During the Cold War era, Western economies delivered broad and growing prosperity for the middle class. This nurtured a general faith in political institutions and culminated in the democratic triumphalism of the 1990s.
Seriously, did Maureen give him some of her devil weed?
If you are not earning enough money so you can feel respected, and live without desperate stress, you will begin to lose confidence and élan.
And that is what’s happening today. The labor force participation rate is at its lowest in decades. Millions are in part-time or low-wage jobs that don’t come close to fulfilling their capacities. Millions more are in dysfunctional or unhealthy workplaces, but they don’t feel they can leave because they don’t think there are other jobs out there that pay the same amount.The country is palpably in the middle of some sort of emotional recession.
It is precisely at this moment that leaders are called upon leap past the current moment and to point the way to the sun-drenched path ahead. You may disagree with every policy they ever uttered, but Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher leapt beyond the stagnant mood of the late 1970s.
These are the important things to consider in an emotional recession.If you get outside the partisan boxes, there’s a completely obvious agenda to create more middle-class, satisfying jobs. The federal government should borrow money at current interest rates to build infrastructure, including better bus networks so workers can get to distant jobs. The fact that the federal government has not passed major infrastructure legislation is mind-boggling, considering how much support there is from both parties.
Other shifts are more fundamental, but should be the signature themes of the next political era. First, the government should reduce its generosity to people who are not working but increase its support for people who are. That means reducing health benefits for the affluent elderly. But it means, as Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute recommends, increasing wage subsidies when employers hire the long-term unemployed and issuing relocation subsidies so people in high unemployment areas can move.
Second, the tax code could do a lot more to encourage work and investment. Ideally, we’d move to a progressive consumption tax. But at least we could have the sort of tax reform that Senators Marco Rubio and Mike Lee have suggested, which would simplify the code while subsidizing middle-class families.
Third, the immigration system should turn into a talent recruiting system, a relentless effort to get the world’s most gifted and driven people to move to our shores.
This isn’t rocket science.
Vast majorities support every idea I’ve mentioned here. It just takes a relentless focus on job creation, bold political leadership and a country willing to be shaken out of its fear.