Then there is the issue of the minimum wage. The minimum wage does almost nothing to relieve poverty. That’s because almost no one who is a head of household is earning the minimum wage for any length of time. However, I think it is fairly well-established that a higher minimum wage gives teenagers in above-average income households more pocket change, even as it closes off job opportunities for poor, minority teenagers. (Remember, the black teenage unemployment rate is about twice that of whites.) If you want to maximize job opportunities for low-income youngsters, as President Obama says he does, you certainly wouldn’t want a minimum wage standing between a minority youth and his first job. Yet creating that barrier and making it permanent is part of the Obama agenda for the labor market.
A related issue is public policy toward unions. There is no mystery about what a union is. It is an attempt to monopolize the supply of labor to employers. In most all cases, unions confer special (monopoly) status on workers who are solidly middle class, allowing them to seek above-market wages by closing off competition from those who earn less and have less. Yet encouraging labor unions is another core pillar of the Obama presidency.
Finally, our federal deficit is almost totally caused by entitlement spending on the elderly. Our government routinely sends Social Security checks to billionaires and pays their medical bills to boot — paid for in part by a 15.3% payroll tax imposed on the parents of the children to whom the president would like to provide preschool education.
The zip codes in America where people cash the largest Social Security checks are the very same zip codes where Medicare spends the most dollars on the average enrollee. And unlike the income tax, every worker pays the payroll tax — no matter how poor. Yet these are the programs that President Obama resists reforming.
Some readers will be quick to point out that the Democratic Party — dating back to the days of Franklin Roosevelt — consists of a coalition of interests and that winning elections requires satisfying each of those interests. Fair enough. But we are here talking about thinking, not winning elections.
Politicians will invariably search for some intellectual justification for what they do. Since their policies are incoherent, no ideology will serve their purpose. What they need is a sociology — a way of thinking about the world that defends the indefensible. They need intellectuals who will apologize for the mixed economy welfare state without any obvious sense of embarrassment. For the Obama administration, that sociology is liberalism. Its adherents once called themselves "liberals." Today, they are "progressives."