Monday, April 05, 2010

Barone on Younger Voters

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama won the White House with a great deal of help from young voters, who went 66 percent for the President. That was not completely the basis for his winning margin nationwide, but young voters helped Obama win in crucial states.

The thought was that a "cool, hip" Obama would bring "Hope and Change" to the younger generation, many of whom were disenchanted (and rightfully so) with the political status quo. Now, the attitude of young voters may be changing. As Barone discusses: I
t seems that some young Obama voters have decided it isn't. The Pew Research Center's poll of the millennial generation, which voted 66 percent to 32 percent for Obama in 2008, found that they identify with Democrats over Republicans by only a 54 to 40 percent margin this year.
While Barone's stats do not necessarily equate, the fact that the split is much less than in the past among young voters is indicative that young people are starting to realize that a centralized government making decisions and saddling them with trillions of dollars of debt to fund entitlements that are not for young people is not good for them at all.
Perhaps they are coming to realize that the burdens the Obama policies are placing on the private sector economy are reducing their choices for the future. The stimulus package, Obamacare, higher taxes (when the health care plan kicks in and when the George W. Bush cuts for high earners expire), new environmental restrictions -- they're all job-killers and help to explain why a recovering economy isn't producing many new jobs. Unemployment has been at 10 percent, rounded off, for six months now. Even Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says it's not going to decline a lot any time soon.

We've had such an economy before, in the second half of the 1930s, and Americans didn't much like it. And not just because they weren't making enough money. Because in such an economy it's much harder to find satisfying work, work that can give you a sense of what American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, in his forthcoming book "The Battle," calls "earned success."
Let's assume for a moment that the millennial generation all care deeply about making the world a better place (a large assumption to be sure), young people are not all going to get jobs with the government to do that kind of work and young people are realizing that private sector, non-profit work tends to have a greater cumulative impact than anything the government can do. As Barone explains:
The economy we have now doesn't do that. The programs of the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership will increase government's share of the economy and will tend to choke off private sector economic growth. We've already lost 8 million private-sector jobs but no public sector jobs. We'll probably create more public-sector jobs

Yes, many public-sector jobs provide a real service to society and a sense of earned success. But too many don't. Civil service rules, brittle organizational structures and public employee union contracts tend to stifle innovation and deter creativity.

For the ultimate example, see Steven Brill's New Yorker article on the "rubber room" -- where incompetent New York City teachers spend the day in an office, doing nothing but collecting $80,000 a year during a multiyear litigation process. People in the rubber room are making money, but they're not earning success. They're not doing anything that helps anyone else.

Democrats argue that their policies transfer money down the income scale and provide a safety net for individuals. But a nation with an ever-larger public sector and an inhibited-growth private sector is a nation with fewer openings for people who want work that will benefit others. Fewer opportunities for young people who want to choose their future, just as they choose their iPod playlists and Facebook friends. Fewer opportunities for people to choose their future. Change, maybe, but not much hope.
A top down economy rarely helps anyone, let alone those most unfortunate. At best the unfortunate suffer along a little better off than they were, but far less better off than they can become. Young voters are not stupid and the dupe machine can last for only so long. Obama may have been hoping to keep the con going until after 2012, but it looks like it will have died far before the 2010 midterms.

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