Economic insecurity, redux
Several comments on my last post on the economic difficulties of the people who attacked the Capitol took aim at their characters in one way or another.
I certainly do not want to defend the Capitol invaders in any way. I think they should be vigorously prosecuted. However, it is critically important to step back from the violent horror of the assault and think strategically about how we can use public policy to reduce the risk of political violence and democratic failure. And that means thinking about conditions that influence people, not simply focusing on their character defects (they’re stupid, they’re selfish, they’re racist, etc.). Whatever character flaws the insurrectionists have, they or others like them will have the same flaws next year, and the year after that, and on and on. The crooked timber of humanity is . . . crooked. Politics is not a morality play.
This is the reason that we should hope that economic factors played an important role in fostering the discontent that led to the election of Trump and eventually to the attack on Congress. Researchers and journalists should actively look for economic causes. It is not about professional bragging rights for economists. It’s about looking for solutions. We have some ideas about how to cure problems like economic insecurity and downward mobility. We have, I think, fewer politically viable ideas about how to cure anxiety over demographic change or outright racism. (I would be happy to be wrong about this. And my point is not that we have no ideas about how to reduce prejudice. We do. For example, promoting interracial contact may lessen prejudice and anxiety. But many policies to promote interracial contact, such as integrating schools, would be exceedingly difficult to pass into law and implement on a large scale, and any effort to do so might provoke a backlash that hands control of the government to Republicans. Politics is the art of the possible.)
Take the article I quoted from in my earlier post. Many people who stormed the Capitol have had trouble with debts, taxes, and bankruptcy. There are policies we can adopt that might make their lives go better. One obvious idea suggested by the article is to make it easier to declare personal bankruptcy. We could implement a wage insurance program. We could try to foster regional economic development. We could limit the cost of college. We could raise the minimum wage or try wage subsidies. We can make Obamacare more generous. We can pay child allowances.
These policies might or might not quell the anger, fear, resentment, and polarization that contributed to the insurrection on January 6. They might or might not preserve our democracy. We are skating in front of the breaking ice, and there are no magic bullets. But at least they are concrete policies that could plausibly get passed through Congress.
This is why the article quoted in the earlier post was interesting to me.
We were delayed in considering total uncertainty. The primary reason was isolating the alt righters when the antificants suffer the same problem. That foolishness cost u a month. Now we have identified something tangible,m having taken two months to decode the bias, what to do?
Maybe we have proved that our biases are impossible to overcome in time to fix anything. You have to rule out the impossibility hypotheses before we waste time and effort. We are, perhaps, too clueless. Remember it took ten years for the Fed to finally admit they cause wealth inequality. Half of us do not believe it still.
FEMA reëducation camps seem reasonable to me.
“Why build them if we are not going to use them?”—Fat Donnie from Queens in 2016.
Why not consider the FEMA reëducation camps as a solution?
After all, “Why would you build them if you are not going to use them?”—Fat Donnie from Queens
Eric, I disagree.
People storming the Capitol goes beyond economic analysis in this case. I really don’t think that most of them share even a sort of similar version of what is likely true as what I do. I will go with your examples- “they’re stupid, they’re selfish, they’re racist”. That sums it up for me.
Don’t spend too much time looking for alternatives when you have already nailed the answer.
What Jerry said.
Seems to me that you are like the drunk guy looking for his car keys under a street light who tells the cops he lost them in an alley but is looking for them under the street light because the light is better. Hillary was much criticized for stating out loud the fact that half of Trump’s base were deplorables. I think that the folks who stormed the capital are mostly not redeemable and we should simply force them back under the rocks they hid under until Trump came along. I am much more concerned about the other half of Trump’s supporters who are not stone cold racists, cognitively challenged or sociopaths. Generally these folks do not suffer from economic insecurity but they do want things to work and ultimately that was the only reason Trump was not re-elected–he was incompetent. If we want to bring the country back from the brink, we have to make sure that Biden gets things working again and that is where economists can play a role. Progressives are going to have to accept the idea of not letting perfect be the enemy of better because the GOP certainly wants Biden to fail every bit as much as the wanted Obama to fail.
The idea that a silver spoon millionaire with a lifetime of anti worker history appealed to working people because of his populism is totally absurd.
I came to believe that the reason we got the civil rights and medicare was because the vast majority of white people had become secure from the risks of life and living by the 1960’s.
I have read that the right understood this as a problem for them politically then. They surmised that people being secure allowed time to be politically involved. Moving the populous from that security also benefited the money at the top. The right got lucky with the financial events of the 70’s as it sowed natural insecurity that was capitalized upon by the right. Throw in some international political upheaval (Iran hostage) and you have fertile ground for the rights/Reagan message. The nation was moved.
It fits with the authors theory of history in Why Nations Fail. Contingencies.
If I am correct, then Eric would be correct in what needs to happen. There is one “except for” issue. The one way communication system the right has created. Whether intended or not, it has become a brainwashing machine. With the contingency of consolidation of the media system such that our news infrastructure is viewed as entertainment by the owners instead of as the servant of democracy as noted in the bill or rights, accomplishing tangible relief in the form of greater security from the risk of life and living may not give us as great a shift needed to move this nation back from the position we are in. A nation of exclusion instead of inclusion (Why Nations Fail).
There were a lot of decent Republican polls in the 50s and 60s. My favorite was
So, how much has the GOP changed over the years? This guy’s District was held by Boehner and now a real cretin in Warren Davidson.
” The Republican Who Saved Civil Rights
How a little-known conservative Ohio congressman changed American history.”
The problem for the GOP is that in order to become relevant in the Congress they needed to change. Vietnam gave them an in to the WH, but they needed more.
Then George Wallace showed them how to win elections; the Southern Strategy took off; they sold their souls and here we are.
Racism, pure and simple.
The New Deal made things better for most Americans, but it explicitly excluded Blacks. You’re assuming that people like that would support legislation that might help them even if people with lower skin reflectivity would also benefit. Racism doesn’t work that way. Those guys would be happy with two grains of rice a day if it meant Blacks, Hispanics and so on would have to get by on one. They say this explicitly. While they tend to lie about many things, this is something I believe them on.
EMichael, I’m not suggesting racism was not the motivation for part of the conservative movement. Business was the other half. Remember, it was the Powell memo that was the manifesto and strategy plan for the movement. The racism was the emotion they tapped to get the votes from the public.
With that history was kind to their strategy in the 70’s with OPEC, Japan product “invasion”, inflation, and Iran hostage event. They all combined such that the population was primed with insecurity. Racism thrives on that.