“America’s Prospects: Promise and Peril”
The Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C.
June 18, 2014
Yuval Levin, Ethics and Public Policy Center and National Affairs
Karlyn Bowman, American Enterprise Institute
Glenn Hubbard, Columbia Business School
Henry Olsen, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Kristen Soltis Anderson, pollster & columnist for The Daily Beast
Yuval Levin: Fantastic. Thank you all very much. We couldn’t have hoped for better. And you also introduced some nice tensions between these different views that we might be able to explore.
We’ll very gladly take some questions from the audience, so if people have questions, please feel free to line up behind the microphone, right in the middle of the middle aisle here. I can start, while people are doing that, with one question that struck me as really all of you were talking, but especially a tension between what Glenn and Henry had to say. A tension about whether it is possible to think at the same time about the good of the overall economy and the good of this group of voters that’s important, not only as voters but as in some respect the kind of core and heart of American society.
Glenn, you argue that what we need is dynamism and that government shouldn’t act as a risk buffer, but as an enabler. Henry, at the same time, argues that what a lot of voters and voters who are maybe most winnable, and in the most trouble, want is a sense of security or a sense of comfort. How can that be overcome? Is there a tension here that might be the reasons why conservatives, and liberals really, are having such trouble finding a way to talk to the entire country, rather than choosing between people in need and the larger economy?
Glenn Hubbard: I think it’s a huge question and I actually don’t see that much disagreement here. I think we need to radically rethink our support for work. And what I meant by risk buffer, more what Henry spoke about in the DI Program, the Disability Program’s expansion. If we return the earned income tax credit to being about work, rather than about family, if we had wage subsidies, I think there’s a lot that we could do to promote exactly this group of people’s wellbeing in the workforce.
Unfortunately, on the Right, people generally don’t like to talk about that. And again, on the Left, the concern is more about UI. But I think there’s a lot we can do in this area.
Henry Olsen: And I would agree with that. What I would say, though, is that to appeal to this voter, to this sort of voter, this sort of voter is naturally risk averse or risk neutral. That they want to work, but they understand work as an activity, they don’t understand or don’t necessarily appreciate to the full degree that they need to, the degree to which dynamism by others produces the things that they value.
So, a language and a approach that is rhetorically and actually caring, that speaks as much about building people up as tearing walls down, is something that would not just –the policies, we might not disagree as much on, but I think we need to be very careful about how we talk about it and how we actually emphasize it. Not as a, “Well, I really care about risk, and I really care about empowering the entrepreneur, but you guys need to have some stuff, too.” But it’s a much more balanced rhetorical and policy picture that will really convince these people that we are the party of for.
And I won’t go too much into it, but I study elections all over across the world. Conservative parties that actually do that win their votes. I was just looking at Sweden, that consciously rebranded their party as the “new worker’s party” and where they gained votes from when they went to a minority party to a majority party was actually in the working class areas of Sweden that used to vote for social democrats.
So, if you do it, you can win votes and implement policy, but you have to do it whole hog, you can’t do it with a policy but with a rhetoric that doesn’t communicate your values, that you actually care about the sort of things that the workers care about and understand.
Yuval Levin: Well, we’ve got people lined up, so why don’t we start. Please tell us who you are and a brief question to the panel.
Arnold Clay: Okay. Arnold Clay. I teach in a high school, so Kristen, your description of Millennials is very accurate, especially the driver’s license story, which I noticed myself.
Another thing I notice is that the education system really fills these kids’ heads with Left wing dogma. You know, environment, community service, and capitalism is bad, the whole thing. And I’m wondering is there a –how can conservatives operate in that environment? Should we be focused maybe less on politics and more on what we can do either in response to or to replace the brainwashing in the schools.
Kristen Soltis Anderson: So, I’ll jump on to something that you mentioned in the list of things that the kids are gaining from school, one of them being community service. And actually, I may defer a bit to Yuval on this one, as he’s written an awful lot about how conservatives can look to civil society as you know, sort of a way to talk about how we want to address social programs, not through a government program, but through individual work.
The Millennial generation is incredibly committed to community service and to caring, helping one another. You know, they’re told they should join a million different clubs and put in hundreds of volunteer hours before they apply to college, because that’s important for them to do. And in the process they learn the value of service.
You have young people now graduating from college and they’re banging down the doors of organizations like Teach For America, because they want to make a difference. When they take surveys
and answer questions about what their career aspirations are, they care just as much, if not more, about making a difference in the world than they do about just making a lot of money. So, sort of what these values in mind, I actually think this opens up an interesting opportunity for conservatives.
If young people nowadays view it as their responsibility, as an individual, to help others, you know, I think the line for the Left is that “Government is the name we give to the things we do together,” I think that’s ridiculous. And I think that that means that for us as a movement, if we know that young people are growing up in a world where they’re being taught it’s important to go serve one another and make a difference that we show them that serving one another and making a difference is actually a very conservative approach to things. It doesn’t mean let’s have anybody pay higher taxes so that some program can go make a difference, so that you as an individual can make a difference. So, I think we have opportunity there.
Martin Worcester: I’m Martin Worcester. I haven’t been employed since 1988 and I’ve never been able to drive, so I’m declaring myself to be a Millennial. I’m going to ask the question. I asked this symposium in 2009. I’m depressed about politics today. Say something that will cheer me up.
Henry Olsen: The Left does not have the answers for the future. When multi-party states where people have choices, they’re increasingly abandoning mainstream parties of the Left. The opportunity is on the Right. The opportunity is on the Right to show people that we actually care about their lives and not simply about their pocketbooks. The opportunity on the Right is to show that we care about their dignity, not simply their standard of living. And the opportunity on the Right is to show that we still think that patriotism and citizenship matter.
And if we can communicate those values, I think they are consistent with the type of dynamic economy that will translate, the massive changes that are happening into gains for all, in a way that the Left simply cannot do. The Left talks down, but we cannot suffer –we cannot make the mistake of talking down, from a different offers hope for people of all classes, if we understand and communicate our values and not only part of them.
Karlyn Bowman: Well, it will probably cheer you, Martin, to know that Obama’s approval rating is now 41 percent and there’s just clear evidence in the survey data that Americans are rethinking a lot of their views about this presidency and what it stands for in foreign policy and domestic policy. And so I think there’s an opportunity for Republicans and conservatives that’ll be very important going forward, to seize.
Yuval Levin: Glenn, is there reason for optimism on the economy?
Glenn Hubbard: Well, first I think I absolutely agree with Henry that the ideas are on our side. And I think in terms of the economy, yes there is. I do think that we can resume more traditional growth for America, but it does require the right policy.
Yuval Levin: Kristen, on that theme, are Millennials optimistic? You described them as being future oriented, as we might imagine, being young people, but are they optimistic about their own future and the country’s future?
Kristen Soltis Anderson: So, they’re concerned that they won’t be as well off as their parent’s generation. They are well aware of the challenges that are facing them. When you sit down in these focus groups and talk to Millennials, I mean, they will bring up to you, without prompting, “We have huge national debt. We’re never going to see social security.” They know that the problems are great.
They’re optimistic about their own ability to fix things, if that makes sense. So, they’re pessimistic about where things are headed, but they have a great deal of confidence in themselves to tackle big challenges and fix things. And so, I think sort of understanding and tapping into that kind of, “We get that you are facing a tough future and here’s how we think you as individuals can be empowered to fix that,” is a huge opportunity.
Roger Clegg: I’m Roger Clegg with The Center for Equal Opportunity. And one of our issues is opposing race based decision making by the government and things like racial preferences in university admissions and things like that. So, I’d like to ask the panelists to talk about the future of Affirmative Action, that kind of issue. On the one hand I have to think that the fact that America’s becoming increasingly multiethnic and multiracial suggests that that kind of bean counting is going to become more and more untenable. On the other hand, as one of the earlier questioners lamented, the intellectuals in the Academy seem to be quite wetted to this kind of approach.
Yuval Levin: Henry, some thoughts on Affirmative Action?
Henry Olsen: Affirmative Action is something that is a very difficult issue for conservatives to electorally address for some of the obvious reasons. I think if conservatives were a little bit more courageous, but also a little bit more tempered in how they talk about it, that there would be a possibility of more action on it. I suspect that as a matter of fact this is eventually going to be something that’s going to be decided –you know, if you ask me ten years from now is this going to have a political solution or a judicial solution, I would say it’s probably going to have a judicial one. But it’s one that, you know, most Americans want, even most Americans, you know, in affected racial groups would like not to have a handout. But they do -there are groups that feel that they are disadvantaged or face obstacles that other people don’t face. And to not recognize that in the way you deal with the problem is to minimize your political flexibility in actually talking about creating a protected class as apart from creating opportunity.
Bill Belter: Good morning. I’m Bill Belter from Wisconsin, business entrepreneur. And my thoughts have been that our economy and our nation and the traditional values that you’ve cited and taken polls on, that the public generally supports are being dismantled so quickly and so fast that unless somebody gets up and says stop, halt, very strongly, that things are going to be beyond the point of no return very, very quickly.
And the public is generally uneducated, under informed. And in the words of Benjamin Franklin, that you’ve all heard is, when people realize that they vote themselves benefits from the federal treasury or the public treasury, democracy is going to fail.
And I see this happening and most of the things that have been discussed this morning are great, they’re good, they’re needed, but they’re pretty long term in nature, because you’re trying to change public opinion. And I just don’t see that all coming about before it’s too late. I guess that’s my comment and would appreciate your thoughts on that.
Glenn Hubbard: Well, you know, I’m the dismal scientist, but I’ll offer you an optimistic take on your question. I don’t see it as much as being dismantled, as being, in many people’s mind’s eye, proven wrong.
And so if I believed that there was a system where if I worked hard and played by the rules I would achieve X and now I can’t, I become frustrated and angry. I think it’s less about dismantling. I argued once with a presidential candidate who shall remain nameless, since you’re videoing this, that his frustrations, much like what you just said, were wrong.
I think people want to work. I think they want to obey the rules. But that behavior hasn’t been rewarded. If they see incumbents being advantaged over entrants, financial services advantaged over real business, people’s rent seeking being rewarded while hard working people are not, frustration sets in. So, I see this an opportunity, frankly, for us.
There will always be people who behave the way you say, but I actually think they’re the minority.
Yuval Levin: Karlyn, the question raises a distinction that you often find within the Left and the Right, between people who think that we are in a moment of great crisis and people who think that we are in a moment that needs balance. What does the public tend to think in general, people who don’t spend their lives in politics? Both these views seem to be comment, which is more comment?
Karlyn Bowman: The public is very inattentive on many of these questions. They don’t like what they see in Washington. But I think it is certainly not the crisis mentality. I mean, they’re looking for a middle, they talk about that all the time.
And again, to answer your earlier question, when you look at public opinion as much as I do, you see just an enormous reservoir of strength of the American people, I think, in terms of solving these problems going forward. But we certainly are inattentive, we’re not in the crisis mode yet. We were in the crisis mode in ’79 and ’80, but I don’t see that now.
Glenn Hubbard: You know, I think one of the things that conservatives need to do, I’ve spoken about before, is, you know, just go back and take a look at Ronald Reagan. That we have two often got in a sense that our fellow citizens want something from us, rather than want our help to get something for themselves. And that is the view that Reagan had of what the American worker and the American people wanted in the, you know, very awful economic times of 1970 and 1980, and he communicated those values.
And people supported a massive restructuring of the economy that frankly created many more winners than losers, but did create losers. If you were in the steel industry in Pittsburgh, you were not going to be propped by the government anymore. If you were in the new economy, which was just emerging at the time, you were not going to be burdened by propping up the steelworker. That created many more winners than losers, but Reagan always understood that people want to be reliant, people want to be helpful, people want dignity and they’re not simply out for a free lunch.
And if we communicate that, then I think we will find more people who are willing to support our view of Americans, because we’ll be respectful of them.
Yuval Levin: Kristen, what do young voters want from government?
Kristen Soltis Anderson: What young voters want from government is I think very unclear right now, because they have been presented with –when you talk with them they either hear, “Well, Democrats want to use government to help people and conservatives want to get rid of government.” And there’s sort of the sense that I don’t know that either of those views is really what I’m looking for.
And they’re looking for someone to articulate what are the ways that government can be used as a good thing, what are the ways that government can be used as a bad thing. I mean, I don’t think any of us here are anarchists, and so, you know, what are the things that we think that the state can effectively do to create opportunity.
And I think that this is a theme that’s run through all of what we’ve had to say, which is they’re uncomfortable with this idea of the government guaranteeing outcomes. But they want to see the government maximize opportunity. And I think that’s sort of the broadest possible way to put it. That they –again, they are distrustful of big institutions. They are distrustful of things that are far away. They like things that are more local, that they can see, that they have more faith in. You know, that’s why they are trusting their friends more, they’re buying local produce. I mean, there are so many interesting little cultural threads woven through here that I think mean young people don’t want government to be the answer for everything. But they don’t inherently view it as a bad thing.
One of the data points that I often mention is that back in the 1980’s I believe this was the Pew Research Center, would ask a question, “When the government does something it tends to be inefficient and wasteful. Do you believe or not believe this statement?” And back in the 1980’s it was two-thirds of Americans believed, yes, the government tends to be inefficient and wasteful, as well as about half of young people. By the time you fast forward to the mid 2000’s, middle of the Bush Administration, for young people only one out of three thought that when the government does something it tended to be inefficient and wasteful. This sort of imagine of big government wasn’t as clear in their minds.
That question has since been re-asked and more young people are beginning to say they think government is inefficient and wasteful. But they don’t inherently view it as automatically a bad thing, or the least effective solution, but they don’t think it’s the only solution.
George Leibmann: George Leibmann of the Calvert Institute in Baltimore. I’m struck partly because of where I’m from, which has an astronomical young unemployment rate, at the almost total indifference of the present administration to the problem of youth unemployment. You could look, as I did, at the website of the recently and happily departed Secretary of Labor, and discover that she went through four years of the Obama Administration without uttering a word on that subject. There are things that can and have been done that should be appealing to people who don’t believe in doles and who recognize the importance of cultivating a work ethic and in our large cities, a condition in which there are opportunities elsewhere than in the drug trade.
One of them is simply relieving works under a certain age of payroll taxes. That’s been a basis of public policy in Germany and the Netherlands since the war, and they have lower youth unemployment rates than general unemployment rates. When I raised this as a conservative summit a few weeks ago, I got the objection, “Well, we want a simplified tax code and that’s the overriding purpose.” And I think if conservatives are that doctrine there, they deserve everything that’s going to happen to them.
The other thing that’s hard not to remember is the Roosevelt Administration hostility towards doles and the belief in work relief, which has played no part in recent discussion, even though the Civilian Conservation Corps was a sufficiently popular program that it was ultimately supported by conservative Republicans before being abolished because of the need for labor during the war.
And aside from that, there was another institution of the New Deal that was abolished at the time of the war, that was also of considerable value to young workers and that was the United States Employment Service, which was designed, in essence to help people relocate themselves by learning of opportunities in other parts of the country.
None of this is any part of anyone’s agenda. And it seems to me that for reasons that have been stated, that there is a real opportunity for conservatives here, even though these things do involve tax changes, and even though they do involve government programs, that it’s not sufficient to say that a rising tide will ultimately lift all boats, that we have wonderful macroeconomic policies and the fact that we are losing a generation in the meantime doesn’t make any difference. It seems we can and should do better than that. And I just throw these three things out as a suggestion of things that are at least worthy of some discussion.
Yuval Levin: Glenn, on youth unemployment?
Glenn Hubbard: Yeah, I think you’ve identified an incredibly important social problem. In Europe this has been a crisis for a very long time, in America this is a more recent crisis, but a very unfortunate one. As you say, even in an administration that calls itself progressive, one doesn’t hear about it at all.
I have advocated exactly the payroll tax changes you’ve recommended, but for younger and older workers to address re-entry into work. And I do think we have to think about wage subsidies in this area as well, and take a lot of the waste and the rot in federal training programs and get them down to levels where they can be done more efficiently.
But yeah, this is a huge social problem. If you have young people out of work for an extended period of time, their probability of entering the labor force as the kind of productive citizens they want to be is simply small. It’s a social problem and we’re not talking about it.
Mike Krikorian: Mike Krikorian, Director of the Center for Immigration Studies. The discussion, much of it has been based on this idea that –or seems to be anyway, premised on this idea that there’s a large pool of voters that we can attract that’s sort of, you know, waiting for us, with the right message, the right kind of tone as well as the right policies that we can attract. I think our concern is actual more immediate. Our own voters hate the Republican Party, as we saw last week, with Dave Brat’s victory. And so the problem is the political class on the Right is, in a sense, the first problem.
We saw this with UKIP. UKIP voters are all people who would be voting conservative otherwise, and yet the conservative party elite, like much of the Republican Party elite is seen by their own voters as the problem, or at least as the first problem. And so my question is –well, I mean the symbol of that, not just politically the symbol, but also in a policy sense is the whole issue of immigration, that much of our political class is still seen by a lot of the voters, Henry you’re talking about, as wanting in whatever way possible to put through anti-worker, anti-middle class, anti-blue collar provisions through and immigration is kind of the key. There’s a lot of other aspects to it, but nobody’s ever heard of the Export Import Bank, whereas everybody understands the immigration issue and the amnesty issue in general.
So, my point is, isn’t the first problem basically –I mean, I don’t want to even use the word purge, because that’s not the right word, but getting our own political elite to understand that our own voters see them as, in a sense the near enemy, as opposed to the far enemy, which is the progressives?
Henry Olsen: I’d like to address that, because I study this across the world and I’ve kitchen a lot of look at UKIP. The UKIP revolt is the working class revolt. All the surveys show that the lower your social class is in Britain, the likelier you are to vote UKIP. And if you only look at the 2010 election, a lot of them voted conservative, but if you look at the 2005 and before, a lot –most of them voted labor. They are people who are the losers in today’s economy, in the sense that they’re finding remunerative work harder to find, they’re finding a government that is focusing on the interests of people who they perceive as not playing by the rules, whether it’s illegal immigrants or immigrants generally in England, or if it’s people who are in the capital of London who are using their access to gain unfairly. That’s what’s driving the nationalist revolt all across Europe. It’s the same voter group. Yes, those people see the political elites of both parties as being out of touch. I was in England a year ago and I was speaking with the prime minister’s former pollster over, it was in England, so it was a pint. I had a lot of pints during the middle of the day when I was in England.
And I said, “You know, to me, as an American, David Cameron looks condescending. He’s somebody who speaks down to voters, as if he were, you know, a traditional 19th century Tory. But you live in a society now where people don’t have a rigid sense of social class, they have a sense of dignity, even though it’s not the sense of American, Australian have at ’em at authority.” And what his response was, “Well, when people don’t have to defer, they find that they want to.” That’s why they can’t deal with UKIP, because they don’t want to defer. They want dignity, they want respect and they want comfort. And an elite that will give them those three things will garner their support.
Eric Cantor did not seem to demonstrate respect and understanding of dignity and he was thrown out. Immigration is often just a flash that canals these deeper values rather than a concern about it itself. It was very much at play in Richmond. And Republican leaders who don’t see that, who can’t get outside of their own class, to see what the concerns of people who are not like them are, will suffer retribution to the first political entrepreneur who figures it out.
Yuval Levin: Henry, doesn’t it suggest that since we’ve talked about the ways in which winning Hispanic voters is essential, and the ways in which winning these working class voters is essential, doesn’t that mean that immigration is really the most complicated question for Republicans going forward?
Henry Olsen: Immigration is an incredibly complicated question, because Hispanics are working class voters. Hispanics are highly likely not to have a college –and I’m not talking about Cuban Hispanics, which are different, because they’re third generation. But the first and the second generation Hispanics live in families that work with their hands, not at their desks, or they work in service jobs that are low skill. They have median income of $38,000 a year, they are working class.
But, they are competing with lower class, working class whites. Maybe not in the same area, but where they are in the same area, you see a very strong clash of values. And immigration is an incredibly difficult issue for a party that wants to focus on work, simply, to understand. Which is why I think one thing that a reform oriented conservatism needs to do is understand how public policy right now is idoling the citizen low skilled, which creates a demand that is being filled by the non-citizen low skilled.
I mean, think about if you are a citizen, and you get thrown out of work, there are many programs that you’re available for that basically say, “We will give you a low, but steady income, all you have to do is get yourself out of the workforce and stay in your community.” If you’re a low income African-American person in a city and you’re getting a Section 8 voucher, if you want to move to Houston to get a job, rather than stay in Detroit, you lose your voucher, because it’s given by a local authority. So, we idol low skill citizens, we don’t encourage them to move to places where there are jobs and the businesses need jobs. So, what are they going to do? If we’re serious about immigration reform, we need to be serious about labor market reform in a way that says, “We’re not going to idol our citizens anymore. We’re not going to say it’s okay for you not to work and stay in your community, by saying that you can’t, because that creates a demand that keeps you out of the labor force, and it creates a demand for immigration.”
I think that reform of these programs, that idols citizens in non-economically vibrant areas is the single most effective way for conservatives to be both accepting of immigrants, for whom we do have a need for economically, while at the same time, empowering the people who are citizens, who are the losers in the economy, to show that we are on your side.
Eleanor Linton: I’m Eleanor Linton and I’m with The Hudson Institute. I have a question, a little bit more specific. What type of future do you expect for the Republican Party, and to remain relevant and/or electable, how much rebranding is necessary to prevent further splintering?
Kristen Soltis Anderson: So, I think a lot of these questions about, you know, the Republican Party needing to rebrand comes down to this question of, “Do any of them care about me or get what I’m going through.” I think whether you’re talking about young voters, whether you’re talking about the working class, whether you’re talking about Latinos, no matter who you’re talking about, I think it all centers around that one question, “Who feels my pain.”
And I think that one of the big problems has been, in the last couple of years, is we talk to every American like they’re about to start a business tomorrow, like the best thing they could ever possibly want is a tax cut and that we think that a rising tide will lift all boats, when increasingly we’ve seen that that’s not happening for everybody.
And I think that the party rebranding, so much of the talk around it has been focused around, “Well, we need to get someone who’s young and charismatic. Or maybe we need to get the right message. Or maybe we just need better ads.” And I think these are all pieces of it, but I think it’s going to come down to the substance and not just a well tested message that proves I care, but that we’re talking about the real substance of what we believe in and why we think those ideas actually do lead to better outcomes for all of these people who have felt disaffected from the Republican Party as of late.
Henry Olsen: Kristen and I are like the wrestling tag team of continually reminding people of one question on the exit poll, which is, you know, they asked “Which of these four qualities do you think describe this candidate –or is most important to you for president?” And it’s, you know, strong leader, vision for America, has the right policies, and 77 percent of Americans chose one of those three. And Romney won them by over 10 points. He won each of those categories by between 9 and 23 points.
Twenty-one percent chose the fourth category, and they voted for Obama by 63 points. And that’s cares about people like me. And after the election you saw the Preibus Report and the Republican Party thing, “We have a caring problem.” And I went through and read the Preibus Report and I thought, “Well, you still don’t get it, because there are five words to that phrase. It’s not cares about people, it cares about people like me.”
And the Preibus Report was all talking about, “We have –we care about people,” and then they started talking –it started talking about, “Look at all these tax cuts we delivered, and look at all this budget savings we have.” And it was money, money, money, money, money. No, they know we’re for money, they know we care about money, they think we care about nothing but money.
So, with respect to a rebranding, it’s actually a question of what are our values. Do we care about people like them? If you’re a woman and you’ve experienced some discrimination, it doesn’t mean that we should be in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, but do we care about that? If you’re an African-American and you’ve been stopped four times on the street because you’re African-American, or a cab driver has, you know, passed you by, it doesn’t mean that we should have a government enforcement, you know, where we’re looking at every cab driver and what they do, but is that a reality we want to recognize?
If you’re a low income worker, and your choice really is between SSDI or a $9 job without benefits. Do we care about that? If we don’t, there’s not a majority in the American electorate right now to support the sort of things we’re talking about, and it’s because there is a majority of Americans who think we don’t care about people like them, and they’ll vote for the people who they think will.
And they may not like, and often don’t like the results they get from the Left, because like I said, the Left does not give them what they want, respect and dignity, they can only offer handouts. But, if we offer handsoff and they offer handouts, people will wish there was a third option.
Karlyn Bowman: Many years ago the Republican National Committee had a terrific little journal called Common Sense. And I’ll never forget an essay that my late colleague, Jean Kirkpatrick, wrote about. The title was Why I Don’t Become a Republican. And she made the simple point that party identification is a pretty strong thing, it means a lot to people like Jean who grew up as a Humphrey Democrat. And she sad, “But the reason that I can’t become a Republican,” obviously she eventually did, but she said, “It was that the Republican Party didn’t care enough about the whole, couldn’t articulate those values of compassion, of caring about people like me.” And that sort of stuck with me for a very long time.
I just went back and looked at every compassion question in the polling literature. Republicans have won the compassion vote, and it might surprise you who’s lost it and who’s won it. George W. Bush, beat Al Gore on the compassion vote in 2000. And he did well against –in the Kerry race. Republican did well because Kerry seemed so out of touch with people overall. Ronald Reagan didn’t win the compassion vote, but yet won the presidency. Again, identical questions asked over time, “Do you care about people like me?” So, interesting.
Derrick Morgan: Derrick Morgan from The Heritage Foundation. Thank you for an excellent panel, it’s been really illuminating. I wanted to put maybe a little bit finer point on what you were just talking about, Henry, which is welfare reform. And a lot of even conservatives, and particularly the public think, “Well, we’ve already done that. We did that in the 1990’s, we required work and, you know, so why are we talking about that again?”
But the fact is, that was only just a handful of programs out of 80, means tested welfare programs. Only a handful of them have a work requirement at all, and the president has actually gone and weakened those requirements. So, I wanted to ask, of course the incentive structure is right. You’ve got to make sure that people aren’t facing an extremely high marginal tax rate from losing all the benefits and all that, but isn’t the most important part of welfare reform really requiring the work, like we did with TANF in 1996?
Henry Olsen: I think what we need to think about is, on the Right, is a couple of things that we tend not to think about. One is that there’s not a clear dividing line in people’s lives between rich and non-rich, that there’s a continuum. And often times, you know, if you are working in a $9 job in Ohio, you’re eligible for food stamps. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
I think rather than thinking about work as something that we require for them, which tends to be –I do believe in work requirements, I think what we need to do is think about the whole, which is what can we do to make work both expected and remunerative, across not just a, are you poor or are you not, but across the whole spectrum of people who are more likely to be dislocated by the changes in our economy.
You know, I was very glad to hear Glenn talk about wage subsidies because that’s something that I’ve become much more interested in as a way to do away with the categorical programs that we have right now, but to send a very clear message, “If you work, it will pay. If you don’t, we will not.”
I think outside of the whole –we need to get out of the “us” “them” thing and think of it more as a whole of what our obligations are to other citizens and work both to expect and to remunerate work if we’re going to have –both limit the state, from a policy measure, but also empower people who are not naturally as highly skilled as everyone in this room is, from a practical letter.
Derrick Morgan: Yeah, I guess my thinking there is that the work requirements actually help the people themselves, too. We saw that in welfare reform, many people, thousands of people who got off the welfare rolls and then were able to climb up in the economy.
Henry Olsen: But I would just like to say, I’m with you on that, but I actually think we need to think bigger. That’s what I’m trying to say is that the welfare roll –you know, we tend to think that there’s a discreet number –with welfare there was a discreet set of people who were clearly being idoled, who were clearly low skilled, for whom a work requirement was necessary. And what I’m saying is that if we think more broadly, when we go from welfare reform to these other programs like food stamps, there’s not that discreet population.
You know, somebody who’s on food stamps could be disabled, could be an AFDC or TANF mom, and could be somebody who’s a low skilled worker who’s getting $9 an hour at a Kroeger’s in Southeastern Ohio. There are different people. And if we speak in terms of a work requirement without addressing the different needs of people like them, we limit our ability to actually transform the state.
So, like I’m with you, but I think the principle can be applied more broadly and in a way that has more affect both policy and politically.
Glenn Hubbard: Yeah, I would agree with that. I think that one reason that we’re caught flat-footed on debates over the minimum wage or food stamps or even the Medicaid Program is because we’re arguing category by category in these programs, which affect very different segments of the population, as opposed to really having a pro work program, which would involve EIC reform, wage subsidies and other things and then could get us out of these other unproductive discussions. Unproductive for the people involved and unproductive for conservatives as they talk about it.
Yuval Levin: All right, one more question.
Evan Sparks: Evan Sparks with the American Bankers Association. There was some interesting numbers out from Pew recently, showing a big divide between Millennial conservatives and older conservatives, about where they’d like to live. With a third of Millennial conservatives saying they’d like to live in a big –in a city or an urban core. And only percent of people, older than 30, saying –conservatives older than 30 saying that that’s what they would like. So, I guess my question is, if more and more, or if or as more and more younger conservatives move into cities, what does that mean for the Republican Coalition? Will these younger conservatives help to change cities or will the cities change them? Thanks?
Kristen Soltis Anderson: So, my hope is that it is the former and not the latter. And that’s why I specifically mentioned things like Uber. It never fails to make me chuckle when there’s some kind of challenge. For those of you who don’t know, Uber is a start up that allows car –you know, whether it’s a taxi or a town car to pick up –to be summoned by a potential customer and to meet them and it lets you pay through credit card, and it’s very wonderful. And taxi companies –taxi drivers hate it, because it’s disrupting their industry, it’s disrupting their monopoly.
And it never fails to make me laugh when there’s a threat to Uber in Washington, D.C. that I’ll go look at my Twitter feed and all of my left of center friends are up in arms about government regulation all of the sudden. And, “How could you be fighting these small business owners and these entrepreneurs. This is so terrible.” And I thought, “Oh gosh, if only you thought this about everything.”
Especially in cities is where you see so much broken policy and just decay and inefficiency and corruption that has typically been entrenched by a Left of center governing coalition that’s heavily backed by unions, which as I mentioned, young people aren’t joining unions at the same rates as their parents or grandparents did. Within cities are huge opportunities for conservatives to point out this contrast between our vision and their vision, our new way and their old way. And so I think –it makes me excited to hear that hopefully I won’t be the only conservative Millennial living on my block here in Washington, D.C. after too long. I actually think that this flocking to cities gives us a really interesting opportunity to take our principles and apply them in places where the Left’s policy vision has failed people for decades.
Karlyn Bowman: There’s an old adage in demography that, “Density equals Democrats.” And but I agree completely with Kristen that I think that there’s a real opportunity and there are just a lot of very attractive young Republican mayors of midsized cities, not as many of large sized cities, who are really pointing in a very different direction in terms of being problem solvers. And so I’m optimistic, as Kristen is.
Glenn Hubbard: As a New Yorker, though, I’d like to remind you that, you know, memories can be short. I mean, I probably am the only Republican in my precinct, perhaps my wife. But, New York, you know, prospered under Republican or quasi-Republican mayors, but then just took a very sharp turn, because people forgot what it was like. I lived in New York when David Dinkins was mayor, but evidently many voters had not. So, I’m not sure that we can necessarily bank as quickly on the relationship, but I hope.
Yuval Levin: All right. Well, we’ll close there. Thank you very much for this very fine panel. Thank you again, to the Bradley Foundation and to all of you for being here.