coal country, Dante Chinni, Democrats, dignity of work, family leave, Im-Politics, Immigration, Jobs, Mainstream Media, minimum wage, Obama, Obamacare, The Wall Street Journal, Trade, Trump, wages, welfare
There’s no doubt that “Aha!” articles need to occupy a prominent place in journalism. This is especially true when they reveal important gaps between the claims of politicians and other major public figures on the one hand, and incontestable reality on the other.
At the same time, “Aha!” journalism can contain fatal flaws even when it’s superficially accurate. As illustrated by a Wall Street Journal article published yesterday, the problems can become serious when the Mainstream Media and others in America’s chattering classes try to figure out what’s going among those American voters who supported President-elect Trump.
Since I’m not a mind-reader, I of course can’t know reporter Dante Chinni’s exact motive in presenting the evidence that Trump voters look to be among the biggest losers if the president-elect keeps his campaign promise to repeal President Obama’s healthcare reforms. But it’s certainly got major – and legitimate – “Aha!” overtones. What could be easier to imagine than Democrats and other assorted liberals and progressives making political hay out of the idea that Mr. Trump will wind up shafting his own backers big-time. Indeed, that’s already begun.
Nonetheless, there’s a big part of this picture that pieces like this miss (regardless of how much or how little of Obamacare the next administration tries to keep). As the Journal article makes clear, Trump voters appear certain to take a painful Obamacare hit because so many live in parts of the country that have been devastated by trends like technological advance, offshoring-friendly trade deals, and the demise of the coal industry. Where lost jobs haven’t resulted, wages have fallen significantly. Of course, these setbacks go far toward explaining why they were Trump voters to begin with!
But there’s a clear implication at work here: that, in fact, those Trump voters should have backed Democratic presidential nominee, and Democratic or otherwise liberal members of Congress, because they’d have surely kept the very important benefit of adequate, free or much lower cost medical coverage.
This conclusion makes perfect sense from the standpoint of typically well heeled, thoroughly urbanized members of the nation’s media, political, and policy establishments. Business leaders who view themselves as progressives surely agree. But it makes no sense from the standpoint of economically pressed Trump voters – who as should now be screamingly obvious, live worlds apart from these elites.
For many of these folks remember the days when they didn’t need Obamacare to prop up their living standards or prevent their descent into near-poverty or outright destitution. They also remember the days when they were able to own a home by financing it responsibly, take a respectable vacation, buy a new car, provide for their children the college education they may have lacked, and retire securely – all without minimum wage hikes, without paid family leave, and without subsidized healthcare during their working lives, and without any of the other actual and prospective palliatives offered by the public sector, whether adequate or not.
In other words, they remember the days when they and/or their spouse held good-paying and reasonably secure jobs, and they reject the idea that any forms of welfare – even all added up together – amount to acceptable compensation. And they resent the dole especially vehemently if they believe, rightly or wrongly, that their livelihoods disappeared or turned into dead-end jobs because of entirely avoidable political decisions – especially on the trade and immigration fronts.
The point here is not that Obamacare and other government supports are bad or unnecessary. The point is that Trump voters (and of course many others) believe in “the dignity of work” – not in the formal Catholic sense, but in the informal, everyday sense. And they want to see more politicians taking this idea seriously, instead of giving it lip service.