Monday, May 05, 2008

What a Vote Could be For

Pundits are at it again. This time, Paul Krugman writes, "working-class Americans do vote on economic issues — and can be swayed by a politician who offers real answers to their problems." Now, it's not that I'm a cynic in thinking that most working class Americans don't vote on economic issues. But here's the thing - they don't know how to vote on economic issues. The old adage of "focusing too much on the trees so that you can't see the forest" applies.

And that is not to say working class voters lack the ability to think these polcies through. However, working class voter don't have the time to learn global and development economics for three months every four years when it becomes the subject du jour. All they know is that working gives them money to buy things. If their job is under threat, and it can be explained by illegal immigrants or cheaper labor elsewhere, then that's how the debate will be framed.

What is so important about framing the debate? Dani Rodrick once explained how Tyler Cowen and others forget that, "Food importing countries are food scarce countries, and as they open up to trade, the relative price of food falls. But if you are Thailand or Argentina, where other goods are scarce relative to food, freer trade means higher relative prices of food, not lower." But even then, to the regular American, that means lower prices. And since our jobs, and our price of food is important to us, then who cares if that tiny country has to pay more for its own food.

And even in food production there is a catch. As has been discussed before by msyelf and others, subsidising ethanol has created unforseen (to most politicians and the general public) price increases in food.

And it's not that Krugman gets the facts wrong entirely. Mainly, he misses the message, or, maybe Krugman is so involved in his own policies that he fails to see what Americans who vote for Obama are telling him.

Like here, Krugman seems to have forgotten to remind himself that there is a war going on. When supporters, and pundits alike, talk about "change" this election cycle, they are speaking on the grounds of changing the way our executive branch runs things, or if it should be running everything to begin with. It's about moving away from authoritarianism, and last time I checked, that authoritarianism is what most critics espoused of the Clinton administration.

Moreover, considering that the Iraq war is as draining as it is, then why not provide any background on a place where presidents have the most clout? Such as, foreign policy. At the latest Democratic debate, Clinton was far more assertive in saying that an attack on Israel could be considered as an attack on the U.S. Maybe our citizens don't want any such a foreign policy. Maybe a change in that paradigm of foreign policy is the change that Obama keeps talking about.

Maybe it's that change that Obama keeps talking about that will get people involved actively again politically. As I've said before, America really is active citizenship. Complacency allows others whose agendas you may not agree with to take hold of policy right from under our noses.

While Krugman might be able to get away with this kind of cynicism on regular readers, he won't get away with it from everyone. Right now, Senator Clinton is making sure she will do whatever it takes to get the nomination. So, simply saying that it's okay because what would happen in the fall campaign to Obama is much worse, is, by definition, cynical. And frankly, guess what, that type of politicking is another item that Obama is referring to when he discusses change.

And Krugman gets away with this kind of stuff because nobody cares to check and see why voters like Obama. Once again, it's the media telling us what to care about. I think a lot of the politically active citizenry still think authoritarianism is the big issue. Too bad, because today the media tells us it is the economy, which is one of the items the President cannot do much about.

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