Paid Leave And D.C.’s Petite–And Petty–Bourgeoisie

So The Washington Post only endorsed Reeder for the At-Large Council position, citing opposition to Silverman on the basis of her support of D.C.’s paid family leave law. This should be expected for an editorial page run by Fred Hiatt (Got Iraq War?), but this small local race illustrates the class divide within the Democratic Party. While Silverman has drawn attention for challenging Mayor Bowser due to Silverman’s insistence on conducting oversight of the executive (because democracy ‘n shit), along with opposing anti-Semitism, what has really upset much of the gentry class (along with the wealthy) within the Democratic Party is her support of D.C.’s paid family leave law.

As a policy, the family leave law levies a 0.62% payroll tax on employers–the tax only applies to the wage and not additional benefits. How this will drive businesses to destitution escapes me. If salaries, excluding additional benefits–just salaries–comprise fifty percent of total costs, the paid family leave law would add 31 cents to a bill of $100, to an astronomical $100.31. If, somehow, your entire costs were solely salary–which is utterly impossible–that $100 bill of services would skyrocket to $100.62. It doesn’t strain credulity that this will destroy businesses, it annihilates credulity.

Then there is the argument that two-thirds of the benefits will go to workers who don’t live in D.C. Of course, if half of the benefits went to workers who don’t live in D.C., then opponents would caterwaul that HALF (BOOGA! BOOGA!) of benefits go to workers who don’t live in D.C. And if ONE-THIRD of the benefits went to workers who don’t live in D.C., then… well, you get the idea. There would always be a ‘scandalous’ percentage of paid family leave benefits belonging to workers who don’t live in D.C. That the same argument could be made about the minimum wage laws seems to have escaped notice.

But what is truly awesome, in a ‘are you fucking kidding’ sense, is that, despite the high unemployment in Wards 7 and 8, most D.C. employers aren’t employing D.C. residents (TWO THIRDS OF BENEFITS! BOOGA! BOOGA!). Not exactly supporting the home team…

In other words, this has very little to do with money, as it objectively involves very little money in a very wealthy city. Instead, part of the opposition has to do with the ideological predilections of the gentry class:

What the author calls “upper-middle class” is better described as the gentry class:

They’re not middle-class (whether it be the upper or lower reaches), since they can live very differently from (or, perhaps, better than) most of us. They can have most of the nice things. At the same time, they’re not wealthy or flat-out rich: if they don’t work, they can fall down the ladder, sometimes very quickly. Living comfortably or well with the interest on investments isn’t an option.

The reason I refer to this group as the gentry is, in part, it’s the group that’s responsible for gentrification in urban areas (no gentry, no gentrification), so it seems to fit. The other reason is to intentionally invoke the Victorian notion of the word. The gentry, whether it be a more religious, conservative style, or a more liberal, less traditional style…

While there can be cultural and regional disagreements, en masse, they are quite coherent.

…the U.S. pretends to be a class-free society (even as U.S.-ians spend an inordinate amount of time making very subtle class distinctions), the reality is we do have classes with specific economic interests.

As Reihan Salam notes, this class is perfectly content with screwing over low-income workers (though he puts it somewhat differently, as he isn’t a Dirty Fucking Hippie). Mind you, at times, this gentry class will turn on the wealthy and the rich, but they also have no problem going after those below them on the economic ladder–and they have no problem adopting beliefs and myths to rationalize away the cognitive dissonance stemming from doing so.

Never underestimate the one-two punch of fear, in this case irrational, and powerfully held myths, combined with the Divine Right of Business Owners. But this divide also highlights how D.C.’s political leadership, on the whole, is stuck in the early 1990s and is inadequate to the needs of 2018. In the 1990s, the city was much less wealthy than it is today, the city had lost Home Rule due to mismanagement, and had hemorrhaged residents. Keeping businesses alive was critical for generating tax revenue.

It’s no longer 1992, and D.C. faces new problems. A now wealthy city, whose GDP has massively increased, is no longer faced with survival, but with the question of how to distribute our wealth more equitably. That’s a basic divide in the Democratic Party, even in a liberal city like D.C. The non-economic issues are easy to unite around–everyone likes the Safe Martin Luther King. But the dangerous King, the one who organized marches for low-income workers and supported unions, well, that attacks the economic and psychological prerogatives of the gentry class. And we can’t have that.

Something to think about when D.C residents go vote.

This entry was posted in Bidness, DC, Democrats, Economics. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Paid Leave And D.C.’s Petite–And Petty–Bourgeoisie

  1. Pingback: Paid Leave And D.C.’s Petite–And Petty–Bourgeoisie — Mike the Mad Biologist | Thesseli

Comments are closed.