September 2, 2008

Palin: Affordable Family Formation in action

A couple of writers for Slate get it (almost) about how the Palins are the exemplars of my theory of Affordable Family Formation:
Working-Class Hero: How the Palins' enviable blue-collar lifestyle could help the McCain campaign.
By Adriaan Lanni and Wesley Kelman

But the pregnancy (which could help swing voters identify with Palin) threatens to obscure a seductive and misleading subtext in Palin's biography that may play a key role in the election: the way she embodies the hope of a blue-collar life without economic insecurity.

Actually, the 18-year-old fiance looks quite capable of doing a man's work and earning a man's pay in the Alaskan economy. I have no idea if he, personally, will turn out to be a decent provider, but he's got a strong back in a place where that's worth something.
Palin's background reminded us of an Alaskan we met several years ago. We had just moved to Anchorage for a temporary job in the state court system and struck up an illuminating conversation with a bricklayer while on a hike outside town. He made a surprising amount of money—he had moved to Alaska because its wages were so high. He also had enviable stretches of leisure: He worked long shifts during the short construction season, then spent all fall and winter riding his "snowmachine" (Alaskan for snowmobile), panning for gold—yes, people still do that there—and hunting and fishing. He exuded optimism; his life was good and he knew it, and there was no resentment of yuppies like us.

Palin's family, warts and all, has some of the same features. Husband Todd's two jobs—commercial fisherman and oil production manager on the North Slope—required little formal education and provide ample time off. Yet they pay extremely well. If you include the permanent fund dividend that Alaska distributes to its residents as a way of sharing oil tax revenues, the family made about $100,000 last year, not counting Sarah's $125,000 salary as governor.

Mr. Palin's income alone would put the Palins at about the same level as many well-educated, white-collar workers we knew in Anchorage. It is also enough money to enjoy a quality of life that is, at least to a certain taste, superior to what is enjoyed almost anywhere else, either in cities or in the countryside. Like the bricklayer, the Palins can hunt and fish in a place of legendary abundance. Their hometown may be a dingy Anchorage exurb, but it has cheap, plentiful land bordering a vast and beautiful wilderness, which is crisscrossed by Todd (the "Iron Dog" champion) and the Palin children all winter. (By comparison, in the Northeast many leisure activities are brutally segregated by income: Martha's Vineyard vs. the Poconos, the Jersey Shore vs. the Hamptons.)

This free and easy life is radically different from the desperate existences depicted in Barack Obama's speeches. The main policy thrust of Obama's acceptance speech (and of both Clinton speeches) was that middle-class families, and particularly blue-collar families like the Palins, are in crisis because of stagnant wages, unemployment, foreign competition, and growing inequality. But these problems, which are a statistical fact, seem a world away from the Palin family.

This disjunction between the good life for many Alaskans and the not-so-good life for working-class families elsewhere suggests several strategies for the McCain campaign. Palin certainly has more credibility than McCain to attack Democrats' economic policies. More subtly, Palin embodies a notion that Republicans can create a society like Alaska—where the culture has a heavy working-class influence, state taxes are nonexistent, economic prospects are good for people regardless of formal education, and bricklayers can make the same money as urban lawyers (and have more fun in their spare time).

While Democratic policy tries to help blue-collar workers by making it easier for them to attend college and get office jobs—that is, by encouraging them to cease to be blue-collar—Palin's Alaskan story offers hope from within the blue-collar culture. She validates the goodness of life in rural America because she has embraced a particularly exotic, turbocharged version of this life. Her biography, bound to be emphasized by Republicans, thus makes a powerful appeal to one of the country's most decisive constituencies.

The rub, of course, is that however genuine it may be, Palin's family life may not be possible outside Alaska.

The bottom line is supply of land vs. supply of labor. That's always been America's big advantage, but John McCain, of course, will never get it. Ben Franklin did get it, way back in 1751:

“For People increase in Proportion to the Number of Marriages, and that is greater in Proportion to the Ease and Convenience of supporting a Family. When Families can be easily supported, more Persons marry, and earlier in Life. ... Europe is generally full settled with Husbandmen, Manufacturers, &c. and therefore cannot now much increase in People. … Land being thus plenty in America, and so cheap as that a labouring Man, that understands Husbandry, can in a short Time save Money enough to purchase a Piece of new Land sufficient for a Plantation, whereon he may subsist a Family; such are not afraid to marry… Hence Marriages in America are more general, and more generally early, than in Europe.”

Franklin then pointed out the policy implication of this simple logic: don't flood the country with foreigners. McCain will never, ever figure that out.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Actually, the 18-year-old fiance looks quite capable of doing a man's work and earning a man's pay in the Alaskan economy..."

Fiance?!!! Get it straight, Sailer, AP says he's "the boyfriend...of an unwed, pregnant daughter".

Levi Johnston to join Palin family at convention

"The boyfriend of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's unwed, pregnant daughter will join the family of the Republican vice presidential candidate at the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn."

Associated Press (AP) is the pre-eminent news organization in the free world, right? If there was fiance involved in this news story they would tell us. Right?

Right.

Anonymous said...

"The bottom line is supply of land vs. supply of labor."

That's part of it, but the other part of it is that there tend to be a lot of high-paying jobs for blue collar workers in natural resources, and the Democrats are almost always against mining and drilling.

- Fred

Mark said...

Interesting. The Palin nomination has set off an immigration debate without anyone intending to - certainly John McCain never thought that far out over the implications of his selection.

One hopes that whatever Gov. Palin's current views on immigration may be, that they'll move right when she realizes why it is so many other blue collar Americans can't enjoy her family's quality of life.

Anonymous said...

No problem! Flood Alaska with a million Mexicans, and Todd Palin will be making $20,000 a year and painting over gang graffitti in all his spare time.

Garland said...

>McCain will never, ever figure that out.

Doesnt want to. Doesnt care.

Parentalcation said...

I noted the same thing a month or two ago.

Despite our extremely low ranking in college completion, our average income remains above the national average. Many jobs in Alaska, just don't require a college education. There are plenty of workers who make way more money welding up on the north slope, than they ever would if they got a degree at old State U.


http://parentalcation.blogspot.com/2008/05/alaskans-kids-not-on-path-of-higher.html

Nathan said...

Uhh...to all the white nationalists who are cheering Britol having a baby with Levi, you need to know that Levi is half Mexican (go check out the long post in the Half Sigma blog entitled "Bristol Pregnacy Post" on Sept. 1, 2008).

I guess McCain did vet Palin well since she is likely to have the same views on immigration as he does.

Three cheers for Mexican guys impregnating white girls ;0).

teacher.paris said...

In the oil rich Middle Eastern country where I live, immigrants and temporary foreign workers must present their home country police records and pass a medical examination before being granted a residence or work visa.
The governments of the oil producing Middle Eastern states not occupied by foreigners all agree with Dr. David Duke that the first duties of a sovereign state are to protect its boarders and provide for the well-being of its native population.
Since almost no traditionally white state has a government that fulfills these basic duties, I suggest that the ruling classes in these countries are made up of traitors.

c23 said...

Nathan, here's a picture of the "Mexican" Levi Johnston:
http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2008/09/were_sorry_but_palin_babydaddy.html?imw=Y

Looks white, identifies as a redneck = is white. Mexican is not a race anyway. Spanish and Indian are races, and Mexicans are mostly a mixture of those two. Johnston is obviously not more than 1/8th Indian, if that.

If you're that concerned about racial purity, Bristol is 1/16th Eskimo anyway.

John of London said...

A bricklayer needs no education, but he does need to have served an apprenticeship (if the brickwork is structural; if it's just cladding he's not worth the money). It's not uncommon for skilled manual workers to make good money. Here in London, surely the opposite of Alaska, a plumber makes about £50,000/year, which is more than most graduate jobs outside finance and law. Every middle-class homeowner knows that the tradesman whom he gets to work a few hours/day on his house are making more than he is. There's quite a bit of propaganda urging people to become plumbers, but I guess most people don't want to deal with blocked toilets.
The other side of the picture is what you can do with the money, and there Alaska appears to offer one choice for all classes, so presumably the population is self-selected for wilderness (and snow)-lovers.

neil craig said...

The thing that strikes me is that Palin represents the can-do spirit as Obama represents the angst of black suffering. She is action he is feelings. McCain is pro-competence but has enough suffering at the hands of the NVA to blur the issue.

Biden who said “all Serbs should be placed in Nazi-style concentration camps” is either an idiot or a Nazi & it says noting for Obama's alleged anti-racism or judgement that we went for such a man (or for the alleged anti-racism of the media that they have nothing to say against genocide).

Steve I think the probelm with housing is less the land to people ratio than the land-zoned-for-building to people ratio. Australia, which is slightly populated even by US standards has high housing costs because of government restrictions. Spain, with European populations has what they consider the problem of a housing glut for the opposite reason.

icr said...

Uhh...to all the white nationalists who are cheering Britol having a baby with Levi, you need to know that Levi is half Mexican (go check out the long post in the Half Sigma blog entitled "Bristol Pregnacy Post" on Sept. 1, 2008).

Nathan, here's a picture of the "Mexican" Levi Johnston:
http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2008/09/were_sorry_but_palin_babydaddy.html?imw=Y

Looks white, identifies as a redneck = is white. Mexican is not a race anyway. Spanish and Indian are races, and Mexicans are mostly a mixture of those two. Johnston is obviously not more than 1/8th Indian, if that.

Personal anecdote: I'm one-eighth Cherokee(and not faux Cherokee, my father has a vast collection of family pictures and documents to prove it), and I was raised white in what was then a white neighborhood on the SE Side of Chicago. No one outside the family (and it was a non-issue inside the family)ever suggested I was anything other than white and (as was the Chicago custom back in those days)my ethnicity was recognized as "German".

icr said...

It would help Palin to produce a picture of her posing with a team of Huskies, rather than just pictures of dead moose and caribou. A little softening of the image, but still in the acceptable "macho" range.The female mushers seem to be disproportionately lesbian, but no one suspects Palin of that.

Anonymous said...

"There's quite a bit of propaganda urging people to become plumbers, but I guess most people don't want to deal with blocked toilets."

I can't say I really "want" to either, but I easily make $150,000+ in the metro NYC area, so I don't mind getting my hands dirty a bit. As my stockbroker friend Gordon once said, "Greed is good!"
Just last week I charged a woman $1000 to get a ring she flushed down the toilet. Took me all of 2 hours. And I put lawyers to shame when it comes to billable hours. And just think, I almost went to law school!

- Sal the Plumber

Anonymous said...

The Levi kid looks like a younger version of Joaquin Phoenix.

- Fred

icr said...

"The boyfriend of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's unwed, pregnant daughter will join the family of the Republican vice presidential candidate at the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn."

I hope this doesn't give Lawrence Auster a heart attack.

scottynx said...

Sure Nathan, the small number of hardcore white nationalists here who go by the one-drop rule will be disappointed to learn that.

The much more numerous citizenist readership here should be happy for the birth of a non-underclass child with an IQ likely far closer to 100 (or higher) than 85 or 91.

Jonathan said...

Steve - Check out this article in City Journal, titled "Houston, New York Has a Problem," by Edward Glaeser. It looks like Mr. Glaeser has been reading your blog.

http://www.city-journal.org/2008/18_3_houston.html

Anonymous said...

Yeah nice try Nathan, but that doesnt cut it. You are conflating Mexican with mestizo. Something the MSM does all the time - plenty of focus on Eva Longoria etc I wonder why?

Its certainly a possibility that all Levi's ancestors are European.

So back to the drawing board eh Nathan?

Truth said...

I did not watch one moment of the DNC because no one speaking held any appeal to me. I did make sure to be home to catch the wondergirl's speech though.

I figured that anyone with that resume who has been selected for VP must me the most charismatic woman on the face of the earth. What a disappointment. If this is any indication of her personality she should be named Sarah Palid. She made many references to her PTA soccer mom background, and do you know why? Because that's exactly what she is.

Mrs. Palin seems like a likeable, hardworking and smart woman, but she makes Obama look like Abe Lincoln (who had roughly the same experience.)

Nathan said...

To 9/30/08 Anonymouse:

The percentage of pure "whites" in Mexico is very small. Anyone who is light enough to "pass" is considered white in Mexico (hence, that is how 9 to 10% of Mexicans are classified as "white" by the CIA world factbook). Most Mexicans part indio, with some having more indian blood than others.

The reason Levi is light is because...drum roll please...he is only half Mexican.

So I guess you are the one who needs to go back to the drawing board, eh, anonymouse?

Anonymous said...

Re: "Yet they pay extremely well. If you include the permanent fund dividend that Alaska distributes to its residents as a way of sharing oil tax revenues, the family made about $100,000 last year, not counting Sarah's $125,000 salary as governor."

What is not mentioned here though is the fact that the cost of living in Alaska is EXTREMELY HIGH because nearly everything is imported in to there, including most of the food.

Anonymous said...

re Levi and his Mexican roots. Not been able to find anything about his dad, but his mum, Sherry, doesnt look the slightest bit mestizo to me.

I was assuming that with a name like Johnston that its mum who was Mexican.

So, making the assumption that his dad is also a Johnston. Thats not a common Mexican name is it. Quite an Anglo name.

How do we know Levi is 1/2 Mexican at all? Seems like he could be a 1/4 at best.

numb digger said...

-deep oval eyes

-flat nose

-thick neck

-dark brown/black hair and brown eyes

-high school dropout

I'd say 1/4 Amerind ancestry.

anony-mouse said...

1/ Affordable housing in the lower 48? Well the Unabomber lived somewhere on nothing. Can't get much more affordable than that.

2/ And if they can't find jobs in America, they can always move to Alberta, which is currently importing Mexicans and Venezuelans (especially the latter in the tar sands at Fort McMurray aka Fort McMoney)

Moving to Alberta-another job Americans won't do.

Anonymous said...

I never thought I'd be quoting Newt Gringrich but his response to a query (by a black reporter) to questions about Palin's experience:
Why do you people (Dems) always say this?"
He then goes on to list Palin's achievements, among them running for mayor and governor and actually winning a contested election. Running the national guard. Throwing corrupt pols of the old network out. And more
Gringrich then asks, "What has Obama done except write and talk."

The reporter said he couldn't argue that case and was obviously relieved to go back to the talking heads at headquarters, all his writing was about HIMSELF. Like who gives a crap? except Steve. But really, who cares?
Does he write about law? International affairs? Anything that might be of importance to the world outside Obama, his people and his church? Nothing I can see.
yes, all he does is write (about himself) and talk (about himself really, if you read between the lines.) He engages in no honest debate that requires thinking and speaking extemporaneously. Debates are the few times when we get to hear candidates do this--when we get to see what they made of intellectually and emotionally.
Obama has not proven himself in this area.
The media has revealed itself even to the most obtuse and naive Americans as absurdly biased. Somebody--who could it be? Wants Obama in the White House. Obama could never in a million years have run himself this far, not even with his white-hating wife.
And somebody made a comparison of Obama with Lincoln--could you please elaborate. I'm sick of talking with no backup of substance.

I could have added, not only has Obama never won a contested election, or run anything in any form of government on the scale Palin,

Truth said...

"And somebody made a comparison of Obama with Lincoln--could you please elaborate. I'm sick of talking with no backup of substance."

Abraham Lincoln had 18 months formal education, and his political experience consisted of 4 terms in the Illinois state senate and one term in the US house of Representatives (not the senate). After his term in the house, he concentrated on his law practice and worked on over 5,000 cases in the state of Illinois mostly representing small farmers and business owners against large corporations (a community organizer if you will.)

Previous to being elected to the state house, Lincoln was a failure at many businesses and had done nothing to distinguish himself


http://news.yahoo.com/s/rocky
mountainnews/20080829/pl_
rockymountainnews/goreobamas
lackexperiencenodifferentlincoln


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham
_Lincoln

Anonymous said...

Troof,

Lincoln was a smart and well-connected lawyer with a thriving private practice.

Obama is an empty suit. I'd give him an outside chance at surviving in the private sector as a motivational speaker or talk show host.

--Senor Doug

Truth said...

"Lincoln was a smart and well-connected lawyer with a thriving private practice."

So maybe we should have elected Johnnie Cochran. And why is it you guys have so much trouble spelling "truth"?

mercy01 said...

One hopes that whatever Gov. Palin's current views on immigration may be, that they'll move right when she realizes why it is so many other blue collar Americans can't enjoy her family's quality of life.
======================================
mercy
California Dui