Time to Move On, Time to Get Going
After trying the Tom Friedman shtick of writing about technology last week, David Brooks, is back to being a pseudo intellectual sociologist in his column yesterday. Even the title is pretentious gibberish,
The American Precariat
The what again? Brooks deigns to explain only in the third last paragraph,
According to the British academic Guy Standing, the Precariat is the growing class of people living with short-term and part-time work with precarious living standards and “without a narrative of occupational development.” They live with multiple forms of insecurity and are liable to join protest movements across the political spectrum.
David Brooks is sad that Americans are not moving as much as they used to. He says that Americans lack the energy they had in the yesteryears. They don’t move around as much and live in the same house for a longer period.
In 1950, 20 percent of Americans moved in a given year. Now, it’s around 12 percent. In the 1950s and 1960s, people lived in the same house for an average of five years; now people live in the same house for an average of 8.6 years.
What I don’t understand is why this makes Brooks sad, isn’t refusal to change a hallmark of conservatism? Brooks then enumerates the various factors that have caused the decline, namely the state of the housing market where many houses are still underwater, aging populace that is less mobile and finally the most important; a geographically undifferentiated labor market. In Brooks’ own words
It’s also true that labor markets are getting more homogeneous
So how does moving make sense if there aren’t any jobs to move to? Brooks is unhappy that people are behaving like rational economic actors and decides that decline in mobility is not mainly due to concrete economic realities but because of lack of faith,
No, a big factor here is a loss in self-confidence.
Brooks spends the rest of the column skirting around the reason for the pessimism. Since he won’t articulate it, I will.
The reason for their pessimism is economic uncertainty, which is no accident, but the direct result of the economic policies advocated by conservatives like Milton Friedman. These policies that favor capital over labor have hollowed out the middle class. We are slowly returning to the stratified society of Downton Abbey with the few ultra rich and the many struggling to just keep their heads above water. In the aftermath of the financial crisis corporations are sitting pretty on heaps of cash while the rest of us struggle to survive.
David Brooks and his party don’t want to lift a finger to change the status quo and have acted as a road block to all of President Obama’s initiatives to deal with the sluggish economy. They have bitterly opposed health care reform which could mitigate the economic uncertainty brought about by a sudden illness, they have advocated cutting government spending during a recession, now they are fighting an increase in the federal minimum wage, I could go on and on. I have never read Brooks question his party’s leadership on bread and butter issues. In his earlier column on income inequality Brooks like the rest of his party demonized the poor for being poor, in particular he singled out single mothers. Tax cuts and vouchers are their solution to all economic problems. Take it away, Mr. Brooks;
No one response is going to reverse the trend, but Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute believes government should offer moving vouchers to the long-term unemployed so they can chase opportunity.
LoL by: two_kittehs