Krugman wrote a post on The Political Economy of Permanent Stagnation pointing out that the economy just plods along with high unemployment and sluggishness and people are just getting used to it:
But won’t there be an ever-growing demand from the public for action? Actually, that’s not at all clear. While there is growing “austerity fatigue” in Europe, and this might provoke a crisis, the overwhelming result from U.S. political studies is that the level of unemployment matters hardly at all for elections; all that matters is the rate of change in the months leading up to the election. In other words, high unemployment could become accepted as the new normal, politically as well as in economic analysis.
I guess what I’m saying is that I worry that a more or less permanent depression could end up simply becoming accepted as the way things are, that we could suffer endless, gratuitous suffering, yet the political and policy elite would feel no need to change its ways.
Given that I am sort of *living* the rude awakening from the American Dream and see many people in similar distressing circumstances, I can tell Krugman that there is definitely not complacency out here. There’s anger, bitterness and resentment. The resentment is not because we want to be rich or have two or three nice Lexus SUVs and a Pied a Terre in Lower Manhattan. It’s that some of us can’t afford rent on a small row house in a 70 year old affordable housing development and pay for a health insurance policy on an exchange.
The administration should not get complacent and assume that the great unwashed masses out here have no idea what a raw deal they’re getting with Obamacare. I am quite surprised at the number of people making a lousy $11/hour at their less than full time jobs who know better than some bloggers exactly how much they’re going to have to pay in taxes and penalties if they can’t afford a policy. I’ve met young healthy guys who can’t afford a doctor and physical therapist to treat their possibly dislocated, inflamed shoulders that they use every day to dig trenches. They know exactly how the bonus class is screwing them.
All they need is a charismatic, take-no-prisoners, energetic politician to speak for them and there will be plenty of change. That’s why the moneyed elite will fight back tooth and nail and smear any such politician who challenges it. That’s why we have Obama.
They’re going to try to run a woman next time. The Republican campaign against modernity will make her extremely attractive. I don’t think it will be Hillary for the same reason that Krugman feels that stagnation is something we have gotten used to. Hillary’s best chance was 2008. Her policy wonkiness, knowledge of the executive branch and vision would have been well suited to tackling the financial collapse and turning back the worst of the Bush policies. That’s why she didn’t get the nomination in 2008. The moneyed class didn’t want experience, knowledge and competency.
By the time 2016 rolls around, Republican policies will be more firmly set and it’s going to take someone who is bold enough to shake the foundations to really make a difference and roll back 16 years of stingy conservatism and bad financial and business decisions. Can she do it? Sure she could. But the forces who kept her out in 2008 will either make her kiss their rings, in which case, she’d be useless to us, or they’re going to try to take her out again. If the establishment Democratic party starts pushing her as their nominee genuinely, I’d have to question how much she’s been co-opted. She’d almost have to run against her own party. I haven’t seen that yet and given what a loyal Dem she is, don’t expect to.
Anyway, my point is that there’s plenty of discontent. The people in charge might want to seriously consider what they’re doing. The people I’ve been talking to are majorly pissed off right now at their prospects and we’re talking about manual labor all the way to the most educated among us. A whole swath of Americans of all socio-economic levels are just waiting for a sign. At this point, I don’t know if it’s going to come from the right or the left but when it happens, it’s going to be big.
One other thing: The bonus class shouldn’t sit on its laurels after the Voting Rights Act was gutted last week. The discontent has spread so wide now that it is no longer confined to the generational poor and minority voters.