Democrats tar strong economy with morality pitch
For all the complaints one can make about the Trump administration, the economy is not one of them — not for any reasonable person, anyway.
Last month’s 304,000 net jobs created blew away expectations. And at 4.0 percent, the unemployment rate remains below what is traditionally considered full employment. This left Democrats speechless, even in the election year just concluded, about what is usually the most important issue for voters.
Normally, when the economy is booming under a Republican administration, Democrats respond by describing the jobs created as “McJobs,” low-paying, menial work hardly worth having, or so they say. But this time, they seem to recognize that even that trope won’t cut it. So they are instead pushing the idea that the economy and its jobs are somehow not moral enough, that economic gains are not being sufficiently “shared.”
“What happened to a moral responsibility, to a moral capitalism?” former Vice President Joe Biden asked at an event this week. “I do think there’s some shared responsibility, and it’s not being shared fairly for hard-working, middle-class, working-class people.”
Bernie Sanders said in his own campaign roll-out, “You got three people who own more wealth than the bottom half of America. That’s morally wrong, in my view.”
Both claims are specious, and the Democrats’ feints toward morality in economics is even more ridiculous.
Biden’s narrative fails on its own half-baked terms. Workers’ wages are rising significantly under Trump, a long-awaited improvement over the grating stasis over which he, under former President Barack Obama, presided. Is this really the moment Biden chooses to find a moral crisis in America? If anything, the economy has gotten fairer since Biden used to while away his afternoons staring blankly from White House windows.
When Sanders complains of the concentration of wealth, he is making no more than an unimpressive mathematical point. Consider this: An estimated 20 percent of American households have negative net value. Now add to these the next 10 or 20 percent of households whose low positive net value adds up to just enough to cancel out the first group’s negative net value. Combine the two groups, and their net wealth is zero. This means that all of them put together, perhaps 30 or 40 percent of households, own less than any five-year-old child with no debt and a dime in his pocket.
No matter how impressive it sounds, this fact has nothing to do with the accumulation of wealth achieved by Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, or Bill Gates.
In any nation where courts are independent and the rule of law prevails, a growing market economy is an engine of fairness. Its only aims, after all, are to give people what they want and to reward the value they produce.
Democrats have had little luck talking down today’s economy on its merits. They look silly pretending to understand and talking down its morality as well.
Their appeal is to envy, which is immoral. Obama used to talk about the rich paying their fair share, as though their share had not been rising for decades. Sanders talks ad nauseam about “millionaires and billionaires.” The Democrats have run out of ideas with which to argue they are good stewards of the economy, so instead they make their pitch to our baser instincts and gloss it over with talk of morality.