“The American dream is about the opportunity to earn happiness and the government has a responsibility to facilitate that,” the new populist version of Marco Rubio writes in an essay titled “America Needs to Restore Dignity of Work.” And really, what better place to make the case for the working man’s dignity than the pages of The Atlantic? …
… Rubio wants us to incentivize corporations to invest capital in more factories and such, whether it makes sense or not, rather than increasing the wealth of shareholders (who reinvest those profits in the economy). These kinds of populist efforts usually end with government bailing out corporations that are more concerned with appeasing the moral sensibilities of politicians rather than remaining competitive in the marketplace.
None of this is to argue that, for example, college is for everyone. That we shouldn’t look down on technical-skill certifications. That we should try to incentivize people to start businesses. Or even that the tax structure works. The idea that most Americans today are worse off than their parents were, however, is a myth that is constantly being plied by politicians eager to exaggerate and exploit suffering for political gain.
Of course, capitalism features displacement, and people suffer. That’s not new to this decade or this century. Rather than looking for ways to ease that transition, populists from Donald Trump (whom Rubio is trying to emulate) to Bernie Sanders promise to preserve those unproductive and antiquated jobs.