He Went to Kansas to Say That?

December 7th, 2011 at 4:11 pm David Frum | 60 Comments |

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In my column for The Week, I discuss how Obama’s speech on income inequality fell short:

The Kansas speech was composed of two main parts: a critique of the performance of the U.S. economy over the past generation, and a program for “rebalancing” in the years ahead.

The trouble is that the more convincing you find the critique, the less convincing you will find the proposed solution.

Obama’s critique attacks the increasing inequality in American society, and blames the 2008 crisis, at least in part, on this inequality:

Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and their investments — wealthier than ever before. But everybody else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t — and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.

Now, for many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over this harsh reality. But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We all know the story by now: mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or even sometimes understand them. Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Huge bets — and huge bonuses — made with other people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all

There’s a lot missing from that story. But still … close enough for government work.

So what exactly does the president propose as a policy response to this generational economic disappointment?

The program he proposes is hazy, but seems to include four main elements:

1) Increased spending on education intended to upgrade American skill levels

2) Higher taxes on upper-income earners to decrease inequality

3) More government investment in infrastructure, both as a source of jobs and in hope of supporting a more middle-class economy

4) Stricter financial regulations

Now how exactly is any of this supposed to address the challenge the president himself described?

Click here to read the full column.

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60 Comments so far ↓

  • Fart Carbuncle

    Wealth redistribution, pitting the takers vs. the makers…it was sad.

    The Democrat party under the liberation theologist Obama thinks it can reinvent itself to a new majority composed of government dependents, government workers, African Americans, Hispanics, and credulous, wide-eyed, liberal-left true believers. What would be left out of this New Democrat majority is the white working class, formerly the base of the Democratic Party.

    In other words, the Democrat party is throwing in the towel on economic growth and prosperity, because even Obama’s people recognize they cannot credibly sell themselves as delivering on that. What they are going to sell in 2012 is taxes and redistribution from those that have more to buy the votes of those they think will sell their vote for government handouts. That marries perfectly Marxist philosophy with Chicago political machine politics, IMHO.

    • armstp

      Yeah… too bad the wealthy have been nothing but the TAKERS for the last couple of decades, as their percentage or proportion of income and wealth has obscenely grown. Growing wealth and income disparity and an ever declining ability to move-up is the problem. The real MAKERS or the workers and middle class in this country are getting the shaft from the WEALTHY TAKERS. The WEALTHY TAKERS have never had it so good as their effective tax rates are the lowest they have ever been and they have created zero jobs. The country always does better with a strong and vibrant middle class, who are the true MAKERS.

    • TerryF98

      Please do not use the phrase ” IMHO.” Smarg. You do not have an honest opinion as you have proved many times and on almost an almost daily basis.

    • Banty

      Oh good grief I’m getting tired of this.

      Maybe I should make up a bumper sticker:

      The rich .ne. job creater

      or … (since that would take too much edukashun…)

      The Takers are not the Makers

      I’m tired of these arguments that are predicated on this idea that rich people make jobs. They don’t, at least not any more than the most of the rest of us. Rich people invest in – - investment instruments.

      • armstp

        There was much more job creation with higher tax rates on the wealthy under Clinton than under Bush. How does Fart explain that one?

        And that was with far less military stimulus spending during Clinton’s time. Bush had the added benefit of nearly an additional trillion dollars of domestic defense spending across the country and he still created no jobs.

    • Ray_Harwick

      Says the most strident racist on Frum Forum. Nothing you say is to be taken seriously Snarg/Fart/Fairy.

    • valkayec

      Again, you exhibit your stupidity of history and failure to understand both economics and the progressive movement of human history.

      How can any one person be so dumb? Or are your views based solely on your hatred of our popularly elected President, otherwise known in the popular media as ODS?

      You really need to seriously examine your attitudes and thinking.

    • jakester

      “liberation theologist Obama”
      that would actually be humorous if it wasn’t coming from a person who tolerates religious crackpotism & shameless exploitation of ignorant religious types like you or the average con these day. From you, it’s just sick irony.

  • armstp

    Obama in Osawatomie

    After months of Republican candidates offering a cascade of bad ideas about the economy, President Obama’s speech in Osawatomie, Kan., Tuesday came as a relief. He made it clear that he was finally prepared to contest the election on the issues of income inequality and the obligation of both government and the private sector to enlarge the nation’s shrinking middle class.

    The economic downturn, combined with ideological gridlock, has created a “make-or-break moment” for the middle class and for those trying to enter it, he said. Mr. Obama correctly framed the choice for voters: The country can return to policies that stacked the deck for the wealthy and left everyone else to fend for themselves, creating what he called “you’re on your own economics.” Or elected officials can step in to keep competition fair and ensure the government has enough money to protect the vulnerable and invest in education and research.

    The speech felt an awfully long time in coming, but it was the most potent blow the president has struck against the economic theory at the core of every Republican presidential candidacy and dear to the party’s leaders in Congress. The notion that the market will take care of all problems if taxes are kept low and regulations are minimized may look great on a bumper sticker, but, he said: “It doesn’t work. It has never worked.” Not before the Great Depression, not in the ’80s, and not in the last decade.

    The president repeated his calls for the rich to pay higher taxes, for financial institutions to be more closely regulated and for education to become a national mission. What set this speech apart was the newly forceful explanation of why those policies are necessary. Incomes of the top 1 percent, he noted, have more than doubled in the last decade while the average income has fallen by 6 percent.

    The chances of a poor child making it into the middle class have severely diminished since World War II, he said. That, he said, “flies in the face of everything that we stand for.”

    It is rare for a president to be so explicit about a national income gap, but it is hardly “un-American” to think about it, as Newt Gingrich said recently. In fact, it is a pressing issue that goes back more than a century. Mr. Obama spoke in the same town where Theodore Roosevelt issued his call for a square deal in 1910. In demanding “a new nationalism,” Roosevelt supported strong government oversight of business, a “graduated income tax on big fortunes,” an inheritance tax and the primacy of labor over capital. For that, he was called a socialist and worse, as Mr. Obama observed, having endured the same.

    Mr. Obama was late to Roosevelt’s level of passion and action on behalf of the middle class and the poor, having missed several opportunities to make the tax burden more fair and demand real action on the housing crisis from the big banks that he excoriated so effectively in his speech.

    But he has fought energetically for a realistic plan to put Americans back to work and has been stymied at every step by Republicans. That seems to have burned away his old urge to conciliate and compromise, and he is now fully engaged against the philosophy of his opponents.

    Tuesday’s speech, in fact, seemed expressly designed to counter Mitt Romney’s argument that business, unfettered, will easily restore American jobs and prosperity. Teddy Roosevelt knew better 101 years ago, and it was gratifying to hear his fire reflected by President Obama.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/opinion/president-obama-in-osawatomie.html?_r=1

  • Xunzi Washington

    David –

    You don’t like the 4 solutions, or you don’t get how the 4 solutions map onto the criticism? Seems to me that they map on easily.

    4) Stricter financial regulations

    This is meant to address the very crisis in the mortgage industry and which precipitated the whole mess. You may not like it, but seems straightforward.

    1) Increased spending on education intended to upgrade American skill levels

    2) Higher taxes on upper-income earners to decrease inequality

    3) More government investment in infrastructure, both as a source of jobs and in hope of
    supporting a more middle-class economy

    All of these three address inequity in various ways, and seem to me to be pretty straightforward adaptations of John Rawls, who thought that inequity in society was just only when the inequity could be made to benefit the least well off. Each of (1) – (3) is meant to do just that – not wipe out inequity, but to assure that it benefits the least well off.

    Again, you might not like the solutions, but they seem to map pretty clearly onto the crisis and problem he describes.

  • armstp

    Frum,

    I think you are missing the point of the speech.

    It is about whether there is a role for government in this country. Obama says there is and the GOP says there is not.

    Obama suggests, as you say above, government investment in education and infrastructure, more government regulation of the financial sector and a more fair tax code.

    The GOP is saying an even less of a role of government. No investment in education (in fact get rid of the Education Department), no investment in infrastructure (in fact cut back with their singluar focus on the deficit or let the private sector do it), less regulation (roll back Frank-Dodd) and more tax cuts for the wealth.

    Obama is setting up a clear as day choice for the voters.

  • ottovbvs

    “Now how exactly is any of this supposed to address the challenge the president himself described?”

    It’s obviously a long and complicated story and Frum’s soundbites in which the UK seems to figure prominently (probably because he was there last week) don’t begin to tell it. Equally obviously the president was laying out his basic campaign platform; diagnosing the problem in brush strokes which were just as broad as those he used to suggest the directions remedies might take. Frum seems to spend an inordinate amount of time talking about the evils of government employment when in fact the levels here and in the UK are substantially lower than in much of Europe including in some countries like Germany and Sweden where they are in substantially better shape than either of us. Obama was laying out his vision versus that of the Republicans which essentially consists of demolishing those longstanding government programs like Medicare and SS that underpin the security of the American middle classes; de-regulating to the maximum extent possible; closing departments like the EPA and education; and providing more tax cuts for millionaires. In other words Bush Redux. Frum as a member of the Bush administration may be in favor of this approach but I rather suspect for most Americans it will be “Once burned, twice shy.”

  • Ray_Harwick

    Now how exactly is any of this supposed to address the challenge the president himself described?

    I hate it when Mr. Frum plays dumb. The guy who tells congress how to do their business before it even comes up; the guy who tells candidates what they should do before they even think of doing it. It’s about as convincingly David Frum-like to ask this question as his starving but strangely overweight columnist Galatea is a convincing “libertarian.”

  • Nanotek

    “There’s a lot missing from that story. But still … close enough for government work.”

    seriously… from the ‘no labels’ oracle? close enough for FF commentary?

    the government workers I know, including our soldiers and scientists, work hard and are good at their jobs

    “Now how exactly is any of this supposed to address the challenge the president himself described?”

    the purpose of President Obama’s speech wasn’t to fill-in-your-blanks, obviously … instead, to help begin bringing together the American people against the Republicans 1 percent elites who have callously aged a very brutal war against middle class people for the last 30 years …

  • armstp

    Another great article from Rolling Stone (they keep hitting it out of the park):

    The GOP’s Crackpot Agenda – The top Republican candidates share a single, radical vision: to trash the environment, shred the safety net and aid the rich.

    “Take it from one of the most divisive figures in the history of GOP presidential politics: “Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off,” the televangelist Pat Robertson warned recently. “They’re forcing their leaders, the front-runners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election.” Robertson knows fringe politics: In 1988, he ran for president on a platform that included abolishing the Department of Education and adopting a constitutional amendment to prohibit deficit spending. At the time, Robertson was dismissed as an unelectable candidate of the far right. Today, he would be somewhere to the left of Texas governor Rick Perry. And that way lies ruin: “You’ll appeal to the narrow base, and they’ll applaud the daylights out of what you’re saying,” Robertson cautioned. “And then you hit the general election and they say, ‘No way!’ They’ve got to stop this!” ”

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-gops-crackpot-agenda-20111207

    • ottovbvs

      The problem with this analysis which contains some good points it that it is also disfigured by some of the usual RS OTT assertions. Mass riots in the streets of Charlotte during the Democratic convention? Really?

    • paul_gs

      Rolling Stone magazine? Nobody pays attention to that rag. They also peddled the lie that vaccines caused autism.

  • camus32

    Actually, I think Kissenger said that the Clinton admin’s policies were better than the their explanations.

  • Banty

    From the article: “But when it comes to creating an effective alternative — the country is left waiting.”

    Then – what is Mr. Frum’s recommendation? What have we heard from the GOP? Other than, it’s really not a problem because some poor people have flat screen TV’s and they’re richer than the median in certain other impovershed societies.

    I’d have to agree that Obama’s recommendations don’t directly get at the problem, as the problem is partly cultural. But worker compensation has flatlined for a decade and a half now, even though productivity has gone up greatly. The value that is being generated, has become disconnected from compensation for all but the top exec ranks.

    How to solve that? Well, a greater rate of taxation on upper incomes does progressively make earning more, for the sake of earning more, less and less attractive. That’s a mitigation against that mechanism.

    Other, direct ways to address this are things that the GOP (at least the current GOP) absolutely hate. Union power to counter weight corporate management power. Health care provided in a way that is not tied to employment, but a decent minimum of health care standard being assured, as many people work solely to make sure they have health care coverage, and this leaves them susceptible to downward wage pressures.

  • ottovbvs

    Oh boy…fear and trembling besets the Republican establishment at these latest polls. If Newt actually won NH would that be the end of Romney?

    http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/12/cnntime-polls-gingrich-skyrockets-in-first-four-primary-states.php?ref=fpnewsfeed

  • think4yourself

    I would say that this speech helps outline the problem rather than defines all of the solutions. As to all 4 points:

    “1) Increased spending on education intended to upgrade American skill levels.” I think it’s a fair argument to ask how to make sure we get best outcomes for spending on education – one of the great and important conversations of our time.

    “2) Higher taxes on upper-income earners to decrease inequality.” Yep. I’m okay with higher taxes (even though in the rush to demonize the successful you can create a tax nightmare, higher basic tax, higher tax to subsidize health care, higher tax to subsidize roads, etc.). I’m also okay with everyone paying something in Federal income tax (roll all rates back to Clinton era).

    “3) More government investment in infrastructure, both as a source of jobs and in hope of supporting a more middle-class economy.” I’m okay with this, but like with education investment, I’d like good management to see that funds are being used wisely.

    “4) Stricter financial regulations.” Certainly makes sense to me.

    I don’t believe these solve the following short term problems:

    A. Almost 9% unemployment with many underemployed (I think only time and market correction will fix this).

    B. Banks not lending, businesses hoarding cash/delaying investment (again, will take time. Not sure that more gov’t stimulus in these areas is good for anything other than a temporary spurt, much like the “cash for clunkers” was).

    C. Consumers deleveraging/not spending. Same as A & B.

    In short, I don’t think it’s a gov’t fix. Better financial regulations helps, we need to invest in our infrastructure for long-term growth and we need solutions for better education for long term growth so I don’t think Obama’s on the wrong track, it jsut won’t magically make everything better.

    • LFC

      A partial fix for (B) is to figure out how to prevent banks from borrowing from the government at a low rate and immediately plowing those funds into Treasuries at a higher rate. If you cut off the free money, they have to find their revenue someplace else.

      Sure, that other place may be nothing more than massive fees on its customers, but people can then at least vote with their bank accounts. I did that years ago and couldn’t be happier with my small community bank who holds every personal and business account I have along with my mortgage (which, shock of shocks, they actually HOLD!).

    • ratgov

      I think it terms of what the government could do in the short-term, starting infra-structure projects is probably the best way to quickly improve the economy (although I am also incredibly dubious of the efficiencies in government construction, it seems terribly corrupt here in Seattle).

      Also hiring more teachers could be done immediately and would decrease unemployment and give many of the medium/high educated people looking for work a place to go. Again I agree with you about the education problems as well. It’s too bad, because I feel like if we could get some cooperation between R/D’s we’re in a good place to get some really effective school reforms (higher pay for much easier ways of getting rid of bad teachers).

    • nepr

      About your item A, I hope you’re right, but…

      There’s no reason to assume that, given enough time, “the market” will somehow, on its own, decide to employ 9% more people. One could just as easily argue that the present level of employment is the natural, free-market level and that, previously, the economy was suffering from over-capacity, and that the present situation is the “correction”.

      I think there’s a lot of evidence, including your items B and C, that this is what we are dealing with now.

      Markets, even in “equilibrium”, don’t have an absolute value of employment of resources. In “equilibrium”, a market has determined the maximum level of production and is at “full employment”, using only the resources necessary to achieve that level of production.

      “Full employment” doesn’t mean that everyone will have a job. This sad fact is one of the main justifications for state “interference” in the market; e.g., that markets can stabilize at undesirable levels of production and employment. It’s also, I think, why the Obama administration’s attempts at stimulus seem to be pushing on a string. What could be needed (a la Robert Reich and Paul Krugman and WW II) is an injection of demand (i.e., cash in people’s pockets) so massive that it destabilizes the market and pushes it to a higher level of production. Since this is not likely to happen without us first falling into a full blown depression, I hope you’re right.

      • Banty

        You’re right, nepr – the market actually employs as few people as possible, as cheeply as possible. Which is, lately, off shore. There are advantages to employers for employees being in-country actually, but not enough (yet) to make up the delta in costs.

        I’ve seen several business leaders, like Immelt of GE, put the wages for hiring skilled but non-professional labor in-country competitively at between $15 and $20/hour. That’s enough to raise a family; but pretty much hand to mouth. It’s not enough to do so while saving for retirement, higher education, and paying a larger proportion of health care. It means households slow to form, households combining, people working remotely from their homes, as is common in China.

        When we hear “jobs jobs jobs”, we should be asking details details details.

  • xconserve

    David:
    Are you being… what is that word?… Obtuse?
    Perhaps you need some harsh words, like Socialist! Communist! Atheist! to get you to understand.
    We spend too little money on infrastructure and education.
    We do not raise enough revenue from our higher income people (just look at a comparison of what other “civilized countries’ rates are…)
    One parties politicians continually claim the other party is weak on defense, so the both parties have to spend huge amounts of money on defense to prove we are TOUGH!
    The GOP created the EPA. Now that it has done its job, the rich want to get back to raping the environment. Exactly what gov’t regulations would you like to see reprealed? No sense in criticizing if yopu don’t have a suggestion.
    What I heard from BO’s speech is this: the GOP has got us going in the wrong direction; it’s time we stop being wimps and get back on track!

    • willard landreth

      David:
      Are you being… what is that word?… Obtuse?

      He’s not being obtuse; Frum and the others have run out of intelligent things to say and thus we get this tripe. (The last few weeks has shown a dearth of cogent articles.) it’s tripe b/c Frum doesn’t bother to answer the question as to what his solutions or tweeks are if Obama’s are inadaquate. God forbid that his prognostications are questioned.

      I think the poor guy (Frum) has absolutely no idea what going to happen and that Gingrich will be the nominee. Crazy things are happening w/ the republicans and poor Frum my just lose more hair over them.

    • NRA Liberal

      We strictly speaking don’t “raise revenue” from taxes at all, since the USA is a monopoly issuer of a floating rate sovereign currency. The government doesn’t need revenue, it creates the revenue which other parties such as households, states, and firms use.

      Taxation is, among other things, mainly a way to transfer spending power from private entities to the government so as not to bid up the cost of goods and services via inflation.

  • Graychin

    “…the whole economic scheme depends entirely on the continuing success of one lucrative sector of the economy: finance.”

    Funny, I thought that industries that actually created wealth were the bedrock of the American economy. Trading Monopoly deeds creates no value.

    Nevertheless, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America will be happy to hear that you have recognized their value to society. What would we do without those guys? What would we have done without J.P. Morgan and his bailout of the Federal Government during the Gilded Age?

    (And Mr. Frum – since you can’t agree with any action proposed by Obama, what is your prescription?)

    • balconesfault

      Mr. Frum – since you can’t agree with any action proposed by Obama, what is your prescription?

      From all evidence here, he’d elect a Republican President who would do and say pretty much what Obama has done and said (except wrt Israel), but just some undefined increment to the right on each policy.

      Oh, and auctioning off magic ponies to pay down the debt.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Here was TR himself, and he makes Obama look positively tame in comparison:

    Check out the original:

    “The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise. [...] We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.”

    How long until Republicans demand that TR be taken down from Rushmore (and for that matter everyone else) and have one gigantic Reagan head?

    • balconesfault

      I love the strategy of shoving Teddy Roosevelt down the GOP’s throats.

      We keep hearing from moderate Republicans how the party really cares about the environment, and about workers, and about equality … after all, Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican!

      The Democrats should shove TR at the GOP until Republicans start to publicly disown Teddy, and America can get a clearer idea of where the line of scrimmage between the two parties really lies these days (I would argue its at about the 30 yard line on the Conservative side of the field).

      • ottovbvs

        “until Republicans start to publicly disown Teddy,”

        I thought they more or less had. Although he’s unquestionably the greatest Republican president of the 20th century and one of the top 6 of all time they’d much prefer to exaggerate the achievements of the largely phony Ronald Reagan who was average at best. They’re so frightened of TR’s record that I had an endless exchange with one of Frum’s more historically ignorant conservative diarists (WHERE does he find these people from?) who insisted in the face of mountains of evidence that TR wasn’t a radical conservative because it was impossible to be a radical conservative and TR certainly wasn’t one.

    • ottovbvs

      Visit some Republican blogs and you’ll find some there insisting TR was trying to impose a Fascistic style of government on the US…..I’m not kidding.

      • valkayec

        It’s called the Glenn Beck effect…you know that guy who’s greatest mentor, W. Cleon Skousen, was low level FBI analyst/paper shuffler who falsely claimed to be an agent working directly under and for J Edger Hoover and who, for considerable money, gave lectures in favor of the John Birch Society, including the assertion that President Eisenhower was a Communist sympathizer.

        Again, another example of American stupidity.

    • valkayec

      TR was the original progressive…and the GOP followed him. In other words, the GOP began and led the progressive movement long before FDR Democrats picked up his mantle.

      Just as a side note, FDR was very conservative and like his cousin feared the end of capitalism unless some restraints were not put upon the worst behaviors that caused the Great Depression and if some some remedies were not enacted to ameliorate the hugely negative affects of the Depression on ordinary American families. In other words, he feared socialism and Communism so much that he agreed to promote policies that assisted ordinary working families deal with the dramatic, devastating fallout caused by over speculation in the financial industry.

      TR began the progressive movement, he said, to secure the stability of capitalism and to save it from its practitioners worst instincts and behaviors.

      But people like Glenn Beck have convinced their uninformed, ignorant audiences that TR was a traitor to the free market, capitalism, and was a socialist.

      How stupid can Americans become?

  • Frumplestiltskin

    From Frum’s article: Americans invest enormous faith in schools and schooling. But it seems that higher and higher investments in education are not translating into higher wages or greater opportunities.

    Funny how Frum never considers the rampant greed of many businessmen paying themselves outlandish salaries (even when losing money) and then breaking unions and paying as little as possible to their workers. The Republicans are nothing if not the same as the old oligarchs of the latin American banana Republics.

    And please, no more nonsense about England. Look around your house, what says “made in England” on it? Why not compare to countries that still make things, like Germany or Japan?

    This is funny: Let the nation’s most globally competitive workers earn what they can in world markets, tax them, use the proceeds to generate secure if less productive jobs for the less-competitive — why not?

    David doesn’t realize that this is precisely the policy of China, which props up SOEs in order to ensure that the unemployment rate stays very low.
    This works well enough for China, we don’t do that in the United States and David gives no examples how it is done in the US (except maybe when Bush, his former boss, made steel tariffs a priority…funny how it is ok when Republicans do it)

    • Ray_Harwick

      Frump, thanks for that. Mr. Frum gets selective amnesia about this education question today. My sister is an RN and this year at her hospital the *entire* nursing staff was forced to take a pay cut to keep their jobs. This was at Wilson N. Jones hospital in Sherman, Texas. The director called them all in and gave them the happy news. So, this is a non-union hospital and some nurses asked if the doctors or executive staff were getting pay cuts. Nope. That’s how higher education doesn’t translate to higher wages. Once you’re cornered in non-union job, the cream gets racked off by excutives and the staff gets an annual Christmas party at Dennys while the doctors are catching up on their tan in Hawai’i. I think the NBA Players Association got it right. They’re the talent – not the owners.

      • NRA Liberal

        The future of the labor movement is in organizing the service industries in this country.

        Can’t nurse from China, not yet anyway.

  • valkayec

    Mr. Frum:

    I am astounded by your editorial. I am astounded because it directly contradicts everything you have written over the last year about the economy and how we got to where we are and how to solve the problems.

    - On education, you’ve written specifically that we need to spend more attracting better teachers, better teacher training, more on STEM education, and better (increased) worker retraining. You’ve specifically written that these investments will enable American workers to compete better in a global environment where technology skills will be evermore vital. Yet, now you write that those investments are a bad idea, that the US is already spending too much and, apparently, needs to cut back. Which is it, your former assessment or now your latter?

    - On infrastructure, you’ve previously called for increased spending – investment – in infrastructure for three reasons, namely increasing construction employment, especially now that housing construction won’t be coming back anytime soon (never mind the different skills set required; it’s what you argued); our infrastructure is crumbling and dangerous due to lack of investment as noted by the Assoc. of Engineers report giving the US an overall grade of D on the nation’s infrastructure; and finally because a better infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, levy, sewer systems, airports, ports, broadband, etc) will help all businesses grow by becoming more profitable and productive and, thus, better able to compete in a global economy. So, now you’ve changed your mind?

    - On financial regulations, you wrote a whole series on how the melt down occurred, including how the failure to have sufficient financial regulations contributed to the collapse. You know the story as it’s been well publicized as well as from your own reading and writing on the subject. Dodd-Frank is far from perfect but at least it’s a start if financial industry lobbying money doesn’t dilute it down to nothing. Are you now know arguing that those regulations should be overturned to allow the gambling to continue unabated? Or that having effective financial industry regulations are an impediment to a stable, growing economy? We all know the official GOP position on Wall St. – McConnell and Boehner made that position perfectly clear when they visited Wall St to assure them that the GOP was on their side, regardless of whatever harm rolling back reforms would have on the economy, our families, and our nation’s businesses. Have you now decided to join the GOP official position? If so, why?

    - On inequality, you’ve written that it is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. You’ve specifically written about average worker incomes having decreased significantly while the richest have seen their incomes and wealth rise dramatically. You and your younger staff members have written about how the rentiers (rent seeking) classes have use their wealth and power to reduce their own taxes to levels well below those of labor (actual workers) and how that outcome has increased social instability (OWS and Tea Party), decreased social mobility, decreased average American household wealth leading to more household indebtedness just to pay the bills, and reduced the ability of workers to leave their jobs to start up their own businesses. Are you now saying you were wrong in your previous assessments? Or are you succumbing to a GOP mantra that you previously decried as erroneous for the health of the nation?

    I’m at a loss to understand your objections to Obama’s speech since his speech echoed your own previous policy prescriptions. Frankly, I’d like to see Obama channel more of TR. After all, TR eloquently stated his policies were designed to save capitalism from its worst, greediest, most self indulgent actors…and combined with the regulations and programs enacted by his cousin’s FDR Administration, this nation grew economically, enjoyed more research and development paid by the federal government, created millions of new businesses like IBM, Apple, HP, Cisco, Adobe, and hundreds of thousands more, and enjoyed the most stable financial sector, though considerably less profitable, in the nation’s history. Remember this: a financialized economy, as ours has become, does not create general wealth throughout an economy; does not increase worker incomes to keep up with inflation; does not create new businesses or decrease income and social mobility; does not produce a stable, growing economy for all American workers; and absolutely does not produce an innovative or expanding business environment.

    It appears to me that your criticisms lie more in partisanship than in real thought. You want to see a Republican president, not because his policies are the best for the nation and its millions of people, but because you want a Republican winner. Why is that?

    • Graychin

      Partisan? Ya think?

      • tctribune

        It’s true that David has been a voice of sanity in the GOP. But Valkayec isn’t just being partisan. David is–to some degree–contradicting himself. But I guess that’s hard not to do for anyone trying to remain within the Party while at the same time criticizing it. I applaud David for his intellectual honesty. The difficulty for many of us who’ve supported the GOP over the years is how do we remain intellectually (and morally) honest and support the current GOP. It’s probably a bridge too far.

    • LFC

      I know David doesn’t reply on the comment boards, but I think it would be very fair to ask him to write a post that replies, in detail, to each one of your points. I would be disappointed in him if he has simply shifted gears because it looks more and more like Obama might win reelection rather than because he thought Republicans actually had better ideas.

    • balconesfault

      valkayec – excellent post

  • midwest guy

    It would appear that Mr. Frum—-like most thoughtful conservatives—–is getting a bit nervous about the next round of elections. Mr. Obama’s Kansas comments were rather well received by many, including his progressive base–as well as quite a few independents. Obama’s comments were thoughtful and did not include any of the disinformation or ranting found by most of this year’s GOP slate. In fact, the points made by Mr. Obama and highlighted by Mr. Frum were at least as cogent to the issues we are facing, and as relevant to our national needs as the complete collected policy suggestions made by the entire group of GOP candidates. If Mr. Frum is nervous, it is because we all should be nervous with the group of candidates running for the top job in a supposedly thoughtful and conservative party.

  • nuser

    At the risk of sounding like Gingrich:How american do you think David Frum is?

  • sdspringy

    What a schizophrenic this President is or maybe he feels more comfortable as a moving target. First Obama channels Lincoln in 08, Reagan when he is in the MidWest, FDR when passing ever larger public give aways and now Teddy.

    The only President the joker should be channeling is Carter, Obama’s 4 years will be a joke of such magnitude that Dukakis in a tank will seem mundane.

    The Democrats and their good intentions as well as an ever expanding government is the snake oil for all our illnesses. No need to fear a 1400 BILLION yearly deficit or ever expanding social spending/vote buying strategy. No need to work because unemployment benefits are about to exceed 198 weeks and according to Obama the Sugar Daddies have yet to be tapped hard. I mean Reverend Jeremiah Wright hard when the “chickens come home to roost” type of hard.

    The silly little fact that escapes the Loonie Lefties and Obama Leg Huggers is that even by confiscating 75% of the earnings of the top 15% of the wage earners in the United States won’t fund the stupidity through the next election. 1400 BILLION you idiots, do the math.

    So Frum is right, painfully though it must be for him to say, Obama is an economic nincomepoop, a greenhouse gas producing speechifying couldn’t find his way out of a Walmart kinda dunce.

    • jakester

      Of course Professor, everyone knows the solution to all economic problems is MORE tax cuts for the rich! That is why so many barely literate Obama hating dweebs lined up behind a total clown with his childish 999 plan

      • sdspringy

        Maybe you should be asking why your Dweeb in Chief extended those very same tax cuts.

        Maybe you should be asking why you as an Obama Leg Hugger can’t provide any evidence that Obama has any clue what to do next. If it weren’t for the OWS he would not even had a subject to speak about.

        Maybe you should be asking yourself why, if Obama hates the CEOs and all those nasty money makers on WS, is he constantly bailing them out.

        • balconesfault

          Dweeb in Chief?

          I was about to write a response – but thought about it – and decided that anyone showing your absolute disrespect for the Office of the Presidency deserves nothing but derision.

    • valkayec

      ODS or just ignorant troll? Can’t make up my mind.

      • indy

        Why are they mutually exclusive? In my experience they seem more like dancing partners.

        • balconesfault

          Unfortunately, this whole piece by Frum was kind of a troll, wasn’t it?

          Not as obnoxious as Springy, but really devoid of any intellectual argument – as if he was throwing it out there just to provoke.

  • YuriPup

    Missed the magic step where somehow buying and maintaining infrastructure–generally though the market–leads to British style middle class government workers?

    Pay a company to build a bridge.
    Company pays workers.
    ???
    Profit! …er British style government employed middle class…