The Fortune Washington Bureau Chief Nina Easton looks at why so many Americans are bearish in the face of record prosperity. Easton suggests that Democrat pollster Celinda Lake may have properly diagnosed the cause of this anxiety: People today are focused more on economic security than economic opportunity. Easton then notes that this shift in emphasis on economic security is based on a permanent change in the nature of how Americans work.
There's not a lot of security in a fast-paced global economy where workers get ahead by chasing opportunities (not obediently following office rules), by constantly reinventing their careers (not relying on seniority), by self-investing their savings (not counting on company pensions).
In other words, in the new economy, we all have to be entrepreneurs with our own lives - with all the rewards and risks and, yes, anxieties that entails.
As for a cure, Easton suggests a different course than playing the class warfare card and blaming corporations and wealthy individuals for having too much power, as some Democrats are wont to do. Instead of automatically buying into calls for more government spending, she wants a debate on what a 21st century economic safety net should actually look like. She then notes that Rep. Jim McCrery, ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, has already been thinking along these lines.
Much has been written about long term political trends going against the Republicans. Little gets written about how the shift away from large, rigid economic institutions to personal entrepreneurship is a trend that goes against the big government Democrat agenda.
Because Democrats receive campaign contributions as well as legions of campaign workers from labor unions whose members do merely follow rules, accumulate seniority and count on often generous pensions, it is unlikely any Democrat presidential candidates will heed Easton's advice or that the Democrats in Congress will adopt genuine entitlement reform. While Republican office holders can often be their own worse enemies by not living up to their ideals and their campaign promises, the Democrats' partisan refusal to consider any changes to programs like Social Security does not endear them to voters who know the actuarial tables indicate the current safety net will be long gone when their own retirements draw near.