Chris Graham: The economy, stupid

Republicans pretend that the economy is fine, because the stock market is strong, though it’s not now, but still, when it is, that’s great – has nothing to do with the most of us who don’t own stocks, or an amount of stocks that means anything, but still, great.

Democrats have something to exploit here with average voters who know that the economy isn’t as strong as any particular day’s stock market indices might suggest.

And yet they fail.

Democrats pretend, too – that calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour is economic policy.

So, OK, let’s bite. We’ll just pay people more to do the same crap jobs. Well, damn, if we can do that, why not make it $20 an hour, $25 an hour, $50 an hour?

A minimum-wage increase is a short-term fix, obviously. The jobs at the bottom of the pay scale are becoming increasingly scarce as employers figure out ways to automate them out of existence.

Pushing an artificial boost to wages will only hasten that process, and put more of the folks at the bottom off the job ladder.

What Democrats need to push is job training and job retraining. Job retraining is bringing today’s workers up to standard to be able to fill the jobs that we need filled: in healthcare, technology, construction, transportation, in-demand fields that aren’t drawing the level of interest you’d expect, because there just aren’t enough people with the skills to fill them.

Job training is another word for education, today’s kids, getting them ready for the jobs of tomorrow. We’re not doing a good job of that, instead pushing too many kids into going to college, taking crap majors and running up tens of thousands of dollars of debt, all to take jobs that don’t pay enough.

Because … we’re not putting our resources in the right baskets. Republicans, in the age of Trump, are trying to revive a 1950s-era economy, investing in coal, of all things, and among other things.

America should be leading the worldwide green revolution, not just through policy, but through technical innovation, and exporting our knowhow abroad.

Trump is in hock to the fossil-fuel hegemony, and otherwise too dim to see the economic opportunity that awaits whoever is the smart one to take up the leadership role.

Democrats, for their part, can’t get out of their own way. They’ve allowed themselves to be cucked out to the far-left notion that anything resembling capitalism is bad.

So, they ignore economic issues, except the part about raising the minimum wage, and they cede the whole debate about jobs, wages, security, to Republicans, preferring to fight Republicans on social issues, which makes no sense at all.

It’s as if Democrats don’t want anyone outside liberal enclaves in the Northeast and the Pacific Rim to vote for them, because the platform has absolutely no appeal to anybody in between.

The Rust Belt, famously, went for Trump in 2016, and what defines life in those states right now? Factory towns that had stability from manufacturing jobs for decades are ghost towns, and people who remember how good it used to be are angry, and their kids and grandkids are hooked on opioids, because, what else do they have?

My home base, Waynesboro, is located in a state that has gone blue for most of the past decade, but Waynesboro is an interesting enclave. The city had thousands of jobs with DuPont and GE that are gone, never coming back, replaced by retail and food-service jobs paying roughly 60 percent of what the jobs we lost used to pay, and we don’t have an opioid problem, but a serious meth problem that is pretty much the same thing.

And Waynesboro, in 2016, voted for Trump, by 12 points.

The same Waynesboro, in 2018, flipped back to the Democratic column, voting for Tim Kaine in his bid for Senate re-election. What defines Kaine as a senator: he has made his pet cause working hard to put money and resources into career and technical education.

Jennifer Lewis, running for Congress, was light on economics in her platform, but she did stake her campaign on her support for Medicare for All, another key bread-and-butter issue for the thousands locally, and tens of millions across America, who don’t have access to health insurance, or have health insurance that they nonetheless can’t afford to use.

Lewis fell just short of winning a majority in Waynesboro, improving more than 20 points on previous Democratic candidates for Congress in recent cycles.

Democrats statewide and across America would do well to study Kaine and Lewis. I’m already seeing candidates coming out of the woodwork for seats in the General Assembly in 2019, and I’ve been disappointed at the lack of detail and specificity on economics issues.

Two different candidates are staking their economic platforms on the expansion of rural broadband, which, OK, get it, but try explaining to a mom working two crap jobs to pay the bills, a dad who has been out of work so long that he mows lawns in the warm-weather months to at least have something to pay the bills, that rural broadband is going to make their lives better.

I keep wanting to blame working-class folks for voting against their interests when they cast their lots with the likes of Trump, who doesn’t even pretend to believe in trickle-down, like the Reagan Republicans tried to get us to buy into back in the 1980s.

At least Trump pretends to have the interests of the little guy at heart, as laughable as it may be to think that he has any clue what it’s like to have to live from paycheck to paycheck.

Democrats have cornered themselves in their glass house, and reduced themselves to throwing stones, then throwing their hands in the air that things aren’t going their way.

They’re not only dooming themselves in the process, but the rest of us are getting dragged down with them.

Column by Chris Graham

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