When David Brooks is not busy trying to destroy Social Security, he is often making grand pronouncements that make no obvious sense. Today he tells readers that the economy is being divided into an efficient globally competitive sector that has lots of productivity gains but few jobs and a moribund sector that is uncompetitive but has lots of jobs. The distinction is not especially new (or accurate), but Brooks adds the twist:
"Republicans often live in and love the efficient globalized sector and believe it should be a model for the entire society. They want to use private health care markets and choice-oriented education reforms to make society as dynamic, creative and efficient as Economy I. Democrats are more likely to live in and respect the values of the second sector. They emphasize the destructive side of Economy I streamlining — the huge profits at the top and the stagnant wages at the middle."
Most unionized manufacturing workers fit squarely in the efficient globalized economy. So do the unionized workers in the telecom sector. These workers are overwhelmingly Democrats.
On the other, hand family farmers, who benefit from massive farm subsidies, live in the second sector. So do doctors and other highly paid professionals who depend on the government to protect them from foreign and domestic competition. The streamlining and huge profits that the Republicans admire, according to Brooks, often are attributable to massive public subsidies, such as the deduction for interest payments by private equity companies or patent monopolies granted drug companies.
Of course one of the most protected sectors of the economy is the financial industry where the traders and top executives of the large banks can earn tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year thanks to "too big to fail" insurance provided by the government at no charge. This group had been more or less evenly split between Republicans and Democrats in 2008, but according to many accounts in the media now strongly favors the Republicans.
The only obvious logic to Brooks' division is that supporters of the Democrats are more likely associated with government policies that benefit broad segments of the population. By contrast, supporters of the Republicans tend to favor policies that just benefit the wealthy.
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