Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 21, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE GREAT RISK SHIFT....Via Instapundit, I see that the Wall Street Street Journal has published a very peculiar "review" of Jacob Hacker's forthcoming book, The Great Risk Shift.

I use the scare quotes advisedly. You see, The Great Risk Shift is about.....risk. It's not about income inequality, or stagnant median wages, or improvements in technology over the past few decades, or whether the CPI is overstated. It's about the growing amount of risk being shifted onto the backs of American workers: the fact that fewer of them have health insurance, fewer have guaranteed pensions, fewer have lifelong marriages, and fewer have stable jobs.

Now, all of this stuff is arguable, but Brink Lindsey doesn't even try. Instead, he talks about longer lifespans, increased homeownership, and the prevalence of color TVs. The closest he comes to even engaging with the thesis of the book comes near the end:

Mr. Hacker leans heavily on his findings that fluctuations in family income are much greater now than in the 1970s. But research by economists Dirk Krueger and Fabrizio Perri has shown that big increases in the dispersion of income have not translated into equivalent increases in consumption inequality. In other words, most Americans are able to use savings and borrowing to maintain stable living standards even in the face of economic ups and downs.

Hooray! Life is riskier for today's family's, but they manage to eke out a bit of stability anyway by maxing out their credit cards and spending down the money in their retirement accounts. This is, to say the least, not a very persuasive rebuttal.

I still have a few pages left to read in the book, so I'll hold off on any further comment. Besides, I imagine Jacob can defend himself. In fact, he'll be doing exactly that right here the week of October 9th, when his book hits the shelves. Mark your calendars.

Kevin Drum 4:56 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (96)

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Comments

"But toys from China are cheaper!" is apparently the best talking point the right can come up with on this subject--our trolls here have been employing it energetically for weeks.

Posted by: shortstop on September 21, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Brink Lindsey." With a name like that, you know he's got to be (or used to be) some smirky college-Republican ideologue.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on September 21, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

...With a name like that, you know he's got to be (or used to be) some smirky college-Republican ideologue...

...who really wanted to be an avuncular evening news anchor. Sadly, he couldn't read anything, including the monitor, fast enough.

Posted by: shortstop on September 21, 2006 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Life is riskier for today's family's, but they manage to eke out a bit of stability anyway by maxing out their credit cards and spending down the money in their retirement accounts. This is, to say the least, not a very persuasive rebuttal.

How about this as a rebuttal then? Life is riskier because people are given more FREEDOM. Nowadays, people are FREE to spend the money however they want and to whoever they want. This is good because the basic principle on which America was founded upon is FREEDOM. If people spend money badly, it's their own fault and they should be held responsible for it. Although liberals would LOVE to make America in to just another Communist/Socialist state, providing a safety net for bad investors and bad spenders is bad because it means we're paying for other people's mistakes. They should pay for their own mistakes and not expect big government liberalism to save them from their mistakes by stealing from others. That would be wrong.

Posted by: Al on September 21, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

...well, I got laid-off, took the "give me cash" option on the 401(k) and paid off the outstanding debt.

No, without a retirement, I can work for less because I'm not chasing debt. It's kind of ..."liberating."

And I use those scare quotes advisedly, too.

Posted by: Darryl Pearce on September 21, 2006 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Welcome to the Republican America.

Without any sense of irony, one of the oh so important and ominpotent uberboys at the Corner has quoted the following today:



The Dream of Miraflores [Miraflores is the presidential palace] consists in exercising the presidency of the Republic with a democratic facade and imperial execution, without controls, without laws, flying on a magic carpet called the presidential airplane, not only for official functions, but also to visit my friends whenever I feel like it, with submissive government cabinets consisting principally of "yes man", ordering the approval of laws, judicial decisions, policies; pontificating and intervening in the internal affairs of other countries; using public funds for caprices with neither restraint nor accounting who [we are to believe] would peacefully and democratically accept a succession? Only a truly democratic society can put an end to a status quo such as this.

Posted by: gregor on September 21, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "... and the prevalence of color TVs."

The growing prevalance of large-screen color plasma TVs is indicative of growing numbers of people committing spiritual suicide by giving up on real life and relinquishing their few non-work waking hours to brain-dead TV-hypnosis-induced oblivion.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 21, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Al, it's not my mistakes I'm particularly worried about (indeed, I've lost $100,000 on a business). It's when criminals or maybe terrorists who threaten ANY and EVERYBODY when I want the "shared-risk" of governmental body to oversee and protect... the common good, provide for the common defense, ensure domestical tranquillity (y'know, what the founding fathers would have wanted): a more perfect union.

If we don't have that, we've got to trust the Baldknobbers amonst us.

Posted by: Darryl Pearce on September 21, 2006 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

Go to war and then go shopping. We have nothing to fear but the MasterCard bill and turning 65 without a dime in our pockets.

Hey then we can all invest our social security in doomed IPO's pushed onto us by fast-talking cold call brokers.

Ah, the repig/looneytarian dream.

Posted by: Mrs. Peel on September 21, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Cool that he's coming by to chat - I'll be tuning in.

I'll also be buying a couple copies of the book: one for me, and one for my dad - former engineer, current garden store stockist. USA! USA!

Posted by: Garamond12 on September 21, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

When risk is shifted onto the people that make the decisions, wouldn't they be expected to, in general, take less risk if they don't like the risks? It certainly seems like a large reason for this shift is that companies don't like paying for moral hazard. If people actually weren't very risky, but willing to pay to ensure against risk, then companies would LEAP at the chance to earn the difference. But it seems the other way around: people want to be more risky then they are willing to pay for, and so insurers aren't interested in covering them.

Posted by: plunge on September 21, 2006 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Lindsey quotes Hacker as writing: "America's sweeping transformation away from an all-in-the-same-boat philosophy of shared risk toward a go-it-alone vision of personal responsibility." If accurately quoted then Hacker should extend his investigation beyond the mere symptoms (policies and practices which define this risk-shift) into the causes that underlie the risk-shifting.

At the same time that this risk-shift has been transforming America, so too have demographic shifts. Social scientists have long known that the "all-in-the-same-boat" mentalitiy is much stronger in societies which are more racially and ethnically homogeneous. As America is moving away from demographic homogeneity the splintering of the "all-in-the-same-boat" mentality should come as no surprise.

What do Liberals want, a nirvana of multiculturalism or a "all-in-the-same-boat" societal ethos? You can't have both.

Posted by: TangoMan on September 21, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I know that my iPod mini more than makes up for my high-deductible, sneeze-and-they'll-cancel-us-all health insurance. Give me a plasma TV and I'll stop worrying about staff cuts in case one of our main contracts is cut, too.

Posted by: latts on September 21, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum >"...Life is riskier for today's family's, but they manage to eke out a bit of stability anyway by maxing out their credit cards and spending down the money in their retirement accounts..."

Simply taking risks to cover risks you have little control over thereby exposing the reality of (unnecessary) higher risk for those least likely to be able to get by either way

Just more of the Thuglican welfare system for elite ignorant pompus asses (protecting those most capable of taking risks from having to take any)

"Eventually, the truth will emerge. And when it does, this house of cards, built of deceit, will fall." - Robert C. Byrd

Posted by: daCascadian on September 21, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

In the financial markets, those who assume more risk do so in return for a greater expected return.

But as Kevin has often discussed, middle-class incomes have stagnated relative to the growth of the economy. So greater risk is not being accompanied by greater income.

So on a risk-adjusted basis, income growth is even worse than it appears.

Posted by: foobar on September 21, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

In other words, most Americans are able to use savings and borrowing to maintain stable living standards even in the face of economic ups and downs.

The basic theory is that Americans are able to trade traditional security for greater income over all. During good years they are able to save. During bad years or years of transition they use the good year savings to even things out.

Unfortunately as anyone reading any of the other recent news about family income stability/decline knows, and as anybody who has maxed credit cards at 20% or more to pay house payments, or cobra payments while between jobs can attest in spades, the trade of security for freedom promised by Republicans is a fools game. Ultimately the kind of freedom touted by the Brink Lindseys of the world has resulted in more and more people living on the edge with maxed out credit cards, little remaining equity in their real estate, and no way to send their kids to college. Throw in consumer bankruptcy deform and the potential for real civil unrest is only a recession away.

In short, forty to fifty year old Americans shouldn't be living pay check to pay check, but millions are. God bless the freedom to watch your standard of living decline while the bossman buys a bigger and bigger house.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 21, 2006 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Life is riskier because people are given more FREEDOM. Nowadays, people are FREE to spend the money however they want and to whoever they want.

Did Al just advocate for higher taxes?

Posted by: Global Citizen on September 21, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter TangoMan: Don't ask me to share a boat with someone who doesn't look like me.

I like it.

Vote Allen!!!

Posted by: Pat Buchanon on September 21, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Good news, good news! I'm gonna be able to torture agin real soon!

A course I wasnt gonna pay attention to congress anyhoo.

Posted by: George W. Bush on September 21, 2006 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Don't ask me to share a boat with someone who doesn't look like me.

Hey Pat, you're doing the same thing here that the Muslim protestors did to the Pope. I'm simply the messenger. If you think that greater multicultural demographics and support for redistributionist policies are like two peas in a pod please show us where such policies are successfully implemented. Why even in Sweden they're seeing decreased support for redistributionism as the population diversity increases.

I'm pointing out the choice that liberals must face. When Democrats make great strides to identify their party with minorities and seek to implement more redistributive policies, those folks who are likely to foot the bill will work to exclude themselves from such schemes because they feel that they're not likely to share equally in the benefits. It's one thing to have programs in which everyone shares equally (they're more popular) compared to redistributive policies (one group benefits at the expense of another group.)

Posted by: TangoMan on September 21, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

What do Liberals want, a nirvana of multiculturalism or a "all-in-the-same-boat" societal ethos? You can't have both.
Posted by: TangoMan

you can have both if white christians can get past their racism and stop voting republican.

Posted by: Nads on September 21, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

'What do Liberals want, a nirvana of multiculturalism or a "all-in-the-same-boat" societal ethos? You can't have both.'

What a load of horseshit. Of course you can have both. You can have a multicultural society with a reasonable national health insurance, like every other industrialized nation on the planet. Job security is harder, but I know a lot of people who won't go out on their own because of health insurance. Did you know that the U.S. a lower rate of self-employment (7.2%) than Sweden (9.6%)? And of the OECD, only Luxembourg and Norway have a lower rate of self-employment (ht: A Fistful of Euros).

Posted by: me2i81 on September 21, 2006 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

African or European?

Posted by: Keven "the Hammer" Drum on September 21, 2006 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK


What do Liberals want, a nirvana of multiculturalism or a "all-in-the-same-boat" societal ethos? You can't have both.
Posted by: TangoMan

Sorry to say, TangoMan does have somewhat of a valid point. I think it is basic human nature.

But there is a lot of middle ground.


Tangoman, how about this? We settle for tolerance instead of "multiculturalism" and in return get an "all-in-the-same-boat" societal ethos.

Posted by: ppk on September 21, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

What a load of horseshit. Of course you can have both. You can have a multicultural society with a reasonable national health insurance,

Oh yeah, tell me then what will these health care policies do when some folks can't afford to pay their premiums into a national health care insurance scheme? My guess is that they will be subsidized by those folks who can pay more and it's the people in this latter group who don't want to get soaked for paying for the healthcare of others when they have better uses for their money. The problem we have here is that a nationalized health system isn't really just a larger insurance pool, hence more efficiently run, thus resulting in lower premiums. What we have is a redistribution scheme. If you advocate a national health system which is run on strict actuarial prinicples and eschews redistributionism then I think a lot of people's objections will fall away. Think of it like car insurance - should everyone pay the same rate for their auto insurance, or should risk factors help determine rates? I'd say that a lot of people would object to everyone paying the same rate but would support a stricter actuarial approach. I suppose these latter folks must be racist white christians who vote for republicans, right?

Posted by: TangoMan on September 21, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

TangoMan: When Democrats make great strides to identify their party with minorities and seek to implement more redistributive policies, those folks who are likely to foot the bill will work to exclude themselves from such schemes because they feel that they're not likely to share equally in the benefits"

That's because people like you and me keep telling those folks that they'll lose out if any changes are made, just like we told them that their daughters were in danger if we integrated schools in the 50's and 60's. In fact, I think some guy wrote a book about what we do called "What's the Matter With Kansas?", but I wouldn't' recommend reading it.

You're no messenger Tango, you're a dyed-in-the-wool true believer.

Oh, and one other thing. For years, me and my girl Annie Coulter have been trying to tell liberals what they must do, but they dont' seem to listen to us. I guess they don't think we have their best interests at heart.

Posted by: Pat Buchanon on September 21, 2006 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

ppk,

Sorry to say, TangoMan does have somewhat of a valid point. . . . how about this? We settle for tolerance instead of "multiculturalism" and in return get an "all-in-the-same-boat" societal ethos.

There's nothing to be sorry about. We're simply dealing with human nature here.

The problem with the "all-in-the-same-boat" approach is that the policies in question should be designed so that every citizen has an equally likely chance to be a beneficiary of the policy. When, as with welfare in the past, some groups dominated the recipient rolls and other groups dominated the funding group, the funders generally wanted to dismantle welfare for they saw themselves as likely never benefiting from the program.

I've already addressed health insurance, so how about defined benefit pension packages. The risk there falls entirely on the company, and the costs of meeting those defined benefit obligations falls on future generations of workers, for the incidence of pension premiums falls to workers and not to shareholders. So what does a current day worker feel when he realizes that his own pay is being shortchanged so that a group, to which he'll never belong (defined benefit pension recipients) is benefiting at his expense? I'd say that he feels that he could do better for himself if the defined benefit system was ended and he could capture the surplus that was going to the recipients and being drawn from his paycheck.

Posted by: TangoMan on September 21, 2006 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

The growing prevalance of large-screen color plasma TVs is indicative of growing numbers of people committing spiritual suicide by giving up on real life and relinquishing their few non-work waking hours to brain-dead TV-hypnosis-induced oblivion.

Like Sol Roth witnessed at the government euthanasia center.

Posted by: jerry on September 21, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

of COURSE you have nothing to be sorry for tango ... you need to justify your racism to yourself, and so you project it onto all of humanity as basic human nature.

likely, you fear some sort of blowback because of your current attitudes when this country becomes minority white, and so you adopt a polarizing them-or-us mindset.

pathetic, but predictable. try peddling your "just the messenger" shit to some illiterate freepers ... they're at least predisposed to listen to you.

Posted by: Nads on September 21, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

"I've already addressed health insurance, so how about defined benefit pension packages. . ."

No, you haven't "addressed" them at all. You've "framed" them so that the average person who doesn't spend a lot of time digging into those issues will think, "Gee, that doesn't sound fair at all. . ."

And I get all tingly inside when you do that. Don't stop.

Posted by: Pat Buchanon on September 21, 2006 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, tell me then what will these health care policies do when some folks can't afford to pay their premiums into a national health care insurance scheme? My guess is that they will be subsidized by those folks who can pay more and it's the people in this latter group who don't want to get soaked for paying for the healthcare of others when they have better uses for their money. The problem we have here is that a nationalized health system isn't really just a larger insurance pool, hence more efficiently run, thus resulting in lower premiums.

Premiums can be paid out of payroll deductions, nothing complicated there. Covering the indigent under one program would be cheaper than what we do now. And yes, I want one risk pool, otherwise you'll have a massive adverse selection problem, and will have solved absolutely nothing except make chronically ill people more miserable.

Healthcare isn't like car insurance. I can choose not to drive, and I don't randomly cost everyone else millions like happens when I choose not to carry health insurance.

Posted by: me2i81 on September 21, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

The Repukeliscum have long championed the Myth of the Lone Frontiersman: You are on your own, shootin' yer onwn injuns, raisin' yer own food, etc.

It;s crap totally.

Posted by: POed Lib on September 21, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

two more paragraphs from WSJ:

What to make of Mr. Hacker's case? It is true that intensified competitive pressures have increased the tempo of "creative destruction." Turnover in the ranks of Fortune 500 companies and elsewhere has accelerated, and layoff rates (especially for white-collar workers) are up. If the slippery term "economic security" means security from potentially disruptive change, we probably do have less of it than before. One sign of heightened anxiety: Polls show a sizable increase over recent decades in the number of people worried about losing their jobs.
...
But if we're talking about security from material deprivation, that's a different story. Let's start with the biggest risk of all: that of premature death. Back in 1970, during Mr. Hacker's golden age of economic stability and risk-sharing, the age-adjusted death rate stood at 12.2 deaths per 1,000 people. By 2002, it had fallen more than 30%, to 8.5 per 1,000. In particular, infant mortality plummeted to 7.0 from 20.0, while the number of Americans killed on the job dropped to three per 100,000 workers from 18.

Part of the critique, therefore, is in the particular definition of "risk" that is used. Hacker identifies "risk" with fluctuation in income (analogous to variance in asset price fluctuation that is called "risk" in Markowitz' portfolio theory).

you could do a better job if you review the same book, but only if you write a much longer review. I doubt it would have occurred to you to supplement the narrow definition of risk. Would it have occurred to you to note the reduction in the on-the-job accident rate, and to call it correctly a reduction of work-related risk?

Let us know when you publish your review.

Posted by: republicrat on September 21, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

POed Lib: The Repukeliscum have long championed the Myth of the Lone Frontiersman: You are on your own, shootin' yer onwn injuns, raisin' yer own food, etc.

Not if you've made sufficiently large bribes, err, campaign contributions. Then you can enjoy what Dean Baker so aptly calls The Conservative Nanny State. Peasants need not apply, of course, it's only to protect the truly valuable members of society.

Posted by: alex on September 21, 2006 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised that the "reviewer" didn't just get straight to the point and quote David Frum who said that placing workers at risk is good for keeping them docile in order to fulfill conservative goals.

Posted by: Constantine on September 21, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

...people want to be more risky...

Yep. I want to be allergic to smog and take daily medications that cost hundreds of dollars each month (a pittance, when compared to what could happen.)

Yay.

Posted by: Crissa on September 21, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, what we really want to see are details of what Reich calls the author's "new foundation for economic security." As if we didn't know.

"Eroding safety net?" Name the major public safety net programs that are spending less per capita in real dollars than they were ten years ago.

Posted by: Bartman on September 21, 2006 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

In other words, most Americans are able to use savings and borrowing to maintain stable living standards even in the face of economic ups and downs.

When I was groing up, the idea of secure employment was still not prevalent in the U.S. Most people remembered the Great Depression, and U.S. history featured a number of the other economic crises. I was taught that one of the reasons you were supposed to save, instead of spending everything, was so you would have money to carry you over. You were saving for a "rainy day".

What Kevin mocks is something that I was taught more-or-less to expect.

Posted by: republicrat on September 21, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

Crissa:

Why do you live where there's smog?

Posted by: maryjane on September 21, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

The American health care system is run by libertarians -- sooner or later they'll come up with the cheapest, most libertarian possible solution to the problems: give each patient a gun. The short, sharp, cure for cancer. Either put it to your own temple, or rob patients who are able to afford very expensive pills.

It's the American way.

Posted by: adynaton on September 21, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

Tango, I don't think you know how insurance works.

Once you start letting people 'pay less' you're breaking down the ability of the pool to pay for the riskier elements. And with healthcare, once the risk has been realized, there isn't an ability to pay to the pool.

So... Do you let healthy people not pay in, or what? Sick people can't pay in... So what's your solution? It's redistribution however you look at it.

Posted by: Crissa on September 21, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Why do you live where there's smog?

Because the federal administration wants to stop my state from having stricter air quality laws?

Posted by: Crissa on September 21, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

No, really. If you have serious problems with it, why do you live where there's smog?

Posted by: maryjane on September 21, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

It's elementary, why there is a shift, the wholesale screwing of the lower classes. God loves some people more than others. People with low or no incomes, no health insurance and so on are not favored by God.

It's traditional too. Things have always been that way. No matter how far back one goes in time there's always been those that God loves more. Of course God love the king the most. Kings shall have everything while peasants shall have the priviledge of providing it. Are the peasants restless tonight?

It's the American way. God and guns shall be with you all the days of your miserable lives. Those God loves the most shall have the biggest guns. They shall be known as big shots. God loves big shots.

It's elementary. It's traditional. It's the American way. So "go to your churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and pray" - G W Bush, 9-11-2001.

You do want God to love you don't you? God loved the al-qaida more, 9-11-2001 than us and our president took the appropriate action, pray hard, pary harder, pray hardest.

Only religion owns real estate in the good old USA. The rest of us poor dumb bastards have to rent our homes from the government, a thing known as real property taxes. The church is tax exempt. The church collects the money paid to gain God's favor, unaccounted, tax free and tax deductible to the big shots and BBs alike making the gifts. Now the congress is considering a bill to remove the tax deduction for interest on home loans.

It's perfectly clear. The al-qaida is out praying us. We are not following directions. The president has spoken. You'll get your reward in heaven while big shots, the ones God loves most shall live the good life here and now.

It's elementary, traditional and the American way and it's unconstitutional. Only the bravest of souls dare mention that.

Posted by: BGone on September 21, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

If you have serious problems with it, why do you live where there's smog?

Why do you live anywhere?

Posted by: Crissa on September 21, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

I have a couple of thoughts of my own on the risk issue:

  • Risk, I guess defined as income volatility, may be higher for the average person today that it was in 1970.  However, in a broader context, it is still drastically lower than any time in history or than in most places in the world.  Certainly pre-WWII people had substantially more risk in their income, particularly in the agricultural sector, which dominated the economy of this and other countries through most of history.  In subsistence agricultural economies, every year even the most productive and competent people face not just the risk of income loss but starvation and extinction through factors wholly beyond their control.
  • The vast majority of the risk reduction people experienced in this country after WWII came from the operation of the private market economy, and not from government programs.  It was the incredible productivity growth, export growth, and technology growth of American industry that provided whatever security people might be nostalgic for.
  • Further, the author worries about a risk-shift.  But in the 50's and 60's, there was very little risk in the system.  Corporations faces little risk in world markets, executives at corporations faced little risk to their jobs, and most workers faced little risk.  There has not been a risk shift -- this implies there was once some Atlas that bore the burden of all this risk and has now shrugged.  One might argue that there is more risk in the whole system - corporations are not guaranteed their market share so workers are not guaranteed their jobs.  The author tries to make it a populist argument, as if rich folks are shrugging off risk onto the poor.  The fact is that everyone faces more income volatility today, from largest corporation to lowest paid worker.  The good news, as Mr. Lindsey points out, is that this volatility is around a much higher mean.
  • The costs of income security programs were always funded by workers themselves. There was never a time when this security was provided by a mythical "someone else". General revenue programs like welfare and defense over the last 30 years have been effectively funded by "the rich", since by any definition, that is who pays the income taxes. However, programs like social security, Medicare, and unemployment are all based on payroll taxes with caps that mean that most of the tax is paid for by the poor and middle class themselves (some of these are technically paid as a percentage of wages by the employer, but trust me that they have the same effect on take-home pay as if they had been deducted directly from the employee's check). To the extent workers have security, it is only because they have been forced to buy and pay for an insurance policy. So again, there can be no shift, because the workers bore the cost of the insurance themseleves. Are they getting good value for this insurance? I don't know -- nobody knows. Many reform proposals the author worries will further increase risk in fact are structured to put this insurance premium back in the hands of the worker, to let him or her decide if and how they want to spend it to insure themselves.
  • The current obsession with this topic of risk strikes me as a case of white collar bias.  I am not sure anyone but the highest seniority workers ever had this mythological income security in the blue collar sector.  Layoffs and technology-based job obsolescence that created turmoil for blue-collar workers never seemed to touch white collar workers in the same way.  My sense is that what's new today is that middle class white collar workers are now facing these same forces of change, in many industries for the first time.  In fact, a skilled machinist is probably more secure in his job today than an account paybables clerk.  For years, the left has joined unions in criticizing companies like GM for continually cutting blue collar jobs without touching bloated white collar payrolls.  It's odd to see them jump suddenly to the other side of the issue.
  • I hate to point out the obvious, but what government income-risk-management program has gone away since 1970, other than welfare reform?  Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps -- they all exist, most at levels higher than 1970.  Government-funded health care programs cover far more people for far more stuff.
  • Certainly some private practices have changed that may affect employee risk.  It is interesting that the author mentioned 401K's.  To Hacker, shifting from defined benefits pensions to 401K's is an increased risk.  I am sure he would point in part to plans like Enron's where 401K holders took a bath because they were encouraged to funnel a lot of their savings into Enron stock.  But most 401K plans don't work that way, and it does not matter since defined benefit plans are even worse.  Defined benefit plans presuppose that the company you work for will remain financially solvent for decades, and they assume workers will never switch jobs, since they are not very portable.  Defined benefit plans are horrible for workers  -- it reduces their flexibility and increases their risk.  401K's are a fabulous, worker-empowering invention and are bad only for a few union leaders and large pension fund managers (e.g. Calpers) who gain political power by virtue of the money they control.
  • Yes, many jobs are less stable, but there is no evidence that there are long-term unemployed people out there.  The nature of the people losing work and the job market today has changed, such that there are much better tools to find new work, and there is more work out there for their skills.  White collar workers today probably find new work easier than blue collar workers in West Virginia ever did in the 1950's and 1960's when the mines closed.  My guess is that most everyone from Enron has found a new job (or jail cell).  There are people in Appalachia who still haven't found a job 40 years after the mine closed.
Posted by: coyote on September 21, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Really. I'm asking. Your husband refuses to leave his job for your health? You like being close to the nice restaurants? Afraid of change? People used to move to the Southwest because of allergies, TB, or other respiratory things.

Why do you live someplace that's hurting you, and expect someone else to fix it for you?

Posted by: maryjane on September 21, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

republicrat, reading comprehension problem much? Kevin's not mocking the idea of saving for a rainy day; he's mocking the moronic guy who thinks spending your savings is perfectly fine if if lets people "maintain stable living standards" (i.e., get what they want and can no longer afford). Try to pay attention.

Posted by: shortstop on September 21, 2006 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Without having read this book, I think the author has gleaned the essence of modern conservative politics, which is to socialize the losses for American business (i.e. pass their risks on to common people), while privatizing the gains (think gated communities).

In other words, these insufferable hypocrites believe in welfare for businesses and the elite, but not for ordinary human beings.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 21, 2006 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

TangoMan writes: As America is moving away from demographic homogeneity the splintering of the "all-in-the-same-boat" mentality should come as no surprise.

Moving away from "demographic homogeneity"? When the hell's the last time we had "demographic homgeneity" -- 1709?

What an idiot.

Posted by: Earl on September 21, 2006 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Really! You can just up and move somewhere pretty 'cause you want to?

How do you pay for your transportation?

Your housing?

Your food, healthcare?

What?

You don't work for a living? You have money saved? Money from parents or family? Own a house? Lands? Got money for education, healthcare from the government?

What is it that lets you live whereever you want?

I'd love to go back to the town I grew up in. But there's no jobs. They have the highest unemployment in the nation. And I have no savings, no lands, no investments.

But we have jobs here. In the city.

Posted by: Crissa on September 21, 2006 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK
The Repukeliscum have long championed the Myth of the Lone FrontiersmanPOed Lib at 7:21 PM
That's followed by the "Rags to Riches" myth of the old McGuffy readers and the Horatio Algers stories: Work hard, suck up to a rich man, and you too will become rich. Of course, in the 'publican America, it's more a case of suck off rather than suck up.
.What do Liberals want, a nirvana of multiculturalism or a "all-in-the-same-boat" societal ethos? TangoMan at 5:23 PM
Here's the usual racist craphead. When I see a Native American face, I know that I'm seeing a person whose family has been in this country longer than mine and tangoboy's. When I see an African-American face, I know I'm seeing a person whose family has also been in this country longer than mine and probably tingleboy's as well; yet, to him, they're less worthy of citizenship than he and his'n.
Why do you live someplace that's hurting you, and expect someone else to fix it for you? maryjane at 8:13 PM
Do you smoke so much of your namesake that you can't imagine that the air is being polluted by a corporation receiving a Bush subsidy in, say, Texas? Posted by: Mike on September 21, 2006 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

I got an Idea for Chavez. He's giving or selling at a low price heating oil to poor NYkrs. Why doesn't he open up a string of service stations and compete with big oil, big time. Gas is 12 cents a gallon in Caracas, locally produced of course. It couldn't cost that much to ship it here.

In this case I must agree with those that say competition is good for the consumer. Of course that would put the pressure on those employed by big oil who are some of the last living wage, loskill, noskill job holders.

Posted by: BGone on September 21, 2006 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

of COURSE you have nothing to be sorry for tango ... you need to justify your racism to yourself, and so you project it onto all of humanity as basic human nature.

Yada, yada, yada . . . clearly you don't count yourself as a member of the "reality-based community" for all you can muster in the form of response are charges of racism for any who don't partake of your "fantasy-based visions of reality."

Look, the phenomona is well known as the "Progressive's Dilemma." Here's Goodhart's essay published in that Right-wing Racist Rag, aka The Guardian [/sarcasm]:

And therein lies one of the central dilemmas of political life in developed societies: sharing and solidarity can conflict with diversity. This is an especially acute dilemma for progressives who want plenty of both solidarity (high social cohesion and generous welfare paid out of a progressive tax system) and diversity (equal respect for a wide range of peoples, values and ways of life). The tension between the two values is a reminder that serious politics is about trade-offs. It also suggests that the left's recent love affair with diversity may come at the expense of the values and even the people that it once championed.

It was the Conservative politician David Willetts who drew my attention to the "progressive dilemma". Speaking at a roundtable on welfare reform, he said: "The basis on which you can extract large sums of money in tax and pay it out in benefits is that most people think the recipients are people like themselves, facing difficulties that they themselves could face. If values become more diverse, if lifestyles become more differentiated, then it becomes more difficult to sustain the legitimacy of a universal risk-pooling welfare state. People ask: 'Why should I pay for them when they are doing things that I wouldn't do?' This is America versus Sweden. You can have a Swedish welfare state provided that you are a homogeneous society with intensely shared values. In the United States you have a very diverse, individualistic society where people feel fewer obligations to fellow citizens. Progressives want diversity, but they thereby undermine part of the moral consensus on which a large welfare state rests." . . . .

Yet it is also true that Scandinavian countries with the biggest welfare states have been the most socially and ethnically homogeneous states in the west. By the same token, the welfare state has always been weaker in the individualistic, ethnically divided US compared with more homogeneous Europe. And the three bursts of welfarist legislation that the US did see - Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, Harry Truman's Fair Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society - came during the long pause in mass immigration between the first world war and 1968. . . . .

. . .
So a disproportionate amount of tax income spent on welfare is going to minorities. The paper also finds that US states that are more ethnically fragmented than average spend less on social services. The authors conclude that Americans think of the poor as members of a different group, whereas Europeans still think of the poor as members of the same group. Robert Putnam, the analyst of social capital, has also found a link between high ethnic mix and low trust in the US. There is some British evidence supporting this link, too. Researchers at Mori found that the average level of satisfaction with local authorities declines steeply as the extent of ethnic fragmentation increases. Even allowing for the fact that areas of high ethnic mix tend to be poorer, Mori found that ethnic fractionalisation still had a substantial negative impact on attitudes to local government.

Posted by: TangoMan on September 21, 2006 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, I was making a point.

People live all over the country where there isn't smog, and somehow survive. And not just in your home town. The idea of being proactive in this isn't even occurring to you. You think somebody should make it work for you. Hundreds of dollars a month in medications is not insignificant over many years.

Sit down sometime and actually think about it. What do you do for a living that it's impossible to do away from smog? How much is "impossible" and how much is inertia, and a desire to have somebody else make it work for you?

This is actually relevant to this thread, since the idea of the "ownership society" is being panned so much. Waiting for somebody to make you safe instead of taking control of the problem is part of the issue.

Posted by: maryjane on September 21, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

People live all over the country where there isn't smog, and somehow survive.

Did you know that even the Grand Canyon has smog? Where in the country do you think doesn't have smog?

Do most people in the United States live where there is lower, or higher air quality? Do more people live where there are more jobs or less jobs? Do people emigrate towards or away from areas of high unemployment? Towards or away from stability? Risk?

Posted by: Crissa on September 21, 2006 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

Maryjane epitomizes the fundamental problem I see with the Republican mindset -- a profound selfishness and a gross lack of empathy. The libertarians really do buy into the John Wayne lone cowboy mentality. Until they fall off the fucking horse.

Hey Maryjane, why don't you stick a gun in your mouth and pull the trigger?

That way there won't be so much bullshit coming out of your mouth.

Posted by: Fed up on September 21, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

sorry, tango ... it's just that when you say patently racist things and use your own racism as a shield for acting like a douche and treating poor minorities as subhumans somehow beneath you, then I feel justified in calling you racist.

take your "Progressive dilemma" and shove it up your racist, sophist ass. It is precisely BECAUSE of little shits like you that such a dilemma would exist.

Posted by: Nads on September 21, 2006 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

This is actually relevant to this thread, since the idea of the "ownership society" is being panned so much. Waiting for somebody to make you safe instead of taking control of the problem is part of the issue.
Posted by: maryjane

we live in the communities we live in for myriad reasons. my home shouldn't have to be subject to my government's misregulation of industry. of course, some people with the resources can move, but the option isn't available to everyone.

your suggestion marks you not with some nietzschean superman qualities, which I daresay you delusionally think you possess, but simply as someone who has money, options, and a function not integral (or easily replaceable/automated) to your industry.

maybe crissa isn't.

Posted by: Nads on September 21, 2006 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

The fuckwads who snap their fingers and say "why don't you just move?" are the same assholes who blame the Katrina victims for being stuck in New Orleans.

They were stuck because they were too poor to get away. You got that dim-bulb? There are people in the world who don't have choices.

But you do. You have a choice. So go get that gun ....

Posted by: Fed up on September 21, 2006 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

Nads simply affirms the way that liberals use the word racist - a racist is someone who bests a liberal in an argument. Note how all she can manage is bluster and name calling and all of her responses lack any meaningful content. Nads is a sad testament to what it means to be a member of the "reality-based community" - drink the kool-aid of fashionable rhetoric, posture as being enlightened, and ignore the real world issues that influence policy and instead favor fashionable nonsense.

Posted by: TangoMan on September 21, 2006 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Perhaps you should concentrate on how to save some money to get out of the city rather than waste time posting on blogs?

Posted by: Thomas1"

Fuck you, Thomas1. On behalf of everyone who is clinging to a job for health insurance because their spouse is sick, and there is absolutely NO possibility of getting individual coverage.

Posted by: Cal Gal on September 21, 2006 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

Really maryjane, and thomas1 also -- since you've shown what a totally cold and useless piece of crap you are, get that gun... stick it in your mouth ... and put yourself out of your misery ....

Posted by: Fed Up on September 21, 2006 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

there's no value in debating with racists, tango ... why should I bother with anything BUT vile invective when dealing with you? you're trash to me. I can be bothered just far enough to talk shit about you.

you haven't bested me at anything since we're not debating. I treat little shits like you the way I do torture-apologists ... worthy of insult, not dialogue. I'll leave it to others to actually debate with you regarding your view of minorities.

Posted by: Nads on September 21, 2006 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

It's the arrogance of people like maryjane that makes me puke. Who the fuck are you to tell Crissa where to live? Do you know jack about her life? No you don't.

Posted by: Fed Up on September 21, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

TangoMan on September 21, 2006 at 9:03 PM

thanks for the link.

Bgone: Why doesn't he open up a string of service stations and compete with big oil, big time. Gas is 12 cents a gallon in Caracas, locally produced of course. It couldn't cost that much to ship it here.

It doesn't cost much to ship it here. The poor of NY can then sell their oil to the big refineries and make a windfall profit. the cost of gasoline will fall a few cents per gallon, depending on how much oil Chavez gives us. Selling at 12 cents per gallon isn't enough to raise anybody out of poverty, or even cover the costs of labor, the rentals and the property tax.

Posted by: republicrat on September 21, 2006 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Tango Man:

Nads simply affirms the way that liberals use the word racist - a racist is someone who bests a liberal in an argument. Note how all she can manage is bluster and name calling and all of her responses lack any meaningful content.

Having seen the lackluster efforts that you made to use logic and reason to send the lib off the deep end, perhaps you should hold off doing a victory dance. We conservatives must adhere to a strategy of avoiding race; it's all about making sure we keep taxes low and keep the liberals from getting a free handout.

Nads is a sad testament to what it means to be a member of the "reality-based community" - drink the kool-aid of fashionable rhetoric, posture as being enlightened, and ignore the real world issues that influence policy and instead favor fashionable nonsense.

No, a hard-headed approach to earning money and creating wealth need not include the posturing of modern liberalism. Conservatism is lost if it doesn't take back the mantle of realism and, for too long, we have seen the moneychangers in the temple known as the Congress run rampant with the tax money of good people.

I'll make the pronouncements; you toe the line and keep your silly victory dance to a minimum. I know what makes the libs squeal, and it isn't pointing out what tactics they use: it's pointing out that their tactics mean nothing in the face of hard work and honesty.

I am a Republican married to a delightful Cambodian girl that I fished out of the gutter; please refrain from baiting the libs about racial matters.

It is unbecoming.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on September 21, 2006 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's not mocking the idea of saving for a rainy day; he's mocking the moronic guy who thinks spending your savings is perfectly fine if if lets people "maintain stable living standards"

I get it. It's OK to save for a rainy day, but when the rainy day comes you shouldn't spend your savaings that you accumulated for a rainy day. Instead, it should be government policy to prevent rainy days.

Posted by: republicrat on September 21, 2006 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

No, you don't get it, republicrat. This isn't a rainy day we're talking about. This is policies that create a string of rainy decades, and the forecast is extended thunderstorms. Get it now?

Posted by: shortstop on September 21, 2006 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, great, now there's a (fake) Norman Rogers too.

Said the fool who's name is synonymous with 'spoof' posting.

Gather up ye riches, for the libs are coming with a tax rate of 65% or better next year. I should post the information I received from my accountant about that tax shelter on St. Kitts. Anyone with money in the bank will want to move it offshore BEFORE the libs take over.

Wait-I am surrounded by the broke and insolvent. And you wonder why I keep my windows rolled up when I drive through your neighborhood.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on September 21, 2006 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

This is policies that create a string of rainy decades, and the forecast is extended thunderstorms

You're beating a dead metaphor.

Posted by: republicrat on September 21, 2006 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

I'll take that as a concession, republicrat. Get back to us when you figure out that governmental policy actually has an effect on the economy. Really, you can do better than this. A little better.

Nevis, Normie, Nevis, not St. Kitts--the people of the latter island are not too thrilled about all the offshore accounts, tax dodges and criminal hideaways hosted by the former. Since they share a government, or at least used to, the politics can be interesting to watch.

Posted by: shortstop on September 21, 2006 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

yaaaawn. Dumb drugs I have to take right now are rendering me sleeeeeeeeeeeepy. Night, all. Thanks for the laughs, You Know Who You Are.

Posted by: shortstop on September 21, 2006 at 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

Life is riskier for today's family's

The struggle to vanquish the misplaced-apostrophe virus is losing ground I see.

Posted by: DrBB on September 21, 2006 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

The struggle to vanquish the misplaced-apostrophe virus is losing ground I see.

Yes, it was consumed by the unnecessary hyphen beast.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on September 21, 2006 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

Did you know that even the Grand Canyon has smog? Where in the country do you think doesn't have smog?

Thousands of places don't have smog. At least not the kind that wrecks your health.

Do most people in the United States live where there is lower, or higher air quality? Do more people live where there are more jobs or less jobs? Do people emigrate towards or away from areas of high unemployment? Towards or away from stability? Risk?

If you really have no choices, if you are living in the only place on Earth that would hire you, if you can't afford to live in any other place in America, then ignore all the comments. Is that really true? You are balancing career and stability risks with health risks. Maybe you're happy with the balance you've got. But then don't complain because someone else won't pay for your medicine.

The rest of you idiots wondering why I'm apparently picking on a poverty-stricken person on her last dollar:

Crissa is posting on a computer. I'm assuming she isn't destitute. I have lived where there are smoggy days in the summer, but then I don't have a problem that requires hundreds of dollars of medicine a month. A move to another environment would be the first thing I'd think of in her situation.

Thomas:

It takes more than a bus ticket to move somewhere.

Posted by: maryjane on September 21, 2006 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

CalGal makes a good point I hadn't thought of.

Maybe Crissa can't easily change jobs with her health condition and get insurance in the new job. Maybe she moved into the smoggy area and got the job before the health condition showed up, so it wasn't her fault.

If true, and that's a lot of speculation, I would concede that's a big issue. Crissa might have pointed this problem out earlier if it is the main problem.

Posted by: maryjane on September 21, 2006 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

Geez, no kidding. To move to another city, either I must abandon my earthly goods - you know, television, this nice computer, etc - and then get a bus ticket?

No, my spouse does a job that is only done in a few cities of the world. Yay. I rather like this city, but I miss the beach - I suppose we could move to a different part of the urban area, but that would cost more money.

My spouse is also able to commute via bicycle and if we need to go between the cities, there is a train. None of your other options even have that. ...And they all have more smog, and less jobs, and less pay than our current area.

And moving? That would remove our healthcare, cost money, and then we'd end up someplace where the medication costs more and the jobs pay less.

What is it, exactly, that you're smoking?

Actually, in a citywide evacuation, I blame the person in charge of all those buses that were underwater. Oh, wait, that's a black person too, so we can't blame him either.

Oh, wait, except he was told by our federal government that they would provide busses and his would get in the way. You are a racist, you pig.

Posted by: Crissa on September 22, 2006 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

maryjane:

I like to cut of your gib. You sound like a sensible woman and I hope you'll allow me to expand on your idea a little further.

Crissa, here's the dog that didn't bark: the Democratic Party isn't going to buy you a new set of lungs. You may believe their promises of a better life, but it isn't going to happen. Vote your interests and vote Republican this November.

Here's the dog that barked: The Republicans are going to privatize Social Security. You can create an investment account and find yourself on the road to financial independence in a matter of years. You shall be granted a key to the ownership society. Invest wisely. Hedge funds are returning poorly this year and I would stay out of utilities until we can get the price of a barrel of oil up past $80 for at least one quarter.

George Bush has grabbed Mommy Government by both shoulders and pulled her back and now her titty has flown out of the mouths of you libs and your free milk has run out. It's time to get jobs and earn your keep. Stop waiting for the Government to hand you things.

Maryjane, keep up the good fight. It's your kind of truth-telling that makes these libs pound sand in frustration.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on September 22, 2006 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

Hrm, typo.

'They have more smog than where I grew up'

But the rest still stands; my 'smoggy city' has more than the ones you named. (But it's not LA or some east coast city)

Posted by: Crissa on September 22, 2006 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

Vote republican? Are you nuts?

Republians get me:

  • less jobs (privatization means there's an excuse for one person to get paid more for no reason)

  • less transportation (I rather orefer mass transit, even though I love to drive.)

  • less foodstamps (yeah, I needed them one winter)

  • more pollution

  • less parks

  • less forests

  • less beaches

  • less rights

  • more expenses
  • Look, it might not be a 'tax' if I have to pay a private company to get my car registered, but gosh, it sure costs me more.

    Reppublicans suck rocks.

    Posted by: Crissa on September 22, 2006 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

    ...Oh, and living in California means that I can afford medication, without insurance, on a minimum wage job.

    Can't say that about every other state.

    Posted by: Crissa on September 22, 2006 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

    Everyone knows poor people are responsible for the economy, that produces tens of millions of poverty wage jobs. It's definitely the fault of the poor, for the economy not producing enough jobs for every worker.

    It's also the poors fault they cant afford health care, on poverty wages.

    Yup, those lazy poor people deserve what they get.

    Posted by: AkaDad on September 22, 2006 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

    No, no, no Crissa-

    The Democrats FORCED George Bush to do those things by theatening to fillibuster his efforts to defend America from Iraq.

    What you need to do is find a good Merril Lynch investment counselor who will help you take that newly privatized Social Security account and help you shape it into a moneymaking freight train. You may not have much, but thanks to the Republican Party, you'll have a modest portfolio that will shine like a beacon of hope. But avoid hedge funds. Ghastly returns this year. Ghastly.

    By the light of this beacon, ye shall know peace, my lady.

    I will be expecting you to vote Republican this fall. Please register your vote and put up a post here on Kevin Drum's blog on election night. Just say, 'this is Crissa and Norman said I needed to vote Republican' and I shall give you a shout-out.

    Remember to tell your friends-Social Security privatization is on the way. It will be a tide that will lift all boats off the shores of desperation.

    Maryjane, would you be a single woman? I'm having a bit of difficulty with the future ex-Mrs. Norman Rogers and I must say-you have exciting ideas.

    Posted by: Norman Rogers on September 22, 2006 at 12:46 AM | PERMALINK

    The Democrats FORCED George Bush to do those things by theatening to fillibuster his efforts to defend America from Iraq.

    Wha? Defend from what?

    Posted by: Crissa on September 22, 2006 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

    Norman:

    Don't blow things out of proportion. I was discussing only one specific example here with one specific person. That doesn't make me Ann Coulter, and my "jib" doesn't come into it.

    Crissa, I still think you have more flexibility and power than you think you do. I have no idea what kind of job is only done in "a few cities of the world." Unless your spouse is a smog analyis specialist, in which case I guess you're S.O.L.

    Posted by: maryjane on September 22, 2006 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

    maryjane demonstrates a sociopathic lack of empathy ... she doesn't need to admit to being a repub. it oozes from her.

    Posted by: Nads on September 22, 2006 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

    I'm getting really tired of people arguing that we're better off because we have a bunch more cheap, plastic crap. Stuff ain't everything poeple.

    Posted by: laughingsong on September 22, 2006 at 5:50 AM | PERMALINK

    Not to inject historical perspective or anything, but there's an answer to the 'progressives dilemma': during and immediately after the wave of immigration from roughly 1880 to the Great War, there was a conscious effort to "Americanize" immigrants -- to ensure that "they" became "us".

    This started with Theodore Roosevelt (the first to use the word "Americanization" for immigrants), and became an actual "Americanization movement" (with an office and everything), under Wilson.

    During the First World War being ethnic -- specifically EUROPEAN ethnic -- was a bad thing in America. Virtually every German language newspaper in the country closed -- and there were dozens, if not hundreds, many with circulations in the tens of thousands, e.g., in Baltimore. Bismarck Street in Cinncinnati was renamed Atlantic Street, and so on.

    But it wasn't just German-Americans, many in the fourth generation (the second largest immigrant stock in America). ALL visible connections to foreign countries -- Italy, Ireland, the new wave of Eastern Europeans -- was suspect.

    Until it was hijacked in the 1920s by nativists and bigots as the actual flow of immigrants was choked off (and became America First with Coughlin and Lindbergh, et al in the 30s), the Americanization Movement very consciously taught immigrants and most importantly, their children, that being an immigrant WAS about being an American.

    Just look at the different way ethnicity was treated in World War Two: the movie cliche of the mail call is not entirely a myth -- "Kowalski! Schmidt! O'Hara! Donatello!"

    That wouldn't have happened a generation earlier. But by WW2, ethnicity was understood to be a CELEBRATION of what makes us America -- not a melting pot, but a kaleidoscope where every turn of history refracts new light on the old promise.

    It's not an accident or a coincidence that this also happened to be the time when the New Deal cemented a genuinely national consensus that we ARE, in fact, all in the same boat: the elderly (Social Security); women (you no longer lost your citizenship if you married a foreigner); African-Americans (an anti-lynching law at last, and the first time Truman bested FDR was ending segregation in them ilitary); and so on. Sure, the Nisei internment camps were an atrocity, but it was rather eloquently answered at the time by the Go-for-broke division.

    Of course, there are softhead multi-culturalists who don't understand what makes us America.

    But comparing us to Sweden just shows that conservatives still don't get it, either. If progressives would ever return to their roots in TR's vision for one whole country, we'd kick your reactionary asses.

    Does E Pluribus Unum ring a bell?

    Posted by: theAmericanist on September 22, 2006 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

    being a doctor and somewhat limited in my scope of the professional job market, I'd say offhand ...

    pediatric rheumatologist, cardiac surgeon, tenure-track faculty.

    Posted by: Nads on September 22, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

    So what does a current day worker feel when he realizes that his own pay is being shortchanged so that a group, to which he'll never belong (defined benefit pension recipients) is benefiting at his expense? I'd say that he feels that he could do better for himself if the defined benefit system was ended and he could capture the surplus that was going to the recipients and being drawn from his paycheck.

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