Sunday, August 6, 2017


But Mark Zandi, Moody's chief economist, who has advised John McCain and donated to McCain and Hillary Clinton's campaigns, told Politico the plan is a "mistake" that will cause the labor force to come to a "standstill" in the next decade. "It is hard to imagine a policy that would do more damage to long-term economic growth," he said.

As NPR's Brian Naylor noted, economists believe the country's low unemployment rate (4.4 percent) coupled with retiring baby boomers will result in a labor shortage in the coming years.
FACT CHECK: Have Immigrants Lowered Wages For Blue-Collar American Workers?
And if you're an American worker, high enough demand for labor that employers have to compete with higher wages and benefits, you may be selective about which jobs to take and people who have been traditionally locked out of the labor market now have an in, is bad exactly how? After all, the internet bubble caused a serious labor shortage until a) companies started failing and b) internet infrastructure became robust enough that overseas remote work became widely viable. I don't remember that as being damaging to long-term growth. Not to say that it wasn't, because it could have been. But I have yet to hear an explanation of "The Great Recession" that says that the ultra-low unemployment rate (and high participation rate) is the culprit.

There's a saying that says that many people don't understand how something works by reading about it in its idealized form in a book somewhere - they learn about by watching it in practice on a day-to-day basis. And this sort of thinking, that what's good for people who work is bad for "the economy" as a whole, appears to be coloring many people's understanding of the purpose and goals of Capitalism. Personally, I would tend to call this Capital Primacy instead - the idea that whenever there is a conflict between the interests of Capital and Labor, that Capital must always be priviledged. And therefore a situation like a labor shortage, which makes Labor more dear than Capital, and therefore able to command a higher share of the resulting profits is bad, because what's bad for Capital is always bad for everyone. And while this doesn't result in a wholesale failure to consider the problems of Labor, no solution that results in greater benefits for Labor than Capital will receive serious consideration.

And I think that, despite the idea that the Average American isn't very sophisticated about economic topics, there is something of a realization that Capital must always benefit, and this is labelled "Capitalism." And therefore people come to perceive Capitalism as a system that is stacked against them. And if they're not going to benefit from that being the ways things are done, why support it? Why back a system in which the best-case-scenario is that a general status quo is maintained? Why back a system in which making up any of the ground lost to the people at the top of the pyramid is considered damaging, and not seriously questioned. NPR is largely considered to be left of center, yet Mr. Zandi's comment is allowed to go completely unchallenged. And this isn't to say that Mr. Zandi is incorrect. It may be precisely that making it more difficult to grow the economy over the long term. But that's something that deserves some level of explanation, rather than simply be asserted as truth and allowed to stand.

Perhaps the most corrosive piece of what we commonly term "élitism" is that the non-élites don't know their own best interests and/or the value of short-term pain for longer-term again. And therefore, there's no value in attempting to bring them on board with a plan that impacts them. I'm going to digress for a moment here, and blame a lot of this in the common perception of King George. I know, I know, bear with me for a moment. Because the American Revolution is commonly taught in grade-school social studies/history, it tends to come off as something of a morality play, with clear cut good guys and bad guys. And since King George is the Bad Guy in Chief, he's seldom given rational reasons for not allowing the American colonies to have seats in Parliament. And because terms like "tyrant" and "dictator" have exclusively negative connotations in modern parlance, people who understand that they know better than everyone don't see themselves in that sense, since King George's crime became one of being an abusive ruler, rather than one of shutting the colonies out of the legislative process. And to the degree that "élites" (which has become a pejorative itself) see themselves as benevolent parents; the "adults in the room," as it were. And just like one doesn't let the kids vote on what's for dinner until they don't say "cake" or "ice cream" anymore, "élites" (or "élitists") may feel that the citizenry is too childish (and I've seen it put just that way) to participate in their own governance.

Of course, the citizenry may become resentful of that, in the same way that anyone might become resentful of being spoken down to. The whole point behind a representative republic is to allow people to participate (albeit indirectly) in making decisions the outcomes of which they're going to have to live with. A presentation of Capitalism that seems to be stacked against them by design is going to lead to people choosing to back something else instead; something that they feel is more "fair" to them. They might wind up throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but the way to prevent that is to be more precise in the use of language, and to explain the counterintuitive, rather than simply state it.

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