There is a structural flaw in modern capitalism. Tremendous income gains are going to those in the top 20 percent, but prospects are diminishing for those in the middle and working classes. This gigantic trend widens inequality, exacerbates social segmentation, fuels distrust and led to Donald Trump.
Conservative intellectuals were slow to understanding the seriousness of this structural problem, but over the past few years they have begun to grapple with the consequences. Basically, many conservative intellectuals have come to terms with income redistribution.
.. Over the past several years many plans have emerged from the various right-leaning thinking tanks that imagine consumer-driven health care that also has universal or near universal coverage.
These plans, from places like the American Enterprise Institute, use tax credits or pre-funded health savings accounts or some other method to give middle- and working-class people coverage, while reducing regulations and improving incentives throughout the system.
.. First, conservative policy intellectuals tend to have accepted the fact that American society is coming apart and that measures need to be taken to assist the working class. Republican politicians show no awareness of this fact
.. The Senate health care plan would throw 15 million people off Medicaid, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (This is the program that covers nearly 40 percent of America’s children.)
.. The current Republican Party has iron, dogmatic rules about the role of government, but no vision about America.
.. Because Republicans have no governing vision, they can’t really replace the Obama vision with some alternative. They just accept the basic structure of Obamacare and cut it back some.
.. Because Republicans have no governing vision, they can’t argue for their plans. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price came to the Aspen Ideas Festival to make the case for the G.O.P. approach. It’s not that he had bad arguments; he had no arguments, no vision for the sort of health care system these bills would usher in. He filled his time by rising to a level of vapid generality that was utterly detached from the choices in the actual legislation.
.. Under the Senate bill, deductibles for poor families would be more than half of their annual income.
.. the atomistic mentality described by Alexis de Tocqueville long ago:
“They owe nothing to any man, they expect nothing from any man; they acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone, and they are apt to imagine that their whole destiny is in their own hands. Thus not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws him back forever upon himself alone and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.”
Tensions Between and Within the Two Parties
One way to understand the 2016 election, then, is to note that by making questions of national identity more salient, Donald Trump succeeded in winning over “populists” (socially conservative, economically liberal voters) who had previously voted for Democrats.
.. Trump’s candidacy has brought more economic liberals into the Republican Party, moving the party’s center of gravity on these issues to the left. Trump has also moved the party to a much more nativist position on questions of national identity.
.. The View That Politics is a Rigged Game
- Elections today don’t matter; things stay the same no matter who we vote in.
- People like me don’t have any say in what the government does.
- Elites in this country don’t understand the problems I am facing.
.. The Importance of Social Security/Medicare
- How important is Social Security to the respondent?
- How important is Medicare to the respondent?
Attitudes on Foreign Trade A battery of questions on the costs/benefits of free trade.
Attitudes On Gender Roles A battery of questions on the role of women in society.
Pride in America
- How proud are you of America’s history?
- I would rather be a citizen of America than any other country in the world.
The Perception That “People Like Me” Are Losing Ground
- Life in America today for people like me is worse compared to 50 years ago.
- In America, the values and culture of people like me are becoming rarer and less accepted.
Attitudes Toward African-Americans A battery of racial resentment questions toward African-Americans.
Feelings Toward Muslims
- Favoring or opposing temporarily banning Muslims from other countries from entering
- the U.S.
- Feeling thermometer rating toward Muslims.
Attitudes on Immigration
- Whether illegal immigrants contribute to American society/are a drain.
- Favoring or opposing a legal way for illegal immigrants already in the United States to
- become U.S. citizens.
- Whether it should be easier/harder for foreigners to immigrate to the U.S. legally than it is
Attitudes on Moral Issues
- View on abortion.
- View on gay marriage.
- View on transgender bathrooms.
Attitudes on Economic Inequality
- Whether our economic system is biased in favor of the wealthiest Americans.
- Whether we should raise taxes on the wealthy.
- Whether distribution of money and wealth in this country is fair.
Attitudes Toward Government Intervention
- Whether we need a strong government to handle complex economic problems.
- Whether there is too much/too little regulation of business by the government.
.. Divides get much wider as we move toward questions of race and national identity. Trump voters have more negative attitudes than Clinton supporters about African-Americans, are much less supportive of immigration, and have much more negative feelings toward Muslims.
.. To summarize, supporters of Clinton and Trump are very polarized on identity and moral issues. Views on economic issues are more of a mix. Both candidates’ supporters are generally supportive of the social safety net, and somewhat concerned about trade. Yet they diverge very much on how concerned they are about inequality, and how actively they want to see government regulate business and intervene in the economy.
.. The data suggest that the main divide within the Democratic Party electorate is about attitudes toward the establishment and the existing order than it is about specific issue positions (with the exception of trade policy).
.. For the most part, Trump and Cruz supporters look fairly similar, though Cruz supporters are considerably more conservative on moral issues, and notably less concerned about inequality and the social safety net, and more pro-free trade. In other words, Cruz voters were more likely to fit the description of traditional
.. For the most part, Kasich supporters are the true moderates, caught in between the two parties on almost every issue, both economic and social. Kasich supporters come closest to Democrats on their feelings about immigration and about Muslims specifically.
.. Looking at the correlates of candidate favorability, we can more clearly see the potential divide in the Democratic Party. Again, it is more about disaffection than issue positions. The strongest predictor of Sanders support (holding all else constant) is a sense that the system is rigged. Clinton’s biggest boosters, by contrast, are more comfortable with the system as is, are less likely to see things getting worse, and are generally prouder about America. They are also more supportive of free trade. Interestingly, support for Muslims is noticeably more highly correlated with support for Clinton than for Sanders. This is somewhat surprising.
.. Still, to the extent that many of these divisions are establishment/antiestablishment divisions, they are somewhat muted by Democrats now being the opposition party. By contrast, had Hillary Clinton become president, these disagreements might have widened, since governing requires the kind of compromise and incrementalism that would be most likely to drive the Sanders wing of the party into rebellion.
.. we can see that Trump’s biggest enthusiasts within the party are Republicans who hold the most anti-immigration and anti-Muslim views, demonstrate the most racial resentment, and are most likely to view Social Security and Medicare as important.
.. By contrast, the strongest predictor of support for Ted Cruz is a set of strongly conservative views on moral issues, and somewhat pro-free trade views.
.. Notably, among Trump supporters, the age gap is nonexistent on resentment toward African-Americans, and very small on immigration. There is a wider gap on feeling toward Muslims, with old Trump voters being more anti-Muslim.
.. The widest within party variation by age cohort is within the Democratic Party on the indexes measuring pride in America and the perception that “people like me” are losing ground. Younger Democrats are both the most optimistic about their own future, but the least enthusiastic about America. To the extent that politics is increasingly organized around a conflict over ethnonationalism versus multicultural cosmopolitanism, the vanguard of this struggle is younger Clinton voters opposed to older Trump voters.
.. In both parties, this donor class is both more conservative on economic issues and more liberal on social issues, as compared to the rest of the party. However, there is a slight but notable asymmetry between the two parties on identity issues. Among Democrats, the donor class is notably to the left of the working class on these issues.
.. Already, we saw that in 2016, many of the party switchers appear to have been motivated by identity issues.
.. What Divides The Parties Now?
The parties are divided on both social/identity and economic issues, but more so on identity issues. The gaps between the Clinton and Trump voters on questions of racial resentment, immigration, attitudes toward Muslims, and moral issues are consistently wide. There is very little overlap between the two camps on these issues.
.. By contrast, although the parties are divided on economic issues, there is more overlap. Particularly in the Republican Party, there are a wide range of views on economic issues, now that the party has expanded to include more and more populists who were formerly Democrats.
.. Many of the Romney voters who supported Clinton did so because they were uncomfortable with Trump’s far-right positions on immigration and other identity issues.
.. Early indications suggest that Trump was serious about his ethnonationalist agenda, which will keep identity issues, especially immigration, at the center of our politics. If this happens, it may put pressure on the remaining pro-immigration Republicans and the remaining anti-immigration Democrats (some remain in both camps), further realigning the parties.
.. Democrats may also be pressured to move further left on these issues, given that both younger voters and the party’s donor class are quite far to the left on identity issues. If so, American politics would become further polarized along questions of culture and identity.
.. Since Republicans have picked up more economically liberal voters (and may continue to do so since there are still some populists who vote for Democrats), it may be harder for Republicans to continue to push a traditional conservative free-market agenda. If so, this would leave conservatives with little place to go. Democrats might move right a little bit on economic issues, but they are limited by where their voters are on the issue. In addition, a move rightward might activate more of the anti-establishment sentiment that could potentially cause a rift in the Democratic Party.
A new analysis of 2016 data shows that five men now possess as much wealth as half of the world’s population combined. The five men—Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Spanish businessman Amancio Ortega, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, American investor Warren Buffett and Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim—combined hold $400 billion. Slim is a major shareholder in The New York Times, while Bezos owns The Washington Post.
the top quintile of earners—those making more than roughly $112,000 a year—have been big beneficiaries of the country’s growth. To make matters worse, this group of Americans engages in a variety of practices that don’t just help their families, but harm the other 80 percent of Americans.
.. if we are serious about narrowing the gap between ‘the rich’ and everybody else, we need a broader conception of what it means to be rich.
the upper-middle class has pulled away from the middle class and the poor on five dimensions:
- income and wealth,
- educational attainment,
- family structure,
- geography, and
- health and longevity
.. They dominate the country’s top colleges, sequester themselves in wealthy neighborhoods with excellent public schools and public services, and enjoy healthy bodies and long lives.
They then pass those advantages onto their children, with parents placing a “glass floor” under their kids.
- They ensure they grow up in nice zip codes,
- provide social connections that make a difference when entering the labor force,
- help with internships,
- aid with tuition and home-buying, and
- schmooze with college admissions officers.
All the while, they support policies and practices that protect their economic position and prevent poorer kids from climbing the income ladder:
- legacy admissions,
- the preferential tax treatment of investment income,
- 529 college savings plans,
- exclusionary zoning,
- occupational licensing, and
- restrictions on the immigration of white-collar professionals.
.. As a result, America is becoming a class-based society, more like fin-de-siècle England than most would care to admit, Reeves argues. Higher income kids stay up at the sticky top of the income distribution. Lower income kids stay down at the bottom. The one percent have well and truly trounced the 99 percent, but the 20 percent have done their part to immiserate the 80 percent, as well
Reeves offers a host of policy changes that might make a considerable difference:
- better access to contraception,
- increasing building in cities and suburbs,
- barring legacy admissions to colleges,
- curbing tax expenditures that benefit families with big homes and capital gains.
.. Expanding opportunity and improving fairness would require the upper-middle class to vote for higher taxes, to let others move in, and to share in the wealth.
.. Prying Harvard admission letters and the mortgage interest deductions out of the hands of bureaucrats in Bethesda, sales executives in Minnetonka, and lawyers in Louisville is not going to be easy.