The Future Of America’s Working Class

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Watford, England, sits at the end of a spur on the London tube’s Metropolitan line, a somewhat dreary city of some 80,000 rising amid the pleasant green Hertfordshire countryside. Although not utterly destitute like parts of south or east London, its shabby High Street reflects a now-diminished British dream of class mobility. It also stands as a potential warning to the U.S., where working-class, blue-collar white Americans have been among the biggest losers in the country’s deep, persistent recession.

As you walk through Watford, midday drinkers linger outside the One Bell pub near the center of town. Many of these might be considered “yobs,” a term applied to youthful, largely white, working-class youths, many of whom work only occasionally or not at all. In the British press yobs are frequently linked to petty crime and violent behavior–including a recent stabbing outside another Watford pub, and soccer-related hooliganism.

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The Limits Of The Green Machine

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

The awful oil spill in the Gulf–as well as the recent coal mine disaster in West Virginia–has added spring to the step of America’s hugely influential environmental lobby. After years of hand-wringing over global warming (aka climate change), the greens now have an issue that will play to legitimate public concerns for weeks and months ahead.

This is as it should be. Strong support for environmental regulation–starting particularly under our original “green president,” Richard Nixon–has been based on the protection of public health and safety, as well as the preservation of America’s wild spaces.
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Arizona’s Short-Sighted Immigration Bill

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Arizona’s recent passage of what is widely perceived as a harsh anti-immigrant bill reflects a growing tendency–in both political parties–to focus on the here and now, as opposed to the future. The effort to largely target Latino illegal aliens during a sharp recession may well gain votes among an angry, alienated majority population, but it could have unforeseen negative consequences over time.

In terms of the Arizona law, this is not simply a case of one wacko state. The most recent Gallup survey shows that more Americans favor the law than oppose it, with independents and Republicans showing strong support. Despite the negative coverage in the media, the Arizona gambit could somewhat pay off in November. A weak economy tends to exacerbate nativist sentiments, something that has been constant throughout much of American history. Read more

We Need a New Ross Perot

Appearing in:

The Daily Beast

Is it time to bring back Ross Perot? Not the big-eared, chart-crazed egomaniac and his Texas cigar boat, but a nascent movement like his among independents that can transform today’s stale and essentially self-destructive debate between two equally bankrupt parties.

Independent politics outside the established main parties has been on the upswing around the world, from Europe to the Tea Parties here at home. Perhaps the most stunning case has occurred in the United Kingdom, where Nick Clegg, leader of the perennial also-rans, the Liberal Democrats, was widely judged as the winner of the second in three debates with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Conservative challenger David Cameron.
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Jobs Will Rule November

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Health care lays behind him, financial reform and climate change ahead, but for President Barack Obama–and his opponents–there is only one real issue: jobs. The recent employment reports signal some small gains, yet the widespread prognosis for a slow, near-jobless recovery threatens the president and his party more than any major domestic challenge.

Tea party activists and conservative ideologues often link the president’s dwindling popularity to an overreach on health care, but it all boils down to the old Clintonian adage: It’s the economy, stupid. Health care reform is simply too complex and its long-term effects too unknowable to be a winning issue for either side.

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Immigrants Key to Economy’s Revival

Appearing in:

Politico.com

In Washington on Sunday, the tens of thousands of demonstrators demanding immigration reform looked like the opening round of the last thing the country needs now: another big debate on a divisive issue.

Yet Congress seems ready to take on immigration, which has been dividing Americans since the republic was founded.

But identifying immigrants as a “them,” as both their advocates and nativists do, misses the point. Immigrants — and their children — are the people who will help define the future “us.” They are also critical to the revival of the U.S. economy.

This is particularly true on the entrepreneurial frontier. Read more

The Not-So-Lucky Country

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

President Obama’s last-minute decision to postpone his homecoming to Indonesia and a trip to Australia expands the list of friendly countries–which include France, the U.K. and most of Eastern Europe–that have received a presidential snub. Yet in putting off his Australia trip, Obama will also miss an opportunity to commune with the politician whom he most closely resembles.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, like Obama, symbolizes a distinct shift in his country’s politics. Replacing the rough-hewn but long-serving Liberal Party leader John Howard, Rudd offered sophisticated Australians a better reflection of their own savoir faire, much as Obama restored the self-image of America’s Bush-wracked educated classes. Like Obama, Rudd is widely seen as smart and worldly as well as perhaps a bit rude and arrogant.

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Machiavelli Or Torquemada?

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Forbes.com

For more than one-third of a century Jerry Brown has proved one of the most interesting and original figures in American politics–and the 71-year-old former wunderkind might be back in office in 2010. If he indeed wins California’s gubernatorial election, the results could range from somewhat positive to positively disastrous.

Brown is a multi-faceted man, but in political terms he has a dual personality, split between two very different Catholic figures from the 15th century: Machiavelli and Tomas de Torquemada. For the sake of California, we better hope that he follows the pragmatism espoused by the Italian author more than the stern visage of the Grand Inquisitor.

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Decentralize The Government

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Forbes.com

From health care reform and transportation to education to the environment, the Obama administration has–from the beginning–sought to expand the power of the central state. The president’s newest initiative to wrest environment, wage and benefit concessions from private companies is the latest example. But this trend of centralizing power to the federal government puts the political future of the ruling party–as well as the very nature of our federal system–in jeopardy.

Of course, certain times do call for increased federal activity–legitimate threats to national security or economic emergencies, such as the Great Depression or the recent financial crisis, for example.

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Obama’s Middle-Class Meltdown

Appearing in:

The Daily Beast

The rapid decline in public support for Democrats and President Obama represents one of the most breathtaking political collapses in modern times. Little over a year from a huge electoral triumph, President Obama’s level of support has dropped from around 65% to under 50%. The Democrats in Congress, who held as much as a 10% edge over the Republicans last spring, actually are losing a “generic” vote.

Many Republicans and conservatives may think this represents a confirmation of their values. Yet in reality, the Democratic meltdown has less to do with belated admiration for the GOP—their support as a party remains at historically low levels—than a question of a massive disconnect between the people in power and the large, middle-class majority.
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