By Tom Kando
New York Times columnist David Brooks recently published an article titled “Rift Opens Between Two Economies and Two Political Parties,” (Sacramento Bee, April 11).
Some of his points are exciting: In recent years, the US economy has become vastly more productive. These efficiency gains are boosting our exports. “Two years ago, President Obama promised to double exports over the next five years...and the US might actually meet that target.” Our exports are surging in areas like smart machines, robots, shale oil and gas, and the rest of the world’s growing middle class is importing more and more American pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, planes and entertainment - all US fortes.
Indeed, exports from both California and the country as a whole are reaching record highs, and our trade deficit, while still over $40 billion a month, is lower than in a long time.
At the same time, Brooks notes that there is a second sector within the US economy which BARELY becomes more productive as time goes, because it does not face global competition: This is the health care, education and government sector.
The first sector of the economy is globalized and it is producing great gains in productivity and profits, but not many new jobs. The second sector is more protected, it is not becoming as productive, but this is where most Americans live and work.
Brooks avers that a rift is opening up between those who live in Economy I and Economy II, and he associates Economy I with the Republican Party and Economy II with the Democrats.
This is where he goes astray (“vliegt uit de bocht,” as my friend Paul Ten Have would say).
There is no doubt that Republicans oppose big government and subscribe to economic freedom more than do Democrats. But Brooks suggests that this position represents progress. Conversely, according to this view, the Democrats and the trade unions represent a brake on progress, as in “featherbedding” and luddism.
To be fair, Brooks does recognize the need for the two sectors of the economy to cooperate, i.e. to use some of the profits of Economy I to improve the lot of the majority of Americans who operate outside of Economy I.
But what Brooks does not understand is that the Republican Party is a coalition of Wall Street and the “ Little People.” Corporate America may, in a Schumpeterian, Social Darwinistic way, represent some form of inevitable future. High Tech, Steven Jobs and all that.
But the Republican Party’s voting booth strength is in the retrograde “populism” of little old ladies in tennis shoes in Iowa, the Tea Party, the evangelicals, the Obama-haters, the anti-feminist, anti-gay, anti-ethnic, gun-toting male chauvinists. How on earth can one think of this vast Republican army as representing the vanguard of progress? These are Rush Limbaugh’s infantry in the Culture wars.
Do these people stand for globalism? To the contrary, they are ignorant of and hostile (xenophobic) to anything that’s foreign. Do they stand for progressive values? To the contrary, they long for a return to the 19th century, opposing secularism, the separation of church and state, gay marriage, contraception, public transportation and public health care. Do they stand for science and technology? To the contrary, they reject Darwinian science, the science of global warming, funding for research and for “elitist” universities (Paul Ryan’s disastrous budget!).
Doesn’t the very word “conservative,” - synonymous with “Republican” - mean holding on to the past?
The distinction between the two economies is meaningful. But it is hogwash to associate Economy I and progress with the GOP, and regression with the Democrats. And I haven’t even touched upon the two sides’ attitudes towards equity - Republicans utterly indifferent to it, Obama fighting for it.
Granted, I stereotype. With Santorum out of the way, the best we can hope for is that a Romney presidency would be technocratic (Economy One) rather than culturally ideological. But let’s face it: most Republicans live in an ideological past, not future. leave comment here
Monday, April 16, 2012
By Tom Kando