However, in areas where affordability is a real concern for people on average salaries – Dublin, Meath and Kildare as well as the cities of Galway, Cork,
How can the American left better connect with the working class?
I’m seeing the common theme in many of these answers that, to paraphrase, reads as, “Buckle down on traditional Democratic policies, because if we just educate them… then they will finally get it.” This is to suggest that the working class are, as a whole, unaware of the policies to begin with. It’s condescending because it assumes ignorance, rather than seeking to understand why they have chosen to abandon the Democrats’ methodology.
The first thing I would like people to understand is the nature of the bubble of comfort and security they exist within and their complete disconnect with millions of others. Quantifying it helps. The libertarian political scientist Charles Murray put together a short quiz testing the thickness of people’s social bubble: which was brought to the public by a partnership with the Public Broadcasting System. The quiz isn’t perfect, but I have seen few better wake up calls for millions of Americans. I would encourage everyone to take the test then post your answer to and start to realize how disconnected many people are from the red parts of the map.
If I had to guess why the disconnect, first I would say this is due to an insular urban society which doesn’t encourage interaction outside of the cities or with the urban poor, one which is actually very lacking in diversity despite it’s advocacy of it, particularly intellectually. It also has a large part to do with “the other half’s” depiction in the media. Cultural representation in entertainment is almost entirely one way. They feature upper-middle class socialites simply existing as if that was the norm.
Consider the lifestyle of shows like How I Met Your Mother, where the cast includes people who can afford to live in nice apartments in New York City for years without jobs before becoming a) A successful architect, b) a powerful and influential environmental lawyer, and c) a famous news anchor d) a world traveled painter and e) Barnie. This is an extreme example, but think of the last time you saw a show about rural life that wasn’t one of these people getting lost on the way to another city or of a toothless redneck depicting rural “folk” as uncultured and illiterate, and possibly cannibals. Honestly, when was the last time you saw something that didn’t depict people living an “average” urban socialite lifestyle, which almost no one American has?
I hope you didn’t just make the closest jump you could to Orange is the New Black, in which one of the main themes is the quintessential personification of how the left looks down upon working class “white trash.” Ask yourself even this, in a country with 200,000,000 Christians, when was the last time you saw Christianity displayed in a positive light, or acknowledging the many benefits to society that people of faith contribute, such as being the number one contributor to charity, both Christian and secular, as well as the greatest volunteers and providing more to orphans worldwide than any other source combined? I’m not just saying this as a Christian, I’m asking you to take a deep and reflective look at how you’ve seen hundreds of millions of people personified in the last two decades, and how you might feel if whatever group you felt as deeply about as Christians do about Christ being represented as horribly as these shows present Christians.
Given that, we have to address the nature of the, “If we could just make them let us help them, they would connect better with us.” We need to evaluate the way in which Democratic “solutions” to problems have looked from the bottom. While not a visible problem to the Upper and Middle classes, many of these policies have fundamentally broken many of the foundations of living and caused worse problems for poor and working class people. Here are a few examples:
Policies beginning in the 1960′s with President Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty” can be traced to significantly harming the family. At a time where poverty was already steeply in decline, programs were set up to aid single mothers. What they actually did, however, was to incentivize fatherless homes by paying mothers who have no father present in the household. If there is a single value which most working class people have, it’s family, and if there is one predictor of a bad life, it is being raised without a father. However, when the government began replacing the role of the breadwinner for families, it caused many single mothers to be wedded not to the father (or fathers) of their children, but to the state, ensuring not only that they would be trapped in American poverty, but also that they had to vote Democrat to ensure their continued lifestyle.
This affected black Americans first and worst, and we are seeing the fruits of it today. It needs to be understood that directly after the Civil War and even until about 1910, American blacks had a rate of so called “nuclear family” households, with the father married to mother both living in the home with the children at a rate higher than even white families. In the 1960’s, when the so called “War on Poverty” began, the fatherless rate of black households dropped to only 25% and a researcher named Daniel Moynihan called the situation of black fatherlessness a “disaster”. Why this is important is that Moynihan wasn’t some sort of Conservative, but a left leaning researcher working in the Johnson administration, a man who later went on to become a Democratic Senator from New York, and his report (better known as the Moynihan Report) outlined the threatening direction that this trend in black families would be taking.
Now, the percentage of blacks raised without fathers is at 75%, well beyond the disaster point of 25% fifty years ago, and their communities are even more devastated after five decades of social welfare programs to fight poverty. According to Larry Elders, this is the number one cause of deprivation in the black community, far more than white racism. Why this is important to understand of the rest of the working class is that now the percentage of whites raised without a father in the household (such as was my experience) is now at 25%, precisely where Moynihan called it a disaster for the black communities.
Continuing on, New Deal programs such as the the Federal Housing Administration, created in the National Housing Act of 1934 eventually worked to create a system of renters among the poor where rents became much more common than mortgages that actually lead to wealth creation. They also cloistered poor blacks in extremely cramped and extremely crime ridden housing blocks (see ).
Another New Deal Program, the Social Security Act created a system where everyone would receive a fair retirement plan, though they did not pay fairly into it. Furthermore, the heavy taxation imposed by the Social Security taxes caused millions to have little disposable cash to invest and save. Even at modest returns, almost all investment strategies outperform government payouts over the course of a person’s working life. So you have many who have earned enough to still be taxed, but ended up paying almost all their disposable income on a program that won’t exist when they are older and need it.
Minimum wage has been a deceptively damning Democratic policy. This week McDonald’s unveiled self-service kiosks nationwide. This came in response to the “Fight for $15” Minimum Wage advocacy program propped up by numerous champions of the Democratic party and backed by union organization.This of course, means a conversation about manufacturing. The state of American manufacturing is a hard reality. In part, jobs by expensive workers were shipped overseas in one form or another and in part, a large part, because of automation. Automation has made the output of the United States continue to increase, channeling wealth from the working class to the entrepreneur class as fewer and fewer jobs are needed. This is most evident in the Rust Belt, where the name itself decries the state of economic collapse. There, excessive payments for factory workers spelled a great life for the few workers who could qualify, but destroyed the entire local automotive industry and the caused disruption and destitution for millions of workers. Left leaning news organizations do a great disservice to this problem with a selective telling of the history, such as this graph by .
It’s misleading because it tells the story of America’s outpaced increase in manufacturing output, but give hope that jobs are also on the rise. It’s interesting that they choose 2010 to start the graph, since a much more honest look at the state of American manufacturing can be found by following the American Enterprise Institute.
By looking at the second graph, we can see that, while we have produced something of a half million manufacturing jobs since 2010, job growth in manufacturing has stagnated since the 1970’s and collapsed in the 2000s. This collapse began, not coincidentally, around 2001, the same year that China joined the World Trade Organization. This sudden and dramatic decline in the costs of labor markets, is what sent many of the jobs Americans had come to take for granted at exorbitant hourly wages overseas or incentivized for innovations toward automation to remain competitive against foreign corporations in similar industries.
Looking to other parts of the country, high minimum wages have decimated entire industries outright. Consider agriculture. A look at my part of the country historically will show thousands upon thousands of acres dedicated to cotton fields and cotton production (and no, I’m talking about the 1960’s, not the 1840s.) My grandfather actually managed the town’s last cotton gin, as those cotton fields are now gone because no one can afford to hire workers and there is no technology to replace their labor. So no, industry hasn’t been automated… it’s just gone, leading to millions fleeing the rural areas for crowded cities and competing for the fewer and fewer jobs being created there.***
This brings up the actual ramifications of the Affordable Care Act for the working class. Around the time the ACA began rolling out, I was a retail store manager, and wrote the schedules. Corporate had enacted a policy shift in response to it. Basically, most of our full time staff were getting a ceiling of hours where they were encouraged to get below 29 hours a week. For all the part timers, we had to give cushion in case we stayed open late, so I was never allowed to give someone more than about 22 to 25 hours. The reason for this is that a full time worker who never worked over 30 hours a week would drop down to part time status, which was good. You see, if we have only a massive staff of part time employees, then corporate has no obligation to provide now even more costly benefits, including health care coverage.
The net effect was that I had to keep the full time people full time, but didn’t resist at all if they started to dip below a floor of 30 hours and, worst of all, make sure that our part timers had no chance of advancement. There was no force on heaven or Earth that would get them to reach full time status. They couldn’t even trade shifts because that could put them over the 30 hours if they really needed the money. They were stuck making next to nothing and couldn’t even work extra hours to make ends meet. The logical consequence of this was that many of my employees worked two to three dead end jobs just like the one I provided them… none of which were obligated to provide them insurance, which meant that they would be among the hardest working Americans out there, but still have to pay a government-mandated fine for not carrying insurance.
The Affordable Care Act, in essence, incentivized thousands of companies to reduce the labor of millions of people because that was what was best for the company. I want to hate the company I worked for for this, but seeing the economic projections, as well as looking at the implications of ’s , I realize that they were just doing what they had to for their survival.
Prior to the ACA my family paid $350/mo for excellent health insurance. We were limited to the hospital near our house apart from emergencies, but copays were $20–35 and nearly everything was covered after a small deductible. It even had maternity coverage.
Fast forward a couple of years once the ACA was fully rolled out. Insurance with the same group costs more than $1000/mo. No more copays and easy deductibles; every medical bill is simply split with the insurance company 50/50, excepting a couple of things that the ACA has specific requirements for. This is competitive with other insurers.
In thinking about this just for John’s family, but then imagining providing that kind of insurance for thousands, or even millions of their employees, I can’t help but say I understand. I’ll be honest, the company I worked for wasn’t doing great. They were international, but paying their people an extra $650 a month by way of insurance premiums… that’s something that might have reasonably destroyed the company.
I’m still bitter about it, though. Back in 2012, it made me sick to my stomach to know how much we were abusing our employees. I’m betting there were a lot more people in Corporate who shed even more tears about it than I did, but they weren’t as free to move as I was and couldn’t seek a lifestyle that didn’t make them hate themselves. That and other experiences were enough to make me abandon my business degree and focus on education and writing about politics and Conservatism. I don’t make nearly what I made in business, but with the money I make working for the schools and the support of my , I am able to provide comfortably for our family and sleep well at night. I was just so disgusted with a system that was portrayed as helping poor people, but instead created a class of people that went from poor — to hopeless.
Millions of people who could have had insurance were no longer able to get it, and millions of others lost what they had. Millions more who had it are now paying much more for it, and suffering economically as a result. The Affordable Care Act created an environment where the largest hirers in America could not afford to provide care to their employees.
Following the collapse of the markets in 2008, it made it such that employers had no incentives to bring back full time workers. Instead, they were incentivized to work around the new proposed legislation, they had to use shady and inhumane tactics that hurt their own employees just to stay afloat. And they did.
This meant that the economic struggles of 2008 and the unemployment that followed never corrected. It just remained stagnant for years, with millions of full time workers out of jobs, instead juggling three crap jobs, making no money to save, never seeing their families, and still without health insurance. The worst part was how foreseeable all this was, or maybe it was how this was communicated as some sort of a win.
On the subject of unemployment, this hasn’t even been honestly reported by the broader media. Today, I received a notification that one of the news agencies I am subscribed to said that American unemployment is actually at it’s lowest point in many years. This, however, is misleading. What we have actually seen isn’t a real reduction in unemployment. What we have are many people who are chronically underemployed, stuck working many hours at multiple low-paying part times jobs where they are never able to be promoted to full time employment status. This is a direct result of the Affordable Care Act.
As I said before, part of ACA was federally mandating that only full-time employees had to have health care provided, so many corporations just cut hours and hired more people to work part time. If you didn’t work in the limited and specialized fields of tech in the few growth cities, you were screwed. Also, many people who couldn’t find good work just left the workforce altogether. What’s important to know is that people who aren’t looking for work aren’t counted as “unemployed”. Also, for reasons that I find dubious, the message of “more new jobs” stopped counting underemployment and completely ignores those who left the workforce out of the unemployment metrics. A better indicator is looking at the Workforce Participation Rate, which is pretty clear.
This was actually a national problem, and not just local to small towns, but felt much worse in the recessed parts of the country.
Finally, technology, one of the only truly prosperous fields in the United States are incredibly left leaning and growing more so, and are, rather carelessly, working to disrupt other industries in a process which creates great wealth for a very select few, while destroying the jobs and livelihoods of millions of people.
How this looks from the bottom is that a growing class of young and idealistic technocrats are driving them out of work and ruining their lives in pursuit of their own wealth and political agenda. I’m not saying personally that that is an actual effort being made by the technology industry, but seeing the gulf of disconnect I have personally experienced while working in Silicon Valley, I can agree that there is at least a valid argument for many working class in Middle America to be angry with the technically savy left.
Furthermore, considering the failing education system, simply saying that these individuals should “work hard” or “gain new skills” no longer works as a method to actually produce people capable of surviving in a dynamic job market. First is a public school system which fails regularly to perform its basic job. This, I blame (as a public school teacher) on the lack of incentives for quality teachers and the lack of removal of ineffective ones. This is due mostly to the saturation of teachers unions in the education system, pushing for greater protections for veteran teachers even when evidence mounts that they fail at their primary duty, educating.
We also spend far, far too much on very few children engaged in tasks that do not lead to greater education. Additionally, the entire industry has shifted towards leftist ideals of education which place no practical value on fundamentals or accountability for the individual, leading to a generation which are incompetent, but feel great about it.
Compound this with a secondary education system where students are force fed lefitst values that don’t in any way create students capable of being successful in the workforce. I don’t know how people of the left are raised. Perhaps you were taught that college is about “gaining new ideas, or challenging assumptions”, something I find odd given the nature of suburban life, but the mantra of the poor was always “do well in school, go to a good college, and get a good job.” This was literally told to us thousands of times in our childhoods, so when quite the opposite was true, it disrupted the projected life plans of millions of young people and left them horribly disaffected with the education system altogether.
Perhaps this explains, in part, why the tech industry and much of the media, characterized by young workers, is so heavily influenced by the left and also why research showcasing how left-leaning agendas are failing so many people is regularly repressed by research institutions and the media. That’s just a theory, but the left has to acknowledge that the evolution of American education into a place of far-left ideas in no way serves the needs of the American people who need jobs much more than degrees in Inter-sectional Feminism.
So, to answer for how people of the left can begin to connect with the other half of the country I would say that first, they need to check their privilege and realize just how damaged the working class has been, their family structure, their housing availability, their job prospects, and most important, their ability to be upwardly mobile in the American socioeconomic spectrum.
The saddest of any of this, I can see how, in almost every case, most of the left who fought for all of these initiatives believed they would be helping us, but when we said, “Hey, this crap ain’t workin’” we were told that our experiences were false, and our observations were biased towards hurting the poor. What they failed to understand was that our observations were biased, because we’re the poor and we were the ones being negatively affected by their help. Had they actually been affected by most of their policies, they may have seen things differently. That said, most of the problems we faced were/or/face are due to severe overdoses of “help”. If the American left wanted to connect with the working class, they need to accept at least the possibility that these programs don’t work. Then they need to start looking to acknowledge their own biases in thought and practice, and finally to realize that the lifestyles of the working class is not being something to ridicule, but something to understand.
If I were to offer any suggestion, it would be to read the works of two authors first. The first being , by J.D. Vance and the second is by Jason L. Riley. Both peel back the facade of, “If only we could get them the help they need,” and help the left get away from the mentality of superior benevolence over working class in general.
***So many people are misunderstanding my point on technology, that I need to clarify with an added item. No, I am not saying I want to stop the flow and growth of technology just to keep my life the way it is. I worked in a technology centric role in the Marines, later when on work in Silicon Valley’s technology industry made an effort to hang a pennant for MIT in my daughters room. It’s important that you know that she is three months old. She already has a library of computer programming, robotics, and video game design books for kids in her little library for when she is ready. That will surely grow. We have invested in this direction for her life, because I know no other avenues seem to be possible for her generation, so I want to start her early.
That being the case, I am tired of the very selfish mentality for people disrupt any industry they can, rather than thinking about what problems they can solve. Taxis really weren’t a problem before Uber, but education is a problem. Yet they disrupt the taxi industry while education still sucks. Why? Because opportunism. The government spends trillions on education and half of it is waste doing inefficient things (I can’t remember if I mentioned I’m a public school teacher here people.) There is opportunity there to help support educators.
Take this, for example, Grannies in the Cloud. Someone devised an app to make volunteer retired people able to link up with and tutor children across the world. This provides the one-on-one support all kids needs, but which teachers are completely too overworked to provide. My wife is a school teacher too, 3rd grade. She is responsible for around 50 kids and works over 70 hours a week for a job that pays ~32,000 a year. She doesn’t have the bandwidth to give each of her kids any more of herself. It just isn’t possible. Something like Grannies in the Cloud could provide the support that she needs to help her kids progress at their own rate, since the state system holds all kids back at the speed of the slowest learner.
Working to improve these huge level problems, such as education through better and cheaper technology would also help greatly to solve the work problem by driving more people into the actual growth industries, something we’ve needed for decades. For that matter, why isn’t “job loss due to catastrophic technological change” an insurance industry policy that employers can provide to pay for reeducation? I don’t know why the great minds of the world are busy screwing around with reenventing the wheel, or at least the taxi, when so much bigger problems could be solved through the same use of their talents.
So yes, I love technology. Technology is great and it solves the world’s problems. I seriously want my daughter to be one of the first people on Mars, or maybe just her robots. I don’t care, but I am more than a little resentful that the best minds in the world seem to be focused most on solving the problem of how best a wealthy and highly educated person can become a billionaire creating digital services for millions of people rich enough to own a new iPhone, while carelessly destroying the lives of millions of the nation’s poor.
Be rich. Be as rich as you can. Design and build things, but do so after you ask how many people will you getting rich hurt, and if that number is far more than will be made rich, you really need to be held accountable for that. Can you get rich in some other way? Basically, what America, and the rest of the world for that matter, needs is a generation of socially minded tech entrepreneurs who have left their bubbles I mentioned earlier and look to the urban and rural poor to see how they can solve their problems, give them the avenues to elevation, and flatten the graph of American prosperity in a way that improves everyone’s lives and not just a few venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.
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