The measures taken thus far by President Trump, Congress, and the Fed to provide financial relief to companies and individuals during the coronavirus panic seem to have been the right ones–with one possible mistake. What is that? Giving people who have been laid off $600 per week in addition to their normal unemployment benefit. While well intentioned–we all want to help those who are struggling–it is already having some negative effects and promises more down the line.
The problems stem from the fact that, for many hourly workers, they are now receiving, thanks to the extra $600, more money in unemployment benefits than they normally earn from their job. Some unintended consequences are already visible. While many businesses have been hurt by the panic and related closures, others have seen sales grow enormously. Those businesses need more employers to meet the demand. Here in Ohio, 40,000 jobs are going begging. Why should people take those jobs when they get paid more to stay home, thanks to the extra $600?
It gets worse. The federal government is offering forgivable loans to small businesses, on one condition: they keep paying their employees. But the employees make more if they are laid off. So they want to be laid off, but the company they work for has to pay the loan back unless they remain on its payroll. In many cases, while a forgiven loan, which means a grant, would enable the business to remain a going concern, a loan it would have to repay would make it go under. So now the employer and the employee are at loggerheads, with the latter endangering their post-panic jobs unless they remain on payroll at less money than they would receive off it.
What concerns me more than these temporary problems is some long-term effects. Let’s face it, many of the jobs people are being laid off from are from jobs they hate. They have to stand up all day, the work is boring at best, and the pay is low. At some point, as the economy picks up again and the extra $600 in unemployment cash ends, they will have to turn from enjoying life at home for more money to working again for less money. That may cause massive social and political dissatisfaction, even anger.
It’s a pity Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race for the presidency. He could say,”When you stayed home for more money, that was socialism. Having now to go back to work at a crappy job for less money is capitalism. Which do you prefer?” That might have been a hard question for President Trump to answer.
This in turn points to what I think will be the successful politics of the future: culturally Right but economically Left. On the one hand, people, especially white people, are tired of being told they are “oppressors” who should hand over their earnings to blacks and Third World immigrants who are too often just takers. They are sick of the Left’s endless attacks on Western culture, the Christian religion, whites, men, non- and anti-feminist women, etc. And they have had it with cultural Marxists telling them what words they may and may not use, what thoughts they may and may not think. Who elected them censors?
At the same time, middle America is angry at the one percent, not because it has done well (although its conspicuous consumption is rightly resented) but because it gets ever richer while the American middle class gets poorer. If the middle class’s standard of living were also rising, the resentment would be much less. But it isn’t. The blue-collar middle class of the 1950s and ’60s has almost vanished; many of those people are now poor. The white collar middle class knows it is headed down the same road. Unlike in the 1950s, both husband and wife must now work, and even with two incomes the only way they can keep up a middle class lifestyle is by going ever more deeply in debt. It is not merely the Left that wants a re-balancing and is willing to see the government do it. That sentiment is now widespread among the culturally conservative middle class as well.
Will the resentment caused by the end of the extra $600 a week be enough to birth a new politics that is culturally Right but economically Left? On its own, probably not. But it may well mark a further step along that road. On the surface, the Democrats would seem likely to benefit most. But they have the millstone of cultural Marxism fixed around their necks, seemingly permanently. Establishment Republicans are in bed with the 1%. But anti-Establishment Republicans are well positioned to accomplish the new synthesis.
Who will grasp the opportunity and make it happen? Out of mistakes sometimes come opportunities.
Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like? Read Thomas Hobbes’ new future history, Victoria.