Among Barack Obama’s many failures none is more stunning than his purported effort to reduce income inequality, which he calls “the defining issue of our time.” While the nefarious 1% prospers (and pays 35% of U.S. income taxes), the bottom 90% struggles. You know the bleak statistics – anemic GDP growth, stagnant real wages, the poverty rate at recessionary levels, record-high income inequality, median household income 8% lower than in 2007.
The Obama Mansion Boom
But to really appreciate how well the affluentials are doing, you need more than numbers. You need to visit my neighborhood and behold the building boom that is under way. It’s a Wall Street bedroom community where the housing stock consists largely of what John Kenneth Galbraith derisively but accurately called “Stock Broker Tudors” built during the 1920s bull market.
Back in 2009, when Barack Obama was inaugurated, the homes in my neighborhood were quite serviceable—no sagging rooflines, no cracked windows held together with masking tape, no broken-down porches, no 1979 Buicks sitting on cinder blocks in the front yard. According to Zillow, most of them are worth $1 million to $3.5 million. Nevertheless homeowners have decided they simply must upgrade to something bigger and better. Taking advantage of rising stock prices and super-low interest rates, they have improved and expanded and built and demolished and rebuilt. You’re not really cool in my neighborhood unless you have a dumpster in the driveway and a Porta-Potty for construction workers in the front yard. I count, within just a few blocks of my house, no less than 17 major construction projects started or completed in the last three years, specifically:
- One giant new house, somewhat reminiscent of Versailles, is being built on a large lot with a splendid view of Manhattan.
- Nine houses have been substantially expanded and renovated, sometimes more than once.
- Seven houses were either torn down and replaced or totally rebuilt inside and out—always with a big increase in square footage. A famous TV newscaster bought a sizeable older home for $2.2 million, tore it down, and built a palatial white colonial with 23 windows facing the street, as well as a separate three-car garage and an infinity pool in the back. A private equity partner bought a large, stately colonial for $3.75 million, rebuilt it from foundation to roof, increased square-footage 30%, and added a 3-car garage, elaborate new driveway, and multi-tiered terrace leading to the front door.
After you build or rebuild your mansion, you need to decorate it for Christmas with wreaths—lots of them. One for every window and door. The neighborhood record is 17 wreaths; two houses tied for second with 14.
Keystone XL: Out of Excuses
Democrats talk a good game about promoting “good paying middle class jobs” but invariably defer to enviromaniacs who oppose economic development having anything to do with dreaded carbon. Andrew Cuomo banned fracking despite its good environmental record in neighboring Pennsylvania. Obama promises to veto the Keystone XL Pipeline even though he has run out of excuses for doing so. It was painful to watch a hapless Senator Coons of Delaware debate the issue with Senator Hoeving of North Dakota on FoxNews Sunday. Coons spouted empty platitudes about ”An energy policy that includes growing good jobs, American innovation and infrastructure, energy independence, and that doesn’t hurt our environment.” Senator Hoeven, smarter and better-prepared, showed that building the Keystone XL Pipeline is a no-brainer from every point of view—economic, environmental, safety, and geo-political:
- It will create 42,000 well-paid jobs. No, they are not “permanent” jobs but then, as George Will pointed out, the only permanent jobs are in government.
- After six years of study the State Department has concluded the Pipeline will not damage the environment.
- Six state governments have approved it.
- Pipelines are safer than moving oil by rail—which should concern Senator Coons because his state will see a surge of rail traffic once a new offloading complex is completed in Delaware City, Delaware. (Memo to the Senator: an oil train explosion in Quebec flattened a town and killed 47 people.)
- The oil moved by the Pipeline is no dirtier than oil produced in California or oil we now import from Venezuela.
- Oil imports from Canada reduce U.S. dependence on OPEC.
- It makes diplomatic sense to treat our ally, Canada, at least as well as we treat Venezuela.
- Having made a huge investment in their oil sands projects, Canadian companies will find one way or another to ship product to market, so banning the pipeline will have zero effect on carbon emissions.
An Opportunity for Republicans to Stick up for the Middle Class
Fortunately the average construction worker is not as dumb as Senator Coons or President Obama or Paul Krugman or Senator Elizabeth Warren. He or she knows that environmental elitists have total contempt for the average worker who needs to make a living in the real world, not the never-never land of the enviro-maniacs, where pipelines are “bad” but giant windmills that slice up birds and solar farms that destroy thousands of acres of natural habitat are “good.”
By supporting sensible development of fossil fuels, Republicans can demonstrate in 2016 that they care more about the prosperity of the middle class than Democrats beholden to rich enviro-maniacs. But only if they nominate an economically literate, politically adroit candidate who demonstrates real empathy for average workers. Republicans did not nominate such candidates in 2008 or 2012. (McCain’s economic platform did not extend beyond opposition to Congressional earmarks; Mitt 47% Romney, incredibly, never gave a coherent speech outlining his economic platform.) Let’s hope the GOP doesn’t make that mistake again in 2016.
Copyright Thomas Doerflinger 2015. All Rights Reserved.