Sunday, December 12, 2004

GOP Risk Analysis

Kevin Drum recently blogged an interesting analysis of an LA Times series on personal economic risk. Atrios picked up the Drum posting, and keyed on the fact that the poor are much more at risk in today's economy than they were 30 years ago. Well, duh.

I'll take this one step further. We all are. Well, most of us, anyway, because the days of the personal economic safety net are rapidly vanishing. There was a time when being a member of the middle class meant having the financial wherewithal to stash away a little bit extra cash out of every paycheck. The ability of average, two-wage earner families to save that "little bit extra" has been constantly eroded, to the point of almost impossibility. Costs keep rising. The average paycheck is stagnant. It doesn't require an economics degree to figure this one out.

The old joke, "too much week left at the end of the paycheck" isn't so far removed from the truth anymore.

Many families straddle the fine line between making it week to week, and financial ruin. An unexpected medical bill, or even a major car repair, can quickly mushroom into personal economic disaster. When you're livin' on the edge, and you fall behind, it's awfully difficult to catch back up. When you're livin' on the edge with no net beneath you, it's a hard landing at the bottom.

While Kevin spends a lot of time analyzing the "why", it is the last two short paragraphs of his posting that really captures the essence of the current GOP mindset....which boggles me all the more when I think of the heartland base that voted Bush and his minions back into office:

...This problem is not likely to improve any time soon, given the modern Republican obsession with either dismembering our traditional safety net programs or else piling ever more individual risk onto them — as they're trying to do with Social Security, for example.

Risk vs. security. At some point, the risk-based society that the Republican party is trying to build will finally come crashing down on them. In the meantime, it's up to Democrats to make sure that when it does, the blame falls exactly where it belongs.

Drum gets it partly right: the vast majority of us are being shepherded into a personal risk-based society. The damn thing is, the acceptance of "risk" has always implied (to me anyway) a choice between secure and less secure options. There's no choice being offered, just blind acceptance of whatever comes.

And as for Kevin's last sentence? It's coming from a "mopping up the milk after it's spilt" mentality. Progressives / liberals / democrats always seem to get stuck with this task. No one cares about blame for past sins. The past election should be proof positive of that theory.

The bills are coming due. And sooner, rather than later I'm afraid.