The New York Times has a big story today titled "The Vanishing Male Worker: How America Fell Behind." It's a worthwhile story -- but such stories inevitably lead to awful exchanges like this:
I was going to respond to this on Twitter, but the response requires more than 140 characters.
The Times story is about a class of worker that, because this is a majority-white nation, is inevitably going to include a lot of white people. The story and accompanying slide show focus on five men -- four white, one black. They represent a segment of the population that mostly lacks college degrees -- and as a result they're struggling in the current job market:
The share of prime-age men -- those 25 to 54 years old -- who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s, to 16 percent.The economic policies we needed after the Great Recession hit would have put a lot of these men to work. If we could have done that, it would have been useful across racial lines.
... it has become harder for men to find higher-paying jobs. Foreign competition and technological advances have eliminated many of the jobs in which high school graduates like Mr. Walsh once could earn $40 an hour, or more. The Times poll found that 85 percent of prime-age men without jobs do not have bachelor’s degrees. And 34 percent said they had criminal records, making it hard to find any work.
At the same time, what Jonathan Alter says in the tweet above is right: this is why Democrats are getting killed with white male voters. That's because whites are far less patient with Democratic politicians and policies than non-whites are.
Let me say this one more time, so I'm not misunderstood: I'm not suggesting that post-crash economics should have favored whites over non-whites. What I'm saying is that the policies should have focused on blue-collar workers of all races.
The result of that would be that blue-collar whites would have seen themselves as among the beneficiaries of Obama economic policies, in a way they don't now. That might have led them to believe that the overall Obama approach was appropriate and fair. For instance, they might not resent Obamacare now if more of them had been able to obtain jobs after the crash.
I know, I know: I'm imagining an America in which Obama could have gotten a lot more than he did early in his presidency. That's true -- but if that's unrealistic, then Obama should have expended as much political capital as possible on jobs, even at the expense of Obamacare, because if a rising tide could have lifted a lot of boats, the white majority might now be ready to offer backup to him as he pursued goals that whites might regard as less relevant to their interests. It's still a white country, after all, and we still have elections, and in midterm elections especially, whites routinely vote. Like it or not, the Democrats needed the buy-in of white voters. I think this could have been achieved with policies that were trans-racial but class-conscious.
Republicans knew that, of course -- they didn't want a lot of people put back to work. They got the recovery they sought: skewed toward the rich and engendering anti-Democratic resentment among blue-collar whites.
And if you're wondering why it matters that the people in the Times story are all men, well, it's a stratum in which men have traditionally been the principal breadwinners, and in which the best-paying jobs were traditionally male jobs until not that long ago. Maybe jobs that good are never coming back -- but something needed (and still needs) to be done to cushion that shock -- for struggling whites and struggling non-whites.