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Old 02-18-2013, 05:56 PM  
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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The problem with conservativism in 2013.

The key problem that I believe conservativism has to face in 2013 and the near future is that it doesn't have an answer to what has become the most critical problem for the 21st century economy: inequality.

There has been a historical tendency over the past 15 years and three Presidents to concentrate more and more wealth with the wealthy, and less and less wealth with everybody else. Inequality is at all time highs on that front, and it gives the middle and lower classes less spending money, slogs down the economy, and ultimately splits the economic pie even greater into the hands of the few.

Liberalism has a whole host of solutions, bordering from the more free market tendencies of the Democratic Party and the mainstream liberal movement, to the more socialist suggestions frequently made by the party's left wing. Some of them can be argued as legitimately good ideas (raising the minimum wage, capping the multi-billion dollar tax breaks for huge corporations, any number of investments in college education), some of them are obviously more on the fringe.

Conservativism's answer seems to be singular and ineffective: get "government out of the way," undo the massive structure of government regulation, and the economy will grow. And like a rising tide that lifts all boats (think "trickle down" economics), as the economy grows, so too will the fortunes of the lower and middle classes. Honestly, if conservativism has more of a message than this right now with regards to inequality, I've missed it.

The problem with this message, and conservativism in general right now, is that it seems outdated for 2013. As the economy has grown at times throughout the past fifteen years, the middle class and working poor have seen less and a less of a return on that progress, and the upper class has soared. In other words, the absolute core conservative response to the biggest issue affecting working Americans in 2013 is no longer applicable. It had some bearing, perhaps, in previous decades, but we now reside in an era where this dynamic no longer holds water.

Economists are reportedly attempting to figure out why that is the case. A decrease in education quality seems, to me, to be the most convincing cause, although obviously this is something that deserves a holistic analysis.

But either way, I don't really see convincing analysis that growth is enough anymore. It seems that a reduction in inequality seems now to be just as important.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/busine...06b_print.html

Growth isn’t enough to help the middle class
By Jim Tankersley
Published: February 13

Two kinds of middle-class Americans are struggling today — people who can’t find any work or enough work, and full-timers who can’t seem to get ahead.

Democrats and Republicans prescribe economic growth to help both groups. There was a time that would have been enough. But not today.

In the past three recoveries from recession, U.S. growth has not produced anywhere close to the job and income gains that previous generations of workers enjoyed. The wealthy have continued to do well. But a percentage point of increased growth today simply delivers fewer jobs across the economy and less money in the pockets of middle-class families than an identical point of growth produced in the 40 years after World War II.

That has been painfully apparent in the current recovery. Even as the Obama administration touts the return of economic growth, millions of Americans are not seeing an accompanying revival of better, higher-paying jobs.

The consequences of this breakdown are only now dawning on many economists and have not gained widespread attention among policymakers in Washington. Many lawmakers have yet to even acknowledge the problem. But repairing this link is arguably the most critical policy challenge for anyone who wants to lift the middle class.

Economists are not clear how the economy got to the point where growth drives far less job creation and broadly shared prosperity than it used to. Some theorize that a major factor was globalization, which enabled companies to lay off highly paid workers in the United States during recessions and replace them with lower-paid ones overseas during recoveries.

There is even less agreement on policy prescriptions. Some liberal economists argue that the government should take more-aggressive steps to redistribute wealth. Many economists believe more education will improve the skills of American workers, helping them obtain higher-paying jobs. And still others say the government should seek to reduce the cost of businesses to create new jobs.

The problem is relatively new. From 1948 through 1982, recessions and recoveries followed a tight pattern. Growth plunged in the downturn, then spiked quickly, often thanks to aggressive interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve. When growth returned, so did job creation, and workers generally shared in the spoils of new economic output.

You can see those patterns in comparisons of job creation and growth rates across post-World War II recoveries. Starting in 1949 and continuing for more than 30 years, once the economy started to grow after a recession, major job creation usually followed within about a year.

At the height of those recoveries, every percentage point of economic growth typically spurred about six-tenths of a percentage point of job growth, when compared with the start of the recovery. You could call that number the “job intensity” of growth.

The pattern began to break down in the 1992 recovery, which began under President George H.W. Bush. It took about three years — instead of one — for job creation to ramp up, even when the economy was growing. Even then, the “job intensity” of that recovery barely topped 0.4 percent, or about two-thirds the normal rate.

The next two recoveries were even worse. Three and a half years into the recovery that began in 2001 under President George W. Bush, job intensity was stuck at less than 0.2 percent. The recovery under President Obama is now up to an intensity of 0.3 percent, or about half the historical average.

Middle-class income growth looks even worse for those recoveries. From 1992 to 1994, and again from 2002 to 2004, real median household incomes fell — even though the economy grew more than 6 percent, after adjustments for inflation, in both cases. From 2009 to 2011 the economy grew more than 4 percent, but real median incomes grew by 0.5 percent.

In contrast, from 1982 to 1984, the economy grew by nearly 11 percent and real median incomes grew by 5 percent.

Today, nearly four years after the Great Recession, 12 million Americans are actively looking for work but can’t find a job; 11 million others are stuck working part time when they would like to be full time, or they would like to work but are too discouraged to job-hunt. Meanwhile, workers’ median wages were lower at the end of 2012, after adjustments for inflation, than they were at the end of 2003. Real household income was lower in 2011 than it was in 1989.

Obama alluded to the breakdown between growth and middle-class wages and jobs in his State of the Union address. “Every day,” he said, “we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”

But outside of some targeted help for manufacturing jobs and some new investments in skills training, the proposals Obama offered focused comparatively little on repairing the relationship between growth and jobs, or growth and income. Obama’s boldest plans included increasing the minimum wage and guaranteeing every child a preschool education. Both aim largely at boosting poorer Americans and helping their children gain a better shot at landing the higher-paying jobs.

The Republican response to Obama’s speech did not appear to nod to the new reality at all. Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) said that “economic growth is the best way to help the middle class” and offered few job-creation proposals that appeared materially different from what Republican politicians have pushed since the 1980s.

Economists are still trying to sort out what broke the historical links between growth and jobs/incomes.

Economists are still trying to sort out what broke the historical links between growth and jobs/incomes.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York economists Erica Groshen and Simon Potter concluded in a 2003 paper that the recoveries from the 1990 and 2001 recessions were largely “jobless” because employers had fundamentally changed how they responded to recessions. In the past, firms laid off workers during downturns but called them back when the economy picked up again. Now, they are using recessions as a trigger to lay off less-productive workers, never to hire them back.

Economists at the liberal Economic Policy Institute trace the problem to a series of policy choices that, they say, have eroded workers’ ability to secure rising incomes. Those choices include industry deregulation and the opening of global markets on unfavorable terms for U.S. workers.

In the latest edition of their book “The State of Working America,” EPI economists argue that an “increasingly well-paid financial sector and policies regarding executive compensation fueled wage growth at the top and the rise of the top 1 percent’s incomes” at the expense of average workers.

Robert Shapiro, an economist who advised Bill Clinton on the campaign trail and in the White House, traces the change to increased global competition.

“It makes it hard for firms to pass along their cost increases — for health care, energy and so on — in higher prices,” he said. “So instead they cut other costs, starting with jobs and wages.”

Shapiro said the best way to restart job creation is to help businesses cut the costs of hiring, including by reducing the employer side of the payroll tax and pushing more aggressive efforts to hold down health-care cost increases.

Obama seems to have embraced an approach pushed by Harvard University economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz: helping more Americans graduate from college and go on to high-skilled, higher-paying jobs. It’s a longer-term bet. But as senior administration officials like to say, the problem didn’t start overnight, and it’s not likely to be solved overnight, either.

Last edited by Direckshun; 02-18-2013 at 06:09 PM..
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:06 PM   #2
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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Here's another piece on this trend from an avowed Reaganite:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/op...anted=all&_r=0

Reaganism After Reagan
By RAMESH PONNURU
Published: February 17, 2013

TODAY’S Republicans are very good at tending the fire of Ronald Reagan’s memory but not nearly as good at learning from his successes. They slavishly adhere to the economic program that Reagan developed to meet the challenges of the late 1970s and early 1980s, ignoring the fact that he largely overcame those challenges, and now we have new ones. It’s because Republicans have not moved on from that time that Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, in their responses to the State of the Union address last week, offered so few new ideas.

When Reagan cut rates for everyone, the top tax rate was 70 percent and the income tax was the biggest tax most people paid. Now neither of those things is true: For most of the last decade the top rate has been 35 percent, and the payroll tax is larger than the income tax for most people. Yet Republicans have treated the income tax as the same impediment to economic growth and middle-class millstone that it was in Reagan’s day. House Republicans have repeatedly voted to bring the top rate down still further, to 25 percent.

A Republican Party attentive to today’s problems rather than yesterday’s would work to lighten the burden of the payroll tax, not just the income tax. An expanded child tax credit that offset the burden of both taxes would be the kind of broad-based middle-class tax relief that Reagan delivered. Republicans should make room for this idea in their budgets, even if it means giving up on the idea of a 25 percent top tax rate.

When Reagan took office, he could have confidence in John F. Kennedy’s conviction that a rising tide would lift all boats. In more recent years, though, economic growth hasn’t always raised wages for most people. The rising cost of health insurance has eaten up raises. Controlling the cost of health care has to be a bigger part of the Republican agenda now that it’s a bigger portion of the economy. An important first step would be to change the existing tax break for health insurance so that people would be able to pocket the savings if they chose cheaper plans.

Conservative views of monetary policy are also stuck in the late 1970s. From 1979 to 1981, inflation hit double digits three years in a row. Tighter money was the answer. To judge from the rhetoric of most Republican politicians, you would think we were again suffering from galloping inflation. The average annual inflation rate over the last five years has been just 2 percent. You would have to go back a long time to find the last period of similarly low inflation. Today nominal spending — the total amount of dollars circulating in the economy both for consumption and investment — has fallen well below its path before the financial crisis and the recession. That’s the reverse of the pattern of the late 1970s.

Trying to boost economic growth through looser money is usually a mistake, as Reaganites rightly argued. They were right, too, to think that the Federal Reserve should make its actions predictable by adhering to a rule rather than improvising depending on its assessment of current conditions. The best way to put those impulses into practice is to require the Fed to stabilize the growth of nominal spending. That rule would allow looser money only when nominal spending is depressed. Keeping nominal spending on track is more or less what the Fed did from 1984 through 2007, a period that Republicans sometimes call the Reagan boom (since they see Bill Clinton as having largely kept his policies) and that economists generally call the Great Moderation. Relatively stable nominal spending growth promoted relatively stable economic growth, and it can again.

The Republican economic program of the 1980s also fought against government-imposed restrictions on economic activity: decontrolling energy prices, for example. Today we should target different restrictions. Software patents have become a source of unproductive litigation that entrenches large tech companies and inhibits creativity. Republicans shouldn’t support those patents. Economic growth has to trump corporate executives’ campaign donations.

Conservatives should retain their skepticism about government intervention, the preference for letting markets direct economic resources and the zeal for ending government-created barriers to economic growth that they inherited from Reagan. In his first Inaugural Address, Reagan famously said that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” The less famous yet crucial beginning of that sentence was “in our present crisis.” The question is whether conservatism revives by attending to today’s conditions, or becomes something withered and dead.
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:20 PM   #3
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Old 02-18-2013, 06:35 PM   #4
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Liberalism has a whole host of solutions, bordering from the more free market tendencies of the Democratic Party
I stopped reading here, because I was laughing too hard.
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Old 02-19-2013, 01:56 AM   #5
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A major cause for the income inequality is the monetary policy of the federal reserve.
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Old 02-19-2013, 08:52 AM   #6
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I stopped reading here, because I was laughing too hard.
So did I. Free markets indeed.
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Old 02-20-2013, 07:53 AM   #7
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I stopped reading here, because I was laughing too hard.
The widening gap between the wealthy/Middle Class/Poor has to be addressed. Without a strong middle class we are done as a country at some point.
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Old 02-20-2013, 08:12 AM   #8
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The widening gap between the wealthy/Middle Class/Poor has to be addressed. Without a strong middle class we are done as a country at some point.
OK, but the solution is not to make EVERYONE middle class.

The narrative I hear from the left is that the reason for income disparity is that the rich take advantage of 'the poor' and that evil free-market capitalism is to blame.

I agree. The rich in this country do take advantage of the poor, but it's with the help of Washington. Who passes laws that give the 1% these kind of advantages? How do life-long senators earning less than $200K a year end up being worth $100 million?

The solution, from a conservative perspective, is to cut these crony ties between business and government. Set a tax rate and don't waiver from it or provide any loopholes that give favors or manipulate the market to someone's advantage.

The minimum wage? All that does is set the bar higher for young people and others looking to get their foot in the door and change their lives.

Cut the cord. Washington's purpose should be solely to investigate and prosecute instances of fraud and other criminal activity. Having more regulations and oversight only provides more opportunities for extortion and hurts middle class businesses because they don't have the means to comply that big businesses do.
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Old 02-20-2013, 08:49 AM   #9
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The widening gap between the wealthy/Middle Class/Poor has to be addressed. Without a strong middle class we are done as a country at some point.
It's not our middle class that's disappeared, it's our lower class. The really big gap is between American poor and the poor of the rest of the world. Do we need to solve that?
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Old 02-20-2013, 08:51 AM   #10
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It's funny when people who have Netflix, iphones, $125 a month cable bills and eat out for half their meals are sold that they're a "struggling" middle class.
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Old 02-20-2013, 08:54 AM   #11
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The widening gap between the wealthy/Middle Class/Poor has to be addressed. Without a strong middle class we are done as a country at some point.
Waht do you make of his comment that LIberalism often uses "free market economics" out of their toolkit of ideas? Did you laugh as hard as I did?
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Old 02-20-2013, 08:57 AM   #12
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A lot of talk in this thread, but no real defense of conservativism's solution to worsening inequality.
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Old 02-20-2013, 08:58 AM   #13
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It's not our middle class that's disappeared, it's our lower class.
Link?
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Old 02-20-2013, 09:03 AM   #14
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The obvious answer is to keep taxing the highest earners. And when they can't be taxed more we'll re-evaluate what "wealthy" means, and include more wealthy Americans to tax. Until one day we live in a paradise where no man suffers without premium cable while another affords a Lexus.
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Old 02-20-2013, 09:03 AM   #15
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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Originally Posted by donkhater View Post
The solution, from a conservative perspective, is to cut these crony ties between business and government. Set a tax rate and don't waiver from it or provide any loopholes that give favors or manipulate the market to someone's advantage.
These are good ideas, but if they are conservative ideas, they overlap comfortably with liberalism.

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The minimum wage? All that does is set the bar higher for young people and others looking to get their foot in the door and change their lives.
That's actually not supported.

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Originally Posted by donkhater View Post
Cut the cord. Washington's purpose should be solely to investigate and prosecute instances of fraud and other criminal activity. Having more regulations and oversight only provides more opportunities for extortion and hurts middle class businesses because they don't have the means to comply that big businesses do.
Having less regulation actually empowers inequality, as those who have more are less bound by limits that are put in place to protect the lower classes.

Think payday loans. That's a practice of directly taking advantage of the poor. Government limits the interest allowed on those loans (which is still morbidly terrible). Without government, they could be even more predatory.
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