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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Since When Did Unionized Autoworkers Become Republican and Family Farmers and Doctors Become Democrats?

Since When Did Unionized Autoworkers Become Republican and Family Farmers and Doctors Become Democrats?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012 05:31

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.

Comments (14)Add Comment
I try not to be a spelling Nazi
written by Procopius, April 10, 2012 7:31
but sometimes I just can't help it. In your last paragraph when you write, "...government policies that benefit brought segments of the population." I finally figured out that a plausible reading would be "broad segments of the population." I understand that blogging from your phone is fraught with the dreaded spell completion app or whatever (my phone does not do such things -- it sends and receives telephone calls and short text messages), but this is really bad.
Thinly-veiled false dichotomy
written by Robert Salzberg, April 10, 2012 9:34
   In the same piece Brooks wrote:

"They want to use private health care markets and choice-oriented education reforms to make society as dynamic, creative and efficient as Economy I."

   All the evidence points to single payer or some form of nationalized health care as the most efficient way of delivering healthcare, not through the what Brooks calls Economy I.  Education in both private and public schools is supported by taxpayer funds and private donations and generally fails as a for profit stand alone enterprise.  Even private finishing schools for the rich and famous have big private endowments which serve as subsidies.

   Give Brooks a prize for the stupidest false dichotomy in recent memory.  I suspect it's just Brooks's way of attempting a clever rebuttal of Obama's "thinly-veiled Social Darwinism".
Brooks and the real world
written by David, April 10, 2012 10:49
David Brooks, like a petulant child trying to manipulate his parents into giving him the keys to the family car, spends so much unproductive time concocting arguments that don't make any sense, I guess in order to try to get Obama out of office. Apparently Brooks doesn't get out in the real world that much (or spends a lot of time in shopping malls? Where does he get his 'data' from?), as you imply.

The financial sector could also be included as being on the subsidy payroll, and having too many jobs (financial sector bloat).
More subsidies of the rich and not-so-famous
written by David, April 10, 2012 10:57
Besides agriculture, it should also be mentioned that the Energy and Transportation sectors receive mighty subsidies from the government (see http://www.investopedia.com/ar...z1reYzu6jc). Which just shows that Brooks is going on about nothing as usual: he has a dream that he confuses with reality.

Here is a better dichotomy: There are 10 types of people: those who understand binary numbers and those who don't.
written by urban legend, April 10, 2012 3:46
Dean rails on and on and on about patents in the pharmaceutical sector, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the Founding Fathers expected "inventors" to be given such protection by Congress, and that for this and other reasons, including the power of the patent bar, patent protection for new drugs will never, ever, ever, be completely eliminated. That form of railing is worthless posturing. What might be politically feasible (building support over many years) is to argue that, given the special nature of drugs, the existing protection is excessive and, accordingly, does not meet the Constitutional requirement that such protection for inventors of drugs, given their potential life-saving importance, only be for "limited times." Implicit in the concept of limited is that the times must be reasonable, and it is not too much of a stretch to argue that because of the life-saving potential of drugs, those times should be as limited as possible to balance necessary availability against the incentives to invent.

Therefore, it would be more productive to see, rather than simple complaint about all patent protection for drugs, phrases like "inappropriate and unreasonable patent protection for the pharmaceutical industry," along with an occasional recommendation for what those changes should look like.
occasional recommendation
written by David, April 10, 2012 6:49
Hi urban legend,

it's not exactly obvious but at the top of this page is a link to "Issues." There you will find the occasional recommendations that you seek. I also believe that, with all due respect to the founding fathers, they allowed for constitutional amendments to allow for their shortcomings, short-sightedness, etc. and to allow for improved notions of how to go about things, including better means of providing incentive for creative work and production. Patents and copyright are rather crude and oversized carrots. The founding fathers would not allow so many corporations exist, for one thing, (Dutch East Indies Company gave some a turn in their tummy) or central banking for that matter (Jefferson. Jackson). Our 'problems' today didn't exist back then, not to the scale that we have them; and I think they'd be appalled to learn of copyright being extended to 80 years (delaying the public good for far too long). We learned how to build a better mouse trap, and how! So why not build a better system for providing economic incentive for creators that doesn't tax the rest of the system for ever and ever?
Economy III: everyone else. The people who only lose from the protection given certain professions
written by Rachel, April 10, 2012 8:41
How frivolous Mr. Brooks is. For the sake of protecting the handsome incomes of the medical monopolists, our country devotes so few resources to training medical personnel that we are now importing almost 30% of MDs from overseas. And we still have fewer MDs per 100,000 than most developed nations. We also protect their incomes by restricting the scope of practice of nurse practitioners. Meaning that many poor people do without.

In other words, it is not just protectionism that supports high medical incomes and inadequate medical care. It is the result of a range of government restrictions. Brooks should know this.

But according to Brooks' source, there's no need to worry about the very substantial damage that is done to lower income people by the heavy fist of the medical monopoly. Government benefits and computers will make it all better.
Marry Me!
written by john martin, April 11, 2012 1:27
Dearest Mr B,
I just wanted to thank you for the sane and, at times, trouser-wettingly funny analysis of what passes for journalism these days.
If there's no chance of you moving to New Zealand, please consider having yourself cloned
You folks at CEPR have definitely got dibs on my first lotto win
Patents and the Constitution
written by dean, April 11, 2012 4:31
Urban Legend,

Let me correct you on the constitution. The constitution gives Congress power to grant patent monopolies just as it gives Congress the power to tax. It does not require that Congress grant patents anymore than there is a constitutional obligation to tax.

Furthermore, this power is connected with the specific purpose:

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"

Since it is certainly arguable that the modern patent system (at least in pharmaceuticals) obstructs progress in medicine, you would be pretty hard-pressed to see this wording as a constitutional obligation to grant patents to the drug industry. (btw, I would still let them get patents, they would just have to compete with publicly funded generics that would likely be as good or better.)
written by urban legend, April 11, 2012 1:21
Dean, you are misconstruing my point. Of course, the Constitution does not obligate Congress to grant patents to any industry, but my point is that the system is so ingrained through over 200 years of history -- not to speak of several centuries of British history -- with the Founding Fathers seeming to endorse the concept as the obvious method for encouraging invention, that trying simply to eliminate patent protection from new drugs and replace it with a new scheme will forever be politically impossible. The political arguments in favor of maintaining a "proven" system -- the expectations of the Founding Fathers, centuries of Western history, Steve Jobs and Microsoft, even the monumental advances in public health and the miracles of the drug industry -- will have the ring of truth to the public and will be backed by money that will make anything the combined weight of the Kochs, Scaifes, Coors and all the others of that ilk look like fractions of pennies. Not only will such a movement ostensibly aimed at eliminating application of the patent system to drugs not win in the long run, but because it can be painted as radical, anti-business and almost "un-American," it will not even gain sufficient traction to be enough of a viable contender to force compromise. The copyright system has been horribly abused by Congress and complicit Presidents and judges, and there is no viable movement yet to deal with those problems. The money and machinery of persuasion behind it is simply too massive.

That is not to say that the public cannot be persuaded that there are problems in the way the system is applied to the drug industry and that changes are necessary to eliminate abuses. Even that is going to be a long, gigantic, almost Sisyphean effort that will require not only careful documentation of the abuses, how they cost all citizens and how realistically they can be fixed to eliminate that cost while retaining the incentives to innovation built into the patent system. But complete elimination of patents for drugs will not be a fix that anyone will consider realistic. Continued continued conclusory advocacy for the radical approach avoids the hard work of explaining the problem, and devising and explaining a realistic approach to genuine improvement, and makes it easy for opponents to dismiss as radical and utopian anything coming from this source.
written by urban legend, April 11, 2012 1:33
I am going to make a related point. You rightly compare the excessive cost of our healthcare system compared to those in other countries. It seems to me that you frequently include the monopoly pricing allowed by the patent system as one the reasons for that unfavorable comparison. However, I believe there is a logical problem with that because those other counties have similar patent protection systems for drugs and other inventions. They achieve their economies with the same handicap.
written by urban legend, April 11, 2012 4:40
P.S. Don't let this specific criticism -- and occasional other criticism -- overshadow the fact that you do (almost entirely) great work that is much appreciated for its rigor. You are near the top (OK, Krugman wins until I run out of my access) of my personal blogroll.
Productivity has a Denominator.
written by John, April 12, 2012 9:12
"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..."

This should not be a surprise. Productivity gains mean we can produce the same amount with fewer workers or fewer work-hours. With productivity gains going exclusively to the wealthy (and not the producers), high productivity implies high unemployment.
pharmaceutical economy of other nations
written by David, April 12, 2012 1:41
Actually, I'm just mentioning Canada. They have price controls on pharmaceuticals. Thus their prices on patented drugs are much lower than in the US, but on the other hand the Canadians allow a slight premium (relative to the US) on generics. So there's no logical problem with comparing the US to other countries, as typically in other countries the governments regulate prices so Pharma doesn't gouge the citizenry.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.