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Obama-as-Tory Revisited

Joel Kotkin has a rejoinder to the Barack Obama [1]as [2]Tory [3] argument Alex Massie, Andrew Sullivan, and others on this site have advanced. They all meant it as a good thing, but Kotkin assuredly does not [4]:

Under the progressive Tory regime, the best that can be offered the middle class is an outbound ticket to less-Tory-dominated, albeit often less culturally “enlightened” places, such as Texas, the Southeast or Utah. There, manufacturing, energy and agricultural industries still anchor [5] much of the economy. Despite their expressions of concern for the lower orders, gentry progressives don’t see much hope for the recovery of blue-collar manufacturing or construction jobs, at least not in their bailiwicks. Instead they suggest that the hoi polloi seek their future in what the British used to call “service,” [6] that is, as caregivers, haircutters, dog walkers, waiters and toenail painters for their more-highly educated betters. …

“We have created a regulatory framework that is reducing employment prospects in the very sectors that huge shares of our population need if they are to reach the middle class,” notes economist John Husing [7]. A onetime Democratic activist, Husing laments how, in progressive California, green energy policies have driven up electricity costs to twice as high as those in competitor states, such as Utah, Texas and Washington, and considerably above those of neighboring Arizona and Nevada. These and other regulatory policies, he suggests, are largely responsible for the Golden State missing out on the country’s manufacturing rebound, losing jobs, while others, not only Texas but also in the Great Lakes, have expanded jobs in this sector.

Similarly, Draconian land-use regulations have not only kept housing prices, particularly on the coasts, unnecessarily high, but slowed a potential rebound in the construction sector, traditionally a source of higher-wage employment for less-than-highly educated workers. So, while Google workers are pampered and celebrated by the progressive regime, California suffers high unemployment and a continued exodus [8] of working-class and middle-class families.

The argument is a bit complicated and I recommend reading the whole thing [4]. As far as I know he’s the first to address issues of real property in relation to Obama’s Tory vision. And there’s something appealing about the way he portrays the Democratic Party’s divide between Oakland’s serfs and the landed gentry of Palo Alto.

(h/t The Transom [9])

Follow @j_arthur_bloom [10]

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#1 Comment By el supremo On March 25, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

Kotkin’s critique is quite good, but the term “Tory” is a bit odd and misses the fact that if anything Obama-ism is most reminiscent of the Tony Blair / New Labor attempt at squaring the political circle:

A “sexy” high skill high wage sector is the future of the country (Finance in London / Tech in the US), don’t bother with dirty brown jobs, encourage some of the working class to go into services, and extract enough money from the high wage sector to subsidize the rest through transfer payments and government jobs. Pay lots of government attention to progressive social causes beloved by the chattering classes.

Of course, the last 4 years in Britain have shown that the whole thing falls apart when your high wage sector gets driven into a ditch . . . .

#2 Comment By Adam On March 25, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

It is simply another form of elitism, in the Democratic case, emphasizing higher education as the key. In the Republican version, it’s all about the entrepeneur. In both cases, the have-nots exist to service the haves. The republican version believes servicing their class leads to a trickle down form of wealth, whereas the progressive version believes the government exists to act as the middle man to redistribute lopsided gains. Neither is accurate. Full on capitalism as invisioned by the free market types is just as bad as full on socialism. The problem is figuring out the balance, if there even is one. I would argue forty years of Keynesian governance(post WWII) brought about the shift to the free market, supply side philosophy which began under Reagan. The 70’s showed the results of leaning too far to one side. The first decade of this new century is showing the wear of leaning too far to the supply side bias. The regulatory capture of today isn’t necessarily just one of Green Energy and overreach of the state as referenced with the California example, it also exists, probably to a larger extent, as protection for entrenched business interests taking advantage of the so called “free market ” approach, which is anything but free when legislated control is easier than competing. It will be interesting to see where the next shift leads us.

#3 Comment By cka2nd On March 25, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

A pro-suburbs, anti-mass transit, anti-rail, FORMER associate of Michael Lind (now at TAC’s Center for Public Transportation) whose ” writing on trends in urban and suburban America are regularly sponsored and promoted by the Cato Institute” (Wikipedia), Kotkin is not interested in bridging the divide between environmentalism and the working class, but in getting workers to buy into the anti-regulatory libertarian regime. Yuck, and a plague on both elite houses, Progressive Tory and Libertarian Whig.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 26, 2013 @ 4:24 am

Well, that we are surrounded by two oceans still matter. But the constant argument coming out of Washington and corporate America that we need to open up our immigration policy so that we can get the best minds into the country is bizzarre. The EU’s relationship and the UK’s role in it are completely different from our own relations to our neighbors that the liberal attempt to socialize the country in this manner is hinged on demonizing capitalism.

#5 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 26, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

Obama isn’t a conservative by any coherent philosophy, but in practical terms of what conservatism often devolves to – the support and maintenance of current wealth and power structures, when in doubt, playing it safe by backing the status quo.

That is why our actual governance is identical, with the only difference being in degrees of competence and in rhetoric driven by the reality of having two competing political bodies elbowing for power needing to have brand differentiation nuances so the voters can tell them apart – red vs. blue would do as well for the purpose.

This Toryism could be seen charitably as a community organizer’s sensibility about compromise and having all voices represented, but the reality is it devolves to cynical assessments of who has the most to offer to wield personal power – and that will be the “Tory” money of the 1%.