Dinesh D’Souza, conservative intellectual and producer of 2016: Obama’s America, recently commented on the inverted morality of praising those who are “sitting in the wagon” and demonizing those who are “pulling the wagon”. (See this video starting at minute 4:00.) D’Souz’s premise has three parts:
1. There are an increasing number of people sitting in the wagon.
– The simplest statistic is the civilian labor force participation rate which has fallen 2.9% (about 7 million workers) since Obama took office to its lowest level since 1978, leaving 154.9 million employed or looking for work and 91.8 million retired, in school, home with the kids, or just dropped out. Some of the decline is a function of the aging of the Baby Boomers, but the number and quality of jobs created in the recovery since 2009 have been unusually weak.
– Viewed differently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of employers shows that the economy has added some 7.8 million jobs since the trough in February 2010, but that we are still about 860,000 short of the January 2008 peak. At the current rate of adding 100,000 to 200,000 jobs per month we should be back to 2008 levels around mid-year. In the meantime, the population has grown by 13 million.
2. Obama’s policies encourage people to sit in the wagon.
– Obamacare is the big motivator. While most people think it bad that the Congressional Budget Office projects that 2.5 million people will be pushed out of the work force by the incentives in Obamacare, Jay Carney calls it a good thing that so many people will no longer be “trapped in a job”.
– The Republicans have received much criticism for eliminating extended unemployment benefits four years after the recession officially ended. Some two years ago the Obama administration allowed the states to eliminate the Gingrich/Clinton requirement that people had to be actively seeking work or be in a training program to qualify.
– The Food Stamp program has nearly doubled to 47 million recipients under Obama, with a relaxation of eligibility rules and an increase in the amount available. The recent Farm Bill agreement to trim the number by about 1% brought a firestorm from the Left.
– Social Security disability recipients have increased by 3.1 million to 8.9 million in the last decade; most will never return to work.
3. The president’s rhetoric and policies demonize those pulling the wagon.
– Obama’s “You didn’t build that; somebody else made that happen” quote was a frank statement of his view that an individual’s success is not the result of one’s intelligence and hard work – the inference being that the successful should be taxed more to provide the benefits of their success to the less fortunate.
– The “1%” campaign of the Left drives a broad political agenda – more tax increases; demonization of Republicans as the party of Wall Street; Republicans as enemies of the middle class. While the middle class actually tends to vote Republican, Mitt Romney’s “47% comments” were instrumental in his election loss.
– Obama’s tax policies have been targeted at the “wagon pullers”: the 10 year $3 trillion in tax increases have been largely accomplished by raising top marginal rates, capping deductions, and increasing estate taxes as well as the many taxes included in Obamacare.
The old cynical wisdom is that the Republicans are the party of the rich, the Democrats are the party of the poor, and both try to increase their voting base. With the median family income dropping $2400 (inflation adjusted; including government payouts) on Obama’s watch, he is succeeding both in getting more people into the wagon and in increasing the number of potential Democratic voters.
How much better it would be if we focused on the morality of giving people good jobs.
This week’s video is an interview with Kevin Faulconer who won a run-off election to be mayor of San Diego on Tuesday, beating a Latino opponent in a majority Democrat city, thus becoming a rising star in California Republican politics.