Walter Mead continues his analysis of The Battle of Madison, arguing that it is not about a “race to the bottom,” but the beginning of a restructuring of a range of services (from government to education to health care) that is necessary if America is going to compete in a global economy. Mead writes:
Tens of millions of Americans aren’t just reading about American decline; they are living American decline. Access to middle class jobs is getting harder — and the jobs still around are less stable. Public services are slowly declining; cash strapped states and towns can’t provide the kind of education that could open more doors. Roads and bridges aren’t being maintained. Retirements are less secure. Health care is more problematic than ever as insurance prices rise — and fewer jobs offer decent plans. College tuition has exploded; we have a generation of college students carrying mortgage-sized student loans even as they scramble for elusive jobs in a snakebit economy.
And there’s more. The wealthiest in our society have gradually been pulling away from the rest of us — not just because so many of them are getting so rich, but because more of them are focused on the global economy and the health of the global system than on the prosperity of the United States of America. This is not just a US phenomenon; around the world we’ve seen the rise of the “Davoisie”, a global elite whose members have more in common economically and often culturally and morally with their fellow jet setters than with the non-jet–setting citizens of their own home countries. Their wealth, power and connections make them disproportionately powerful in this and many other countries; as a result, in the US and elsewhere policy tips more toward the Davos agenda of cosmopolitan globalism than towards national policies aimed first and foremost at promoting the interests of the citizens of the world’s countries.
The argument in Madison reflects both consensus and disagreement. The consensus is that things in the United States are going in the wrong direction. The argument is over what to do. The Tea Party and other backers of Governor Scott Walker basically argue two things: that big government is the friend of the Davoisie rather than an effective regulator protecting the rest of us by keeping the fat cats in check, and that high government costs and inefficiencies are part of the problem driving down incomes and living standards rather than part of the solution. The public unions and their supporters argue just the other way: a powerful government is our last ditch line of defence against an aggressive plutocracy and government spending on good living wages for employees is a bastion of what is left of the American middle class…….
(Wisconsin) needs to slash taxes and reduce the non-wage costs of doing business so that employers will bring existing businesses to the state and entrepreneurs will have favourable conditions for starting and building new business. By cutting non-wage costs for private employers, Wisconsin (and the 49 other states) can create the best conditions for long term sustainable increases in the real incomes of working people.
This means that among many other initiatives, the state needs deep and continuing reforms in the way that it organizes and deploys its workforce. These changes go far beyond a few quick fixes in benefit and pension programs. I am not sure that every provision in Governor Walker’s proposed legislation is wise, and I hope some creative compromises can be found that will help ease the transition, but I am sure that his instincts are right.
You can read the whole thing here.
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