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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Class warfare, Aspirants, and the Democrats

This very important article discusses why a traditional "class warfare" strategy is no longer working for the Democratic Party. The author works for a "progressive" think tank, and is clearly not a Republican wolf in sheep's clothing.

One crucial point the author makes is the idea that many workers are more aspirational nowadays, and less likely to regard themselves as stationed in a particular class, particularly if it is a lower class. So, even if they may be able to get government benefits at the moment, even poor aspirants are likely to oppose tax increases and regulations - particularly on small businesses - which bring about these benefits. This is because they aspire to be business owners or high-income managers and professionals, and see little economic or social upside in being wards of the state.

Another problem for Dems: who are the poor? The article points out that income is quite variable, and that going by yearly income is quite deceptive as you get a lot of what I'd call "elective poor" in yearly income such as students, people starting new businesses, new immigrants, etc. The author determined that the "real poor" as those who had 15 years of family income under $40K, which is less than 25% of the population. This group is more likely to be interested in traditional government benefits than aspirants would be, and less interested in tax cuts.

So, the next question, not covered by the article, is what government policies would impress aspirants? My guesses:

o Real education reform, particularly if school choice is on the table, as aspirants are typically fanatic in wanting good educations for their kids. However, throwing more money at existing educational bureaucracies won't impress aspirants.

o Making it easier to start small businesses and legitimately hire employees.

o More portable health and retirement approaches. Aspirants often don't work for a single employer for very long, and may shift from self-employment to business ownership to salaried employment several times during their working life. Flexible health and retirement strategies would be attractive.

o Policies that shake up big corporations, such as ending "corporate welfare". This may seem counter-intuitive, but most aspirants are fans of small and medium-sized businesses and hard-charging entrepreneurs, not "institutional" corporations who are looking to milk the government cow. Aspirant dreams are to be the family that runs the corner Chinese restaurant or the founders of Google, not the CEO of General Motors.

Things that won't impress aspirants:

o "Soak the rich" income tax increases, especially in the crucial $100K-$200K income range where many small business owners and self-employed aspirants reside. People at this level are not "rich" - especially if they live in expensive areas - but can have a 50% or more marginal tax rate, especially if they live in a high-tax state and pay self-employment tax. Marginal rates are actually lower once you get over $200K and leave the self-employment "tax shadow" behind.

o Government handouts. Aspirants who are working hard to move up in the world, for better or worse, are unimpressed by those who live off of charity.

Comments:
Thank you for pointing this out, soldier, but I notice he works for the The Third Way, which isn't as progrssive as advrtised. As your blogroll indicates, it would seem you are already enlisted in the Republican Party's war against the middle and working classes. That being the case I feel compelled to ask your rank, if not your name and serial number, because if you are are an Aspirant, you are merely an expendable foot soldier. One of these days you'll find that out, as scores of thousands of Aspirant radiologists, engineers, programmers, web designers, copywriters, para-legals, hell, even attorneys, etc. whose jobs were shifted overseas, not to mention shareholders, have already done, for every one of those exported jobs the bosses got a raise. Just how much longer do you think this can continue before the world's wealthiest market, and the engine of its economy, sputters out and dies?
 
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