Scru­ti­niz­ing the par­ties

The GOP has been no friend to the white work­ing class

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Ken­neth Buck Ken­neth Buck is a re­tired fed­eral law en­force­ment of­fi­cer. His email is kp­buck@ver­i­

In the post-mortem anal­y­sis of the elec­tion, Demo­cratic lead­ers are fo­cus­ing on the party losing the white work­ing class vote yet again. Bernie San­ders, my per­sonal choice for pres­i­dent, said, “I come from the white work­ing class, and I am deeply hu­mil­i­ated that the Demo­cratic Party can­not talk to the peo­ple where I came from.” To Bernie San­ders I say: The move of the white work­ing class to the Repub­li­can Party be­gan in earnest in the 1960s with the Civil Rights Act, the Vot­ing Rights Act, Equal Op­por­tu­nity Em­ploy­ment and the in­te­gra­tion of schools and la­bor unions — all of which were sup­ported by the Democrats who were work­ing for an in­clu­sive so­ci­ety where race did not mat­ter. At the same time, the Repub­li­can Party ini­ti­ated what has been 50 years of the “South­ern Strat­egy,” which to­day could be called the “Na­tional Strat­egy” — scape­goat­ing mi­nori­ties for, among other things, white work­ing-class job losses. The Demo­cratic Party’s sup­port for civil rights caused a sea change among white work­ing-class Amer­i­cans who quickly ac­cepted the Repub­li­can claims and left the Demo­cratic Party in large num­bers.

The same could be said about the Repub­li­can Party at­tack on la­bor unions as an­other lead­ing cause of jobs go­ing over­seas; it too was a form of scape­goat­ing. La­bor unions, now less than 7 per­cent of the pri­vate-sec­tor work­force, are the rea­son many to­day have higher pay, safer work­places, pen­sions, em­ployer health care, paid va­ca­tion, and sick and hol­i­day pay. Jobs went over­seas be­cause U.S. com­pa­nies make more money by us­ing for­eign work­ers who toil for sub­sis­tence wages with few or no ben­e­fits and be­cause U.S tax laws al­low com­pa­nies to send their U.S. earnings over­seas and es­cape U.S. taxes.

And let’s not for­get the Repub­li­can at­tack on higher taxes and unem­ploy­ment. Here is the real­ity con­cern­ing that mat­ter:

Since Tru­man, the three pres­i­dents with the low­est unem­ploy­ment rates when they left of­fice were Lyn­don John­son with 3.4 per­cent, Bill Clin­ton with 4.2 per­cent and Barack Obama with 4.9 per­cent. The pres­i­dents with the high­est unem­ploy­ment rates upon leav­ing of­fi­cer were: Ge­orge W. Bush with 7.8 per­cent, Ger­ald Ford and Jimmy Carter, each with 7.5 per­cent, and Ge­orge H.W. Bush with 7.3 per­cent. Only one pres­i­dent cut unem­ploy­ment by more than 2 per­cent­age A man ad­justs the U.S. flag on his porch in Port­land, a white work­ing-class neigh­bor­hood in Louisville, Ky. points from the time he came into of­fice: Barack Obama, who cut it by over 5 points. And only one pres­i­dent in­creased the unem­ploy­ment rate by more than 3 per­cent­age points be­fore leav­ing of­fice: Ge­orge W. Bush.

De­spite Pres­i­dent Clin­ton’s tax in­creases, he left of­fice with eight years of bud­gets that net­ted a $63 bil­lion sur­plus (first four years with deficits and the last four with sur­pluses). Ge­orge W. Bush in­her­ited a sur­plus but passed two ma­jor tax-cut bills, and by the time he left, he gave Mr. Obama a deficit of more than $1 tril­lion (in large part due to fi­nan­cial col­lapse) that is es­ti­mated to go down to less than $500 bil­lion by 2017.

Ronald Rea­gan cut taxes dras­ti­cally but had to raise them in 1982 be­cause the coun­try was mov­ing to­ward re­ces­sion and unem­ploy­ment had soared to 10.8 per­cent. Af­ter that, the unem­ploy­ment rate low­ered to just over 5 per­cent.

Why have we re­ally lost work­ing-class jobs? Tech­nol­ogy. It doesn’t take a hun­dred work­ers on an assem­bly line to put a car to­gether in Detroit any­more. It doesn’t take millions of bank tell­ers to ser­vice cus­tomers with ATMs and on­line bank­ing. It doesn’t take millions of clerks in brick-and-mor­tar stores when Ama­zon is a click away, and it doesn’t take millions of sec­re­taries and book­keep­ers when we have Mi­crosoft Word, spread­sheets and data­bases. Th­ese jobs and many more like them are in large part gone for good.

The Repub­li­can Party offers sim­plis­tic an­swers to com­plex ques­tions. Global warm­ing? Not hap­pen­ing. Jobs? Re­duce taxes and au­to­mat­i­cally in­crease jobs (never has worked). Im­mi­gra­tion? Build a wall and de­port 3 mil­lion peo­ple. Ter­ror­ism? Bomb ISIS, al-Qaeda and Iran; ban Mus­lims from the U.S.

The white work­ing class needs to ask: Which party has been the Big Busi­ness party for 100 years, and which party has worked to help or­di­nary Amer­i­cans? Which party has tried to raise the min­i­mum wage to help the work­ing class se­cure a liv­ing wage, and which party has op­posed min­i­mum-wage hikes? Which party has tried to se­cure univer­sal health care cov­er­age for the work­ing class, and which party is go­ing to take it away? Which party wants to strengthen So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care, and which party wants to pri­va­tize and voucher it out of ex­is­tence?


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