rich and poor,” Plutarch warned, “is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” – Chris Hayes
- The Forgotten Millions (bruceturnerjr5.wordpress.com)
- Job growth could be good for Obama’s job (money.cnn.com)
This entry was posted on April 1, 2011 by ablackmanjr5. It was filed under Economics, Politics, Uncategorized and was tagged with Barack Obama, Democratic, Democrats, Great Recession, John Boehner, politics, Republican, Social distance, Two Americas, United States, Washington.