Tim Burke Critiques Jared Diamond
Apologies Will Now Be Accepted

Economic Insecurity and Democratic Policies

Jacob Hacker tries to combine politics and policy as he writes:

TPMCafe || Economic Insecurity and the Super-Jumbo: As Tom Frank says, the Democrats need a compelling message and an easily understood policy agenda to address the economic insecurity of American families.... How can Democrats take advantage of the fact that Americans are feeling (and, according to my research, actually becoming) more economically insecure? And why has the growing economic insecurity of Americans not seemed to help the Democrats all that much to date?

Let’s... dismiss... [the] theory... that Americans are actually happy with the economy... large numbers think the economy is on the wrong track and disapprove of President Bush’s handling of it. In the last election, simple economic models that successfully forecasted past elections using basic economic statistics, such as the overall growth of the economy, predicted Bush winning by a landslide. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. And part of the reason why it didn’t, I’m convinced, is that the basic economic statistics mask the much greater insecurity that ordinary Americans feel....

The project of battling economic insecurity is not a project for the next election; it is a project for the next decade, and even the next half century.... Will Americans rally around Democratic candidates who make economic security one of their defining campaign themes? Much popular political analysis suggests not. We are in a post-materialist age, we are told, in which bread-and-butter issues simply don’t resonate with popular majorities....

People feel that security is slipping away, and nothing motivates voters like the prospect of losing something they already have.... At the same time, Americans... want a forward-looking vision that accommodates the changes in the economy and society that they value, one that combines the goal of security and the ideal of opportunity.

My own view is that this dual challenge calls for emphasizing the value of insurance for encouraging families to invest in their future, just as businesses and entrepreneurs are encouraged to invest in economic growth by basic protections against financial risk (like limited liability for corporations and bankruptcy protections). I also believe that it means linking economic security with the concerns about the balance between work and family raised by our very own Karen Kornbluh as well as others. But I will be the first to admit that coming up with a compelling message along these lines, much with less with effective and salable policy proposals, is a very tall order indeed.

What is interesting is that we have never before had--or not since the 1920s have we had--a Republican Leadership more interested in redistribution away from the middle class to the truly rich. You'd think that would be an effective message: your local Republican congressional candidate may understand, but the Republican Leadership is not on your side. But I'll let wiser heads than mine tell me why this is not the effective Democratic message.

What is genuinely hard is the policy agenda.