Sunday, January 17, 2016

Unanswered Questions

The Democratic Debate of 1/17/16

Clinton is a slick campaigner.  She doesn't get flustered by attacks.  She has a large store of experience that she brings into play as needed.  But, she doesn't have answers to the big questions posed by Bernie Sanders.

The biggest, of course, being Clinton's receipt of big money from Wall Street.  Her only response in this regard was to point out that O'Malley had at some point in the past also been a recipient of Wall Street money.  Is there really anyone who thinks that those big contributions don't carry an obligation to keep hands off any major reform of the banking and financial systems?

The other big question came from one of the debate moderators.  Clinton was asked why young voters overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders.  Clinton didn't even try to offer an explanation.  She said she hoped that group of voters would come around to supporting her.  To be sure, it was not a question that can easily be answered in thirty seconds, which is about all the debate format allowed.  However, one could make a start on the answer by putting yourself in the place of those voters. It is pretty clear to them, I imagine, that their future is bleak compared to what their parents and grandparents expected -- and got -- in many cases.  A lot of young people won't go on to higher education for lack of funding.  A lot who start won't finish, and yet will be saddled with massive debts.  Many who do make it all the way to a degree won't find meaningful or rewarding work in their field.  People with a high school degree or less will be trapped in jobs that are often short term, without health or pension benefits, and without power to bargain for better treatment.  They know the score.  They won't vote for Clinton.


Jim Grey said...

I'm not willing to go so far as to say that the future of the current college generation is bleak. Different, certainly; not as promising, perhaps, in some key ways. The days are absolutely over of going to work for the big company your whole working life and then collecting the pension until you die. I think that was a bubble unique to the 3-ish decades immediately following WW II.

I think a lot of what a college-age person experiences depends upon what socioeconomic class they come from. For the poor, college remains the pipedream it has been for as long as I can remember. For the middle class, it is a terrible, terrible stretch; those young adults are the ones who end up with the debt. Of course, the wealthy have no challenges paying for college.

I work an upper-middle-class job with the attendant salary, and live in Indiana where public universities are expensive but not wacky expensive as in other states, and I'm able to send my son to Purdue his freshman year with no debt. It helps that he was reasonably bright and got some good aid. But I live pretty frugally to pull this off -- old, small house in a declining neighborhood; old, paid-for economy car with north of 100,000 miles on it. I don't enjoy the luxuries that most of my colleagues do. But we're doing this. I imagine most others in the upper middle class are in similar situations, even in states with more expensive public universities. Perhaps they take on some debt, but it is likely not crushing.

As for opportunity, I can think of two areas where there are no shortage of jobs: health care and engineering/technology. My freshman-at-Purdue son is pursuing a degree that will qualify him for work in medical settings, and my youngest son, who will enter college in 2018, seems headed toward computer programming.

There are realities today that didn't exist when I was in school in the late 1980s. A good friend of mine got a degree in poetry, essentially, the same year I graduated; she and all of her major-mates are all reasonably well employed today in various industries, she tells me. I think those days are over, and I've told my sons that if they have a burning desire to pursue poetry in college, they should minor in it, but major in a hard discipline that will make the tuition, room, and board at a school like Purdue, which will come to about $80,000 over four years, worth it.

Mike said...

Thanks for those comments. I always appreciate your level-headed perspective on the world. I think you are quite correct that the future is not totally bleak for everyone. I know some young people now in school who I expect will do ok in pursuing their careers, and I don't think they are despondent over the possibilities that life is offering. At the same time, I think that many young people's attitudes today are the product of the environment they have grown up in; they see a paucity of opportunity as normal.

Regarding those times of greater prosperity and opportunity in the post-war years, I think they cannot be attributed to some freak of nature like El Niño. The funneling of prosperity into the top 1% of the population came about through political and economic changes facilitated by corporate lobbying, financial deregulation, tax shelters, big money in the electoral process, and the undermining of labor's bargaining power. The momentum toward ever-greater inequality in income and wealth distribution is not going to be slowed by the tepid reform efforts championed by the Clintons and the Obamas.

Jim Grey said...

I don't think we, as a country, are truly ready to do anything about income inequality. We won't elect a President and a Congress that will address it.

I tend to lean toward the right side of the aisle, and one thing I know from spending time there is that "income inequality" seriously needs to be rebranded if you're ever going to get conservatives to talk about it.