Just a few days ago the US Census released its annual estimates of poverty counts in the United States, along with updates in various income measures. The data were not pretty. Poverty rates are at levels not seen in 20 years and it appears that the income of a typical household has not budged much in real terms in quite some time.
You are going to see a lot of apoplexy on the right trying to defend their views of the world by arguing against these data. It is certainly possible to do it, and despite common defenses of the left, it is not a task without merit. However, color me puzzled by the reaction from the right, especially the classically liberal side of it all.
Isn’t it one of “our” core beliefs that the role of the state has been advancing during the last 40 years? Isn’t it our contention that despite a few visible moves toward deregulation that the economy is far more cartelized, credentialized and regulated than 40 years ago? Isn’t it “our” contention that welfare programs have not worked, that the state education system is bloated and inefficient, that the health care system is far from being market oriented (or even market paid for), that the tentacles of governments at all levels are reaching into places no one in their right mind would ever imagine, that immigration policy is a disaster, and so on and on and on?
If that is what we truly believe, then it is completely shocking that the reaction to the current data (and the data coming out for the past decade or so) has not been, “Exactly, what else would you expect?”
But I have not seen such an argument made by many people. Now I have pretty much stopped watching TV with the exception of college football on late Saturdays so it is possible I am missing something here, but even if some people were making this argument I am sure I would be moderately aware of it.
So what we will see for the next 14 horrible months running up the election is a bounty of blathering about whether the data is right or not, rather than an impassioned and reasoned defense of ideas which point to stagnating income and living standards and increased inequality as an outcome. Commercial society has not failed here folks. Not one bit.