In the unending effort to placate the hurt feelings of Trump voters—they won the damned election, why are they still complaining?--Megan McArdle says the liberal elites just don't understand ordinary working folks. Those condescending elites seem to think that cheap plastic crap from China sold in big box stores at the edge of town should placate grouchy Americans:
[Defenders of globalism say] trade has enabled American consumers to buy a lot of stuff immensely more cheaply than they could in, say, the 1970s. Not just electronics, but basics like clothes and home furnishings. Those are serious improvements in the quality of the lives of those consumers.
Ms. McArdle has a point, but her criticism of liberals is misplaced. All the left-leaning economists I read have for years pointed out that lower prices on consumer items have been more than offset by higher prices on things like houses, education, and medical care; moreover, those same left-leaning economists have long bemoaned increasing income inequality, wage stagnation for the working class, and the rise of consumer debt. On the other hand, conservative economists have regularly justified the post-Reagan economy by pointing with admiration to our ubiquitous electronic gadgets: "even the poor have cell phones and flat-screen TV's!"
Ms. McArdle correctly reminds us that man does not live by everyday low prices alone:
[Neo-liberal elites] often seem oblivious to the fact that people care more about their role as workers than they do as consumers. If you go from having a relatively high status and secure job to lower status, lower-paid, and less secure work, the psychological stress of worrying about your future and feeling that you have lost ground may not exceed the psychological benefits of cheaper stuff.
It's true: the working class in this country used to have dignity, security, competitive wages and benefits--all of which were secured in large part by the organized labor movement. Where have you gone, George Meany? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you—though Megan McArdle seems oblivious.
Globalism is simply capitalism writ large, doing to entire countries what it has long done to local communities everywhere. But Megan McArdle thinks that neo-liberals are to blame:
They also discount the value of specific places and communities -- at least if those places and communities belong to their own home country. (A number of people -- though by no means all globalists -- simultaneously deride hard localism in their own community, and excuse or even celebrate it in the developing world.)
Megan McArdle, bless her heart, doesn't have a clue. For at least a century, the American Left fought (sometimes literally) for the American working class; it was the American Right that promoted the glories of capitalism and suggested that shiny, inexpensive kitchen appliances made America great.* It was the Republican Party, including the sainted Ronald Reagan, that did everything it could to eradicate America's blue-collar unions from sea to shining sea. It has been conservatives, not liberals, who have reflexively defended predatory corporate practices while abandoning workers to the vagaries of the market.
Trump voters want respect? They should try voting smarter. Fifty years ago, workers could have organized, marched, and gone on strike to improve their conditions; thanks to Reaganomics (and yes, to its neo-liberal heirs), all they can do now is vote for a billionaire demagogue who's spent his life trying to short-change workers like them at every opportunity.
The problem in American politics isn't out-of-touch liberal elites; the problem is working-class voters who still haven't figured out who screwed them over to begin with.
*My reference here is to Richard Nixon's famous "kitchen debate" with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.