Scott Walker Has One Shot

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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BUSH/CANTOR 2016–The Donor’s Choice! Jeb Bush will appear with defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor at a fundraiser on February 16th. Because there is no better symbol of the emerging populist GOP vision of hope than Eric Cantor. …


Run UMC: Reihan Salam’s heartfelt slagging of the upper middle class makes the basic point that if we are worried about income inequality because of its effect on social inequality (i.e., are we equal in the eyes of each other?) it’s not enough to look at Gini coefficients or the soaring share of the top 1 or .01 percent. There are only four Koch brothers, after all. There’s a limit to how much damage they can do to our egalitarian traditions — even if they were as obnoxious in reality as they are in the Democratic imagination. But there are millions of upper middle class lawyers and consultants and doctors. If their attitudes are increasingly snobby and status-oriented, that could easily have a pervasive invidious effect on the culture. If they get rich enough to hire lots of servants, for example, that’s a much bigger deal than if David Koch makes another few billion. If they scorn people with low SATS that adds a vicious meritocratic bite to status ranking.  Money trends matter, but social and technical innovations can have an independent effect, good or ill. Valet parking does more social-egalitarian damage than car elevators, while a reliable robotic vacuum (that replaced human maids) would probably do far more good than increase in the child tax credit. Culture isn’t a mathematical concept and can’t be measured on an Excel spreadsheet.

P.S.: The upper middle class does appear to be getting richer, though that’s sometimes hard to see given the MSM’s focus on the ultra-rich. For example, a recent New York Times “Upshot” post proclaimed “Gains from Economic Recovery Still Limited to Top One Percent.” The author, economist Justin Wolfers, declares that “all of the gains of the recovery have gone to the top 1 percent” while “the economic recovery so far … has yielded no improvement for the bottom 99 percent of the distribution.” If you were an innocent reader you might think this means that, well, gains from the economic recovery have been limited to the top one percent! — i.e. that no other income class made gains. You would be wrong.  In fact, the data (from Emmanuel Saez) show that the 95th to 99th percentiles have also gotten richer,** and the 90th to 95th percentiles even enjoyed a smidgen of income growth. That’s Salam’s upper middle class.

P.S.: What do Wolfers and the NYT mean, then, by the “all of the gains” shock stat? Apparently only that if you look at the gain for the top 1%, it exceeds the net gain for the whole economy. The gains for the rest of the top 5% are equally real, of course, but they are lumped into the “bottom 99%” total, where they are cancelled out by losses further down the income scale. Wolfers was kind enough to explain his terminology to me in a Twitter DM exchange, so I’ll just say that it … doesn’t seem as meaningful to me as it apparently does to him.  What we care about is who is gaining and who isn’t. But under the NYT/Upshot/Wolfers method, any time you have some economic losers you can lump some winners in with them and then in effect say, ‘Hey, that whole group lost. Nothing to see there.’  Most readers will assume what is not true: that all income classes in the “loser” group actually lost ground. Some might call this deceptive!


**–about 5% from 2009 to 2012-2013, if I read Saez’s Table A4 right. That’s not counting capital gains.


Walker: You’ve Got One Shot! In his heart, Scott Walker seems to be a Koch-style open-bordersish libertarian on immigration who’d be all too happy to sign onto a Gang-of-8 style Amnesty First bill.  But he still has a chance to position himself (presumably insincerely) against the “act of love” legalization plans of Jeb Bush. There is, after all, a simple, easy-to-understand position on immigration that a) doesn’t involve putting amnesty — any form of legalization — first;  b)  promises to control the flow of immigrants; c) doesn’t involve mass deportations; and  d) holds out at least some hope of winning over a non-trivial number of Latino voters. Here it is. …

P.S.: I’d be happy to have a national debate over whether to let in the tens of millions more willing immigrant workers that Walker, Jeb and Paul Ryan seem to want if the government actually had enough control to guarantee that whatever number we settled on was the number that moved here. But it’s  precisely that control that the deceptive Gang of 8 bill would undermine, probably permanently. (We’d get the promised amnesty, but not the promised enforcement, as happened with the last “comprehensive” reform in 1986. Cut that sucker’s deal a second time, in order to please ethnically-oriented Latino and Asian voters, and it will be clear to every potential illegal migrant on the planet that we’ll cut it again, and again, to please the same voting blocs, which will only grow larger. What’s that Haley Barbour said about the second kick of a mule?) …


There’s Medicare for most of us, and then there’s Medicare for the poor: The L.A. Times‘ estimable Chad Terhune on the attempt of Obamacare in California to bend the cost curve by pushing elderly poor — those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid — off of fee for service Medicare and into “managed care.” It seems to be fizzling. Even though the scheme is “opt-out” — if you do nothing, you’re out of Medicare! — 60% are opting out. It seems they want to keep their doctors. Who knew? … P.S.: Now try to do that with the upper middle class. And best of luck to you. …


Mickey Kaus