Rising from the floor of Mile High Stadium, perched on a perfectly symmetric series of ascending circular platforms, stood Barack Obama. This was no blue-collar man, maybe not even a presidential candidate. The Pope was in town, and he knew exactly what the assembled worshipers wanted to hear. He blamed American’s economic woes on Satan himself, Mr. Bush, and promised redemption.
Middle-class wages have stagnated over the last few years. This has little or nothing to do with the current President’s policies. They have stagnated because technology has allowed businesses to move not only unskilled but skilled labor around the world, to find the skilled but meagerly paid to perform work. There is no President, no Congress, that will stem this tide. People who have marketable skills will be paid, people without marketable stills will struggle. Without adopting North-Korean-like strategies, governments can do little to reverse history’s march towards the boundriless movement of ideas and resources.
The problem with the above argument is that it doesn’t make good TV. And good TV is what everything is going to be about until at least early November.
This single biggest thing that government could do to raise the economic prospects off all citizens is to increase the educational opportunities for children born into disadvantaged circumstances. Such programs benefit the less fortunate directly, and the more fortunate by increasing the pace of our economic engine and ultimately returns to capital. The Democrats have rightly criticized Republicans for advocating some policies that favor the wealthy, but in this most critical area the tables are turned. Mr. Obama, following Democratic orthodoxy and at the behest of the teachers’ unions, has proposed nothing creative or different in any substantial way to help students trapped in poor schools. The status quo, where wealthy families send their children to private schools, those of middling means move to the suburbs where the public schools are better, and low and lower-middle income families are left with the educational scraps will not be changed under his policies.
Allowing school choice for parents, as favored by many Republicans, is currently the only policy on the table that has any realisitc chance of dramatically changing the educational playing field for disadvantaged students. And dramatic change is what we desperately need.
Despite Mr. Obama’s rhetorical flourishes about how often Mr. McCain votes with the President, Mr. Obama has shown less willingness than Mr. McCain to break with party orthodoxy when necessary for good policy. Mr. Obama will not be able to tax, and wealth-transfer, his way out of the global movement of labor resources. To protect the earning power, and what little savings we have, of Americans he will need to break with the Democratic Party’s belief that only wealthier families should have a choice as to where they send their children to school.
Here’s hoping that a hugely effective Pope knows how to become an effective President.