Davos Newbies Home

The Republicans’ reprehensible ways 

Bob Herbert: “Voter suppression is a reprehensible practice. It’s a bullet aimed at the very heart of democracy. But the G.O.P. evidently considers it an essential strategy in an environment with so little positive news.”

Surely, surely the Financial Times can find a better columnist? 

The never-good Amity Shlaes really takes the biscuit in her column in today’s Financial Times (subscribers only). She rehearses the tired line about Kerry being the candidate of the out-of-touch eastern elites and Bush speaking for the earthy, common folk. That would be bad enough. But it’s the fantasy she indulges in that makes me wonder why it passes muster in the FT.

After slapping The Guardian for its woefully misconceived Clark County campaign, she moves on to her argument.

  Domestically, Mr Kerry represents the established order. He wants to return to a typical postwar tax structure. He signals that he will protect Social Security in its current form by assiduously avoiding the topic. These Kerry positions sit well with wealthier Americans, who have such a big stake in sustaining the established order that they will even forgo tax dollars to do so. Overall gross domestic product growth matters less to them because they are already wealthy. The very wealthiest of Mr Kerry’s supporters might not mind the fact that Mr Kerry’s income tax increases punish the upper-middle class most of all. After all, that means there will be less of a crunch for the super-rich at the top. And blocking Social Security privatisation ensures that lower earners will be denied an important chance to increase their net worth and narrow income gaps overall.

True, there are some of the wealthiest Americans who support Kerry, but I hadn’t noticed that the Republican’s dominance of the allegiance of the very wealthiest had diminished in the Bush years. And Shlaes’s commitment to the wealth-creating potential of social security privatisation is touching but unsupported by evidence. It gets worse.

  To be sure, the Democrats still tend their reputation as a workers party, just as older Guardian readers still cherish their working-class credentials. But that does not mean their leaders are not from an elite. Mr Kerry may be worth hundreds of millions of dollars more than Antonia Fraser and John Le Carré, to name two authors who endorsed The Guardian’s campaign in Ohio. But all three are members of the Anglo-American nomenklatura.

Oh, and the Bush family are outsiders to the establishment. The career of the current president’s father could almost be a definition of nomenklatura.

It gets worse.

  The elite versus populist paradigm also helps to explain Mr Bush’s supporters. Lower earners will back a president who cuts taxes for rentiers because they know that rentiers’ fortunes sooner or later create jobs. These voters place more faith in the possibility of economic change than they do in the domestic status quo.

Um, doesn’t this administration have the worst job creation record in three-quarters of a century? What evidence does Shlaes give us for what lower earners “know”, or is it an article of faith that she expects them to hold?

One of the incidental benefits of getting rid of Bush is my hope that the Financial Times will axe Shlaes’s appalling column. I assume it’s there because the editors feel they need to reflect the view of the radical right in Washington. Maybe so, but there must be someone more acute than Shlaes to do this (although all of the intelligent right seem to be breaking to Kerry these days).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *