Parties should seek next rising tide
July 24, 2019
A July 16 column by the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman favors some moderate ideas he thinks the Democratic party should adopt even as it lists leftward.
I agree. Friedman and I share a belief that Americans tend to settle toward the center even as the Republican and Democratic parties gravitate toward extremes.
Friedman and I also concur that people mostly miss good jobs. Yes unemployment is down, but, as Friedman points out, “the wealth of the top 1 percent equals that of the bottom 90 percent.”
At the same time, the type of job that leads to increasing success with hard, smart work has become as much an endangered species as carburetor repair mechanics in the age of fuel injectors.
While Friedman thinks that raising taxes on the wealthy and reducing student loan burdens will help redivide the economic pie, he added, “I’m disturbed that so few of the Democratic candidates don’t also talk about growing the pie.”
I have a different way of putting it: We should be scouring the horizon for the next rising tide that will lift all the boats, an analogy apparently made popular by President John F. Kennedy in the optimistic early 1960s.
By that I mean the next boom in production, be it in products or services, that brings back sustainable prosperity for everybody.
I think the Republicans should think in those terms, too.
Pent-up demand in the wake of World War II produced the boom of the 1950s and 1960s.
There were well-paid jobs for nearly everybody, enough leisure time to turn many hobbies into industries, like music and amateur radio.
That boom faded in the 1970s, with oil crises and double-digit inflation.
We had good times in the 1980s after the OPEC oil cartel collapsed and some good times in the 1990s as the digital revolution and the internet took hold.
Since then, however, we’ve had bubbles but no rising tide.
The housing bubble of the 2000s, sank all the boats it lifted, and then some, when it collapsed in 2007 and 2008.
President Donald Trump’s attempts to bring back an American age of manufacturing won’t bring back the good jobs, because manufacturing is increasingly automated.
The digital revolution may result in the loss of as many good jobs as it creates. Even well-paid middle manager functions are falling to artificial intelligence.
I can’t see the next rising tide, but I’m not that kind of visionary.
I agree with Friedman that business, not government, will create the next such tide, but that doesn’t mean government can’t help in the search and lay some groundwork.
While the parties argue about border policy, healthcare policy and which is more racist, most Americans just want to get ahead.
The parties have no answers.
Instead, they popularize the issues that polarize us.
We should start demanding they look at the future of work.
Otherwise they just might paralyze us.
Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a semi-retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at: