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Changing a narrative

This caught my eye:

A favorite “progressive” trope is that America’s middle class has stagnated economically since the 1970s. One version of this claim, made by Robert Reich, President Clinton’s labor secretary, is typical: “After three decades of flat wages during which almost all the gains of growth have gone to the very top,” he wrote in 2010, “the middle class no longer has the buying power to keep the economy going.” This trope is spectacularly wrong.

Don Boudreaux and Mark Perry, via the Wall Street Journal. (Via Cafe Hayek.)

That is not to say that the growth rate could not and should not have been better. But that is not the same thing.

6 comments to Changing a narrative

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Lefties at some level are always trying to salvage Marx’s claim that capitalism would result in a massive oppressed proletariat and a tiny ruling class. It’s a major embarrassment to them that capitalism in fact resulted in a shrinking lower working class and an ever expanding middle class.

    So they (consciously or unconsciously) rehash the idea in various new forms as a nod to dear Uncle Karl.

  • This is a mistake. The progressives are in large part at fault for the problem- for the problem resides in living expenses like housing, cars, having children, and many other things they’ve added costs and regulations to- but they aren’t wrong about the problem existing.
    I notice the first thing Boudreaux and Perry point to is healthcare, a product best avoided altogether, which we could probably do if the government didn’t keep interfering with the food supply. Then there’s iatrogenics.
    Some thing else that costs a lot more but sucks to the point of being a fraud now- education.
    Boudreaux and Perry are just being cheerleaders here, and aren’t taking the time to really look at what matters. Do you know that annoying conversation that comes up, where you try to explain we aren’t actually living in a free market? Well, Boudreaux and Perry just made that next conversation a little more annoying, because the leftists can just point to their chearleading when, in fact they should take note of reality and blame point out how progressive policies have caused them.

  • Steven

    When I took a microeconomics class a few years ago we examined the way that wages have been relatively flat compared with overall economic trends and it was not simply due to regulations and stuff like the EPA strangling industry. Consider that a few other things were happening at the same time. American industry was no longer the only game in town (so much of US growth in the 50s and first half of the 60s was mainly due to the fact that everyone else’s industry had been bombed out of existance). US industry was moving overseas or closing up because it was cheeper to buy things like steel from places like Japan. So you already have a loss of income so more family members try to get jobs which just floods the job market further driving down wages. That’s bad enough, but then we have to factor the massive entrance of women into the marketplace, which adds still more people into the job applicant pool which drives wages down even further. More people had to work for longer hours to stay where they were at. Consumerism and Keeping up With the Joneses is part of the reason for the two income family, but part of it is the fact that the simgle income just does not go as far as it did for our parents and grandparents.

    It was just a perfect storm of bad timing, shifting markets, and idiots like Nixon and Carter at the helm and we still haven’t recovered since then. It’s Japan’s Lost Decade writ large.

    I don’t think it’s as simple as breaking out the Collected Works of Marx or the Hayek Reader and thinking either the GOP or Dems talking points have all the answers.

  • Ironically enough, China is buying a lot of things ‘made in America’.

    Top 10 Biggest Buyers Of ‘Made In America’

    Yes, the US manufacturing base benefited tremendously in the 50′s and 60′ due to the fact that much of the world was rebuilding from the smoldering ruins of the 20th century, but that’s not enough to justify why the US STILL remains the #1 largest manufacturing base in the world (The world’s top manufacturing country is the United States.)

    I would argue it’s due to the unlimited potential that’s unleashed by the free market, and the failures of organized religion/government to suppress the liberty of the individual, but I suppose I’m biased.

  • Laird

    One point missing from the Boudreaux/Perry essay is the fact that the specific individuals/families making up any given decile of the income spectrum change substantially over time. Many of the people in the top and bottom deciles are not there ten years later. Even if average wages do remain flat over time, it doesn’t mean that people aren’t improving their lot. Many (most?) are. They move up in the rankings as new people enter the workforce, taking the lower-wage jobs, and older ones retire or die off and are removed from the statistics altogether. Income is far from static in our society, which is a Very Good Thing (and one which progressives go out of their way to ignore).

  • veryretired

    Let’s see—Native Americans were wards of the state for a century, and, until the recent casino boom, were the most impoverished, addiction ridden, unemployed group in society; the family farmer has been the object of endless state programs to save him for most of he 20th century, and his numbers have shrunk from over half the population to under 2%; black people were “adopted” by the modern welfare state about 50 years ago, with the result that the black family has shattered, perhaps irreparably, and the male part is massively either in prison or unemployed, while the female half now has a 75% or so rate of births out of wedlock, and single parent families struggling with poverty lead to homicide from gang activity being the primary cause of death for young black males.

    The wars on poverty and drugs continues to decimate the very populations they were supposed to help, the federal education programs have overseen a massive decline in the competency and educational achievements of our youth across the board, and catastrophically poor literacy rates among the minority communities.

    The Fed decided to massively aid the housing market, to assist people in buying homes, and within a few decades, the housing and financial markets collapsed into a recession which we are still struggling to climb out of, and return to a semblence of our former economic levels.

    And so now, the progressive state under the current progressive regime is going to come to the aid of the struggling middle class?

    Yeah, that will work out just fine…