Culture > Q&A

Ahead of the Times

"Ahead of the Times" Continued...

Issue: "Medical care circus," Feb. 25, 2012

What do you want to communicate to conservatives? Conservatives remain in a certain amount of denial about the nature of the challenges facing the middle and working classes in the United States. Upward mobility has slowed down. Wage stagnation has been a real and significant problem for middle-income Americans. Republicans, in reacting against the Democrats' "It's all the fault of the rich" have swung too far in the opposite direction, where they're unwilling to talk about the struggles of lower-middle America.

Don't these economic problems have cultural roots? A lot of those challenges are cultural. They're rooted in the decline of marriage and the decline of church-going among the working class.

Examining culture is necessary but not sufficient? Conservatives have sold themselves on the idea that lower-middle America keeps voting for bigger government because they aren't paying income taxes anymore: We need to make them pay more income taxes so they'll have more of a stake in government. That's basically crazy. It's out of touch with the economic realities for blue-collar families of four. Because of various exemptions and deductions they may not pay income taxes, but they're still paying state taxes, other federal taxes, excise taxes, sales taxes, you name it.

From that vantage point ... They're making $41,000 a year and healthcare costs have eaten up their wages. Republicans have boxed themselves into a corner where capital gains tax cuts and a flatter tax code is their only policy proposal for the middle class.

Turning to journalism: Do a lot of your Times colleagues mourn the time when liberalism was unopposed in American media? For various economic reasons, there was a period of heavy consolidation in journalism, where cities that used to have three or four papers suddenly had two or one, which made it possible for a newspaper to take an authoritative view of the world. You had only three or four television options. Walter Cronkite was a weird historical anomaly. Right now we're returning to the journalistic and political norm: more non-professional, partisan, ideological, freewheeling, less-rigorously sourced. We need to recognize what's lost-the sense of certainty and authority-but also recognize what's gained.

The professional road for journalists has more potholes ... That doesn't mean the news-consuming public has it worse. ... It's hard for journalists to separate the loss of that upper-middle-class paycheck from the overall landscape of journalism, but it's important to say that even though we have to hustle a lot more, like people did in the 1920s, it's not so bad.

Listen to a portion of Marvin Olasky's interview with Ross Douthat on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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