The Political Class Are Not Like Us

Every time a “major league” politician comes to St. Louis, I cringe. It usually means that some significant portion of the metro area will be shut down to accommodate “security,” by which is meant a moving bubble of lawlessness from within which said “public figure” will grace us with his or her presence.

The ultimate manifestation of this phenomenon is the presidential motorcade: A procession of vehicles protected, rather than pursued, by police as they careen at speeds well in excess of the posted limits down streets blocked off from use by the general public for the purpose.

This week, as will often be the case for the next 3 1/2 to 7 1/2 years, the “rock star” in question is President Barack Obama, who — fresh off his most recent world tour, including arms negotiations in Moscow and a speech to the parliament of Ghana — will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Major League Baseball’s 2009 All-Star game on Tuesday.

The president’s nominal salary of “only” $400,000 per year — about eight times the median income in the United States — doesn’t come close to capturing the real chasm between people and politicians.

Obama will leave the mansion in which he lives at public expense (private chef included) by helicopter. He will fly to St. Louis aboard what amounts to a private jet. No auto company executive ever had a jet this luxurious: 4,000 square feet of floor space on three levels, an office suite, a medical suite with operating theatre and doctor on constant standby, and two kitchens capable of serving up to 100 guests at a time. On the ground, he will travel by limousine. Should he engage in some facsimile of “mingling,” he will do so while surrounded by the most expensive security detail in history.

He will throw that ceremonial pitch to St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in front of thousands of people who’ve paid hundreds of dollars each for the privilege of watching … and then he’ll return to Washington and to the job of lecturing the rest of us on issues such as unemployment and economic malaise.

Even if political solutions to these issues were possible, it seems counter-intuitive to believe that those solutions can be arrived at from inside the bubble which surrounds America’s political class.

“The rich are not like us,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Yes,” replied Ernest Hemingway, “they have more money.” It’s not just money which separates the political class (which includes a good many of the “rich”) from the rest of us, though. It’s an experiential gulf which effectively creates two entirely different worlds.

As unemployment grows in the private sector, it shrinks among the political classes as government expands. As the incomes of regular Americans shrink from under-employment and inflation, the portion of those incomes demanded by the political class for their projects grows. And make no mistake about it: The political class measures “success” according to the metric of how much wealth it can get away with confiscating and disposing of, not how much wealth it “allows” the productive class to actually create.

It isn’t only, or even primarily, “the rich” who pay the price of this massive ongoing transfer of wealth from the real world of industry and production to the fairy tale world of politics. The owners of retail chains are not giving up their yachts. Rather, it is the cashiers and stockers and baggers who are giving up their jobs.

While the election of Obama is widely regarded as a watershed moment in advancing racial equality, the economic statistics tell a different story: In the last six quarters, unemployment among whites in New York City has grown from 3% to 5.7%; among blacks, it has jumped from 3.7% to 14.7%. The alleged benefits of identity politics apparently stop at the Beltway’s edge.

There is an up side to the increasingly obvious separation between the productive class and the political class. As the demands of the latter upon the former become more onerous, resistance to those demands is likely to stiffen.

The first manifestation of this will be huge growth in the “counter-economy” as the productive class moves more and more of its activity “off the books” and out of the political class’s systems of taxation, tribute and regulation.

The second manifestation — a more difficult one to achieve, as it’s an intentional, rather than “invisible hand,” process — is the creation of revolutionary consciousness among the productive class. The final break between the classes cannot occur until the productive class realizes that it doesn’t need the political class.

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