Bernie accuses me of hating old people, but let’s tie up the LVEDC issue before we get to that.
It is clear from every single one of Bernie’s posts on this issue that his core objection is that summer hours are bad because it *looks* like they’re getting a special privilege. Bernie doesn’t get summer hours, so why should the employees of a publicly-funded organization?
I argued that 40 hours = 40 hours, so there’s no issue here, just dumb resentment politics. Bernie has continued to suggest that LVEDC workers are not really working 40 hours, but offers no proof of this. It’s time to put up or shut up: If Bernie has some actual proof that LVEDC employees aren’t working 40 hours, other than his good word, let him post it in the comments here. If not, I suggest he stop running his mouth with claims he can’t back up.
As to the claim that I “hate older people,” clearly this is much too shrill to be accepted at face value. I want to be clear that I have absolutely no problems with older people on a personal level, as a group or individually. I have an unusually large number of older friends for a guy my age, probably because older people are typically more interested in politics and history than people of my generation.
But I do criticize the older generation a lot here on the blog, so what’s the deal?
The primary goal of this blog is to advocate for the interests of the post-Steel, post-Hess’s generation. My generation has no memory of a thriving Bethlehem Steel or a thriving Hess’s. The older generation saw the Lehigh Valley at its peak and then watched it decline. My generation grew up when the region wasn’t doing as well, and now we are seeing real signs of revitalization. There’s a major difference in perspective there. One of my core beliefs is that we are seeing a turnaround in the Valley’s fortunes because good activist public policy prevailed over entrenched pessimism at key moments. I want to see the progress continue, and that necessarily requires a dramatic shift in political power away from the Hess’s generation toward the post-Hess’s generation.
One of the main goals of this blog is to show that the political interests of the older generation and the younger generation are deeply at odds, and that these are frequently the faultlines in our disagreements on the issues, often much more prominent than the normal Democrat-Republican divisions. Sometimes these debates get heated, and I use the same tone of rhetoric toward the older generation that I would use to criticize any other political interests whose priorites I find repugnant. I will humbly admit to crossing the line here on a few occasions, so I’m sorry and I will be more careful about that.
However, this does not in any way diminish my point about our opposite political interests. There is a direct tension between what is good for older people, and what is good for younger people, especially on the economy. Here is a list of issues where the interests of older people and younger people diverge:
The older generation are living on fixed incomes – Social Security, pensions and savings – so higher inflation would be bad for them. Social Security benefits are indexed to inflation, so it’s really wealthier retirees that would feel the pinch. But the disinflation we’re currently experiencing is terrible for workers (particularly recent grads), business owners, the unemployed and debtors. A period of above-trend inflation would mean a tighter labor market, rising wages and faster deleveraging, all of which would be great for younger people. All this deficit hysteria and the calls for tight money is really the creditors and savers acting like a rentier class, dooming the economy to years of slow growth that are going to ruin young people’s economic prospects. Seniors are insulated from labor market conditions, so that’s why there’s way too much fear of inflation, and not nearly enough panic about 9.1% unemployment.
Bernie thinks I’m a “bigot” for saying older people have an inflexible 9-5 clock-puncher view of work. I’m merely guilty of overstating the point – I’m sure it’s not true of all older people – but what is true is that only older people would think there’s something wrong with summer hours. This is the future of work. It’s the direction the economy is moving in. Younger people are more comfortable working remotely, working non-traditional hours, being evaluated on output rather than hours, multitasking, etc. This is increasingly what employers require, and that’s an advantage for young people because they have the freshest skills, and grew up using technology. Older workers lose out if the economy keeps moving in this direction and they don’t update their skills. The slowed pace of retirements caused by the recession is interfering with the normal cycle of turnover that normally allows younger people to get jobs right out of college. Older people are delaying retirement, and that’s an umitigated disaster for my generation. So excuse me if I’m cheering on the technological and normative changes to work that are countering this trend.
Support for this issue breaks down pretty cleanly along generational lines. Older people see it as normalizing perversion, younger people can’t understand what all the fuss is about. But because young people are irresponsible about voting in midterm elections, politicians are more scared of the older voter backlash, and progress is painfully slow. Meanwhile, a whole class of people has to wait for their constituional rights for no good reason.
Older people who support more suburban development and oppose density in the core cities are suffering from major false consciousness. What do they think is going to happen when they are no longer able to drive, but they live in places where they can’t walk to a grocery store or the doctor or the other places they need to go? They really ought to be on Team Density, but more often they are playing for Team Sprawl. Again, it’s a mistake to say that all older people have NIMBY views, but it is only older people who have NIMBY views. The NIMBYs want things to stay exactly as they are, and are pessimistic about efforts to make the core cities more city-like, or make the suburbs support more mixed-use development. Younger people like cities and want more stuff to do. Naturally that’s going to mean a little bit of tension with neighbors. More bars and concert venues means more outside noise. Young people have a higher tolerance for that stuff, but NIMBYs run to the politicians to shut it down.
The Hess’s generation has views on Lehigh Valley public policy issues that are often sharply at odds with the post-Hess’s generation, and we shouldn’t be pretending otherwise. Sometimes there are issues where you can figure out a solution that works for everybody, and sometimes one side winning means the other side has to lose. My goal is to boil down the political economy of these issues by naming the interest groups in clear, unambiguous terms. That doesn’t mean I “hate” anyone. You don’t have to hate your political opponents to believe they’re wrong and shouldn’t prevail in the political fights of the day. But you do have to identify your political opponents, and make the us-vs-them dynamic compelling and exciting to your own side if you intend to win.