E.J. Dionne considers the question posed by this thread’s header. While it is likely racism drives some of the opposition to Obama, it is also true that the antagonists have some ligitimate concerns.
For example, Dionne points out: “Middle-income men, especially those who are not college graduates, have borne the brunt of economic change bred by globalization and technological transformation. Even before the recession, the decline in the number of well-paid jobs in manufacturing hit the incomes of this group of Americans hard. The trouble in the construction industry since the downturn began has compounded the problem.”
Interestingly, Dionne has an Austrailian friend who lived through a similar “Angry White Men” period in her country. “Gillard [Dionne’s friend] argued that the key to battling the politics of rage is to acknowledge that it is driven by ‘real problems’ and not simply raw feelings.”
What would be the best way help the disenfrancised white men? Does Obama have the political skill to reach out to this group?
Read the editorial here.
53 responses to “The Angry White Men May Have a Legitimate Gripe?”
Good post and good points. That we’re losing middle class, working stiffs jobs overseas is a very salient point, and one that needs to be addressed if we’re going to return to anything other than a service oriented country.
My feelings on it is the government should make it too expensive for companies to move their manufacturing operations overseas. But seeing as business basically owns Washington, I’ll decline holding my breath until it happens.
I made mention on the other blog of the threat that is now apparent from illegal aliens.
When the employment was that which is called, “the jobs no one wanted to do”.
Illegals were not a threat to the middle class, but when it happened more then once it occurred to me.
I came to work at Wal-Mart and there was a electrical crew there to replace lighting and make improvements. The entire crew were Mexican, if lucky maybe one could speak English.
This is not a job normally done by the average image of the illegal aliens.
Skilled and knowledgeable of a occupation of the middle class. This was not manual labor and required certification. My question was how could they be certified if they did not speak or understand English?
My point being that such things are seen as a threat to those of the middle class that until the inflowing of skilled labor. Such jobs as electrician were seen as no threat to the middle class.
While a jailer, there was a guy who went out everyday to look for a job on work release.
One night Immigration raided a local Coke bottling plant and brought in twenty illegals.
The work release guy came in about the same time and thought that in the morning he would go there to try for a job.
The next day when the guy came back, he told me that he was told they did not have any openings?
He then revealed that he knew they had lost twenty employees the night before.
The interviewer said, “Those are already filled… If you were willing to work for a dollar and a half an hour we would hire you too!”.
Having worked in many plants, changing light bulbs, etc., does not require certification and never has, as far as I know. I’ve never had a electricians license, yet I ran 480 vac 3ph power, designed and installed high power electrical systems of over 600 amps, worked on all facets of laser systems, including systems up to 35,000 volts. Basically self taught in the manufacturing environment. Never been zapped. And all legal.
Much of what I did in the past is now considered dinosaur jobs: they don’t exist anymore. I had to change with the times to keep up. For instance, I used to troubleshoot and repair electronic systems to the component level. Now they maybe troubleshoot to the board level and install a new board. Even that’s becoming a thing of the past. Throw the unit out and replace it. Then call someone to program it, which I taught myself so I could do it all.
There will always be jobs out there in a good, sound financial environment, but what kind of jobs will they be? Service? Raise a family on that. A college education is pretty much mandatory, but even that doesn’t guarantee a quality job or pay.
There is this lie that there are jobs that white middle class men won’t take. There are no jobs that men won’t take, but there are salaries that they can’t possibly take. Men and women will do yard work, construction, housecleaning, cooking, etc., but they must earn a LIVING WAGE.
Corporate America has been driving down the wage for at least thirty years now. They ship jobs overseas, hire illegal immigrants (hell they even ship the immigrants in themselves), break the unions and whatever else they can get away with to drive down the wage. Because the CEO needs another jet.
Want to get angry? Get angry at Corporate America.
I received a newsletter from a state Democratic representative wherein she explained that a bill had been proposed in the Kansas House that was essentially a three-strike law against Kansas employers–get caught employing illegals three times and you lose your privilege to do business in this state. It was explained by the same representative that the bill did not pass due to a fear in the legislature that this law would bring business in the state of Kansas to its knees and new employers would never consider relocating here.
What does this say about businesses in this day and age in our wonderful state? Corporate America is UNAMERICAN.
I agree that today more jobs traditionally held by middle-class white men are disappearing. But they’ve done OK for themselves throughout history, don’t ya think? How long have women even been allowed to be part of the job market? And when will equality in the job market be something women can count on?
Griffin recently brought home pages from an old employee handbook, titled “Secretarial Guide.” Printed on official company letterhead, they aren’t dated but Griffin guessed circa late 50s or 60s. Full of laughs, and written not that long ago by one of Wichita’s biggest employers. You can’t make this stuff up and I kid you not!
From Dionne’s article:
“September’s unemployment numbers told the story in broad terms: Among men 20 and over, unemployment was 10.3 percent; among women, the rate was 7.8 percent.”
The difference is not huge, but it is an interesting difference.
Women are also being used to drive down the wage; hire a woman and pay her less.
They are hitting IT hard where I work. They are moving completely unskilled people into IT positions and dumping certified IT people. They are making a concerted effort to drive down payroll in the IT department. And it isn’t just at my firm.
From the article
“is reach out to the angry white men with policies that address their grievances, and do so with an understanding that what matters to them is not status but simply a chance to make a decent living again.”
Why is it so hard for the government to even admit there is a problem? Why does public education not stress that if you do not do x+y+z you will be unemployable? The private sector are creating very few jobs yet the solution is the private sector? I would at least like hear some kind of dialogue from the gov. and the private sector. At least Clinton gave us I feel your pain.
I think it is difficult for the government to acknowledge a problem until they have a potential solution. What about pumping more federal money into two year community colleges and other institutions that could upgrade the technical skills of workers?
Network administrators can make up to $60K a year. I think there are jobs for people who have the necessary skills. The days of going to an aircraft company with a high school education, and receiving OTJ training with an expectation that one could earn $60K/year are over. What is the alternative? – is the important question.
I’m guessing the difference in those numbers could be because women still fill the ‘support the men’ type jobs. Are more teachers and nurses still women? Those jobs used to be the highest women could hope to achieve.
I am sure that there are still more women than men in the jobs you mention. A young woman I work with recently got accepted into Butler’s nursing program. After two years she will be able expect and get a much greater salary than she is making now (she works as a case manager now and has a B.A.). Nurses and ARNPs (Advanced Registered Nurse Practioners) can expect and demand what I consider reasonable money. An ARNP – these folks have an MSN – can expect to make at least $75K their first year out of school.
Do any of you watch the television show “Mad Men?” The Secretarial Guide I posted is straight out of that era the show is based around.
I do think angry white men have a legitimate gripe but why did the majority of these men vote for Republican politicians who continue to destroy the middle class? The decline of the middle class started with Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush just about finished the job.
And when I watched the videos of the town hall protesters, many were elderly white people who somehow believe Medicare is not government run health care but a lot of the other protesters were white, middle class men.
The GOP is playing these people for fools by somehow convincing them that they are the party who is fighting for the white men – when in reality the GOP may be fighting for white men, but it is the wealthy white men they really care about.
And wealthy white men exploit cheap labor (non-whites) to make even more money.
Another factor could be that most of these angry white men only have high school educations? Is that the problem or are these people who think it is an insult to tell them to go back to school and learn another trade? I’ve heard alot of Republican men say that they should not have to go back to school – they have paid their dues.
Well, haven’t the rest of us paid our dues also? Why is it the angry white men are supposed to be bowed down to and kiss their shiny butts?
Our society has put a lot of emphasis on every person getting a college education.
There was a time when all students were exposed to the industrial arts and to cooking and sewing — life skills type courses. That doesn’t still happen, does it?
Several years ago USD 259 not only cut those type classes at the junior high level but sold all the equipment. I think some of the classes are still offered at the high school level, but they compete with the other electives. There are only so many hours in the school day and it seems kids take the electives they were exposed to at an earlier age. Those who formed an interest in vocal or instrumental music will take those courses, and never have the experience of the ‘technical’ type courses.
We did good when we got them interested younger and some of today’s drop outs might have stayed in school then to pursue technical interests, giving them skills that turned into jobs after graduating high school.
But when No Child Left Behind came in – these students are so busy preparing for those tests that perhaps they were not really learning anything?
One factor in today’s society that we did not have when I was growing up in the 50’s & 60’s is the fact we have alot of non-English speaking students in the public schools.
How can a teacher be expected to teach when ther is a language barrier? And let’s talk about the discipline of today’s students. In my childhood we never dared to treat our teachers like some of these kids do today (and without consequences).
I have some friends who retired early from US259 due to these two reasons – they simply got tired of the constant fight to get respect and the total lack of support from the top level in US259.
I recall reading that the majority of U.S. high school students were in a course emphasis that was not explicitly technical or explicitly college prep. In England they do a pretty good job of guiding people to different tracks, but that does seem inherently undemocratic to me. Then they, in England, had students like Keith Richards whom they had no idea what to do with, so they put him in the Art emphasis – which turned out to be a good move.
I remember my high school years and we had two curriculum courses we could choose: college bound or work bound.
I don’t believe that every person needs to be in college but I do believe in people getting further education beyond their high school diploma.
I worked for a neurologist a few years back and he was telling me that his oldest son was deciding to not go into medicine and to go into a plumbing apprentice work/training deal instead. This doctor was laughing that his kid would probably end up making more money than he did and putting in alot less hours.
When I was unceremoniously dumped by my employer three years ago (this week), only two weeks after my husband was laid off from his construction job, I job-hunted for three months. While I was out there, I met people of my age who were also struggling to find a position in the workforce, some of whom had MULTIPLE DEGREES (and job experience). You know who was getting hired? The kids fresh out of school with no experience because the employers can pay them less, they don’t have dependents to put on the health insurance and they won’t use as much of their paid time off.
My experience tells me that more education is not the ticket one might think to a better-paying job, or even a job at all. Right now large employers are making a concerted effort to cut payroll and benefits. They hire two part time people instead of one full-time. They hire college graduates with no experience. They hire women and pay them less.
I hate to sound like the harbinger of doom, but the education myth is just another lie we are being fed. College tuition is a killer, but it makes a lot of banks money in college loans. So, go get another degree. When you get out, you won’t be able to afford to pay your college loan payment on what you will be offered as salary.
My father came to Wichita in 1952 and began working at Cessna when he was age 20 and he stayed there many years. The company trained him to do tool and die work, and then tool design work. He made good money with a high school education.
This job trajectory may still be able to happen, but I think it is much more rare than it used be. This rarity should not be seen as a statement of the inherent worth of a worker or person – employers will pay you for what you can do. The expectation is that you will show up with something to offer them, without them having to make an investment in you. Maybe this latter fact is unfortunate in some ways, it still a fact of life these days.
Your father was engaged in a highly skilled occupation that took years to master. The Chinese currently offer tool and die work, mold making ect. for free as part of a package deal on a per bid basis to acquire work. How do we compete against that?
The Chinese are not interested in profits. Their interests are in stability of the workforce. How do we compete against that?
Especially since the Chinese own how much of our debt for Bush’s war-for-profit?
I think the obvious answer is we can’t. If we grant manufacturing labor to China, what do we do?
I think China has already made strong movement toward dominating green energy labor work also.
Mexico competes for manufacturing work, too. The Ford Focus, as I understand it, is completley made in Mexico. Labor there is cheaper than here. This may have had something to do with Ford not needing a Federal bail out.
I’ve had discussions about this with many over the years. No, I’ve no solutions but an observation or two (or more).
The first deals with manufacturing jobs in general; older folks do not understand why they may be so easily replaced by off-shoring the jobs. The answer lies in the examination of what the job itself entails. Like it or not, more automated forms of assembly (the use of robots, e.g.) makes the existence of a skilled craftsman less necessary. Rather, what is needed is one with the education and training needed to operate the machine(s) which can deliver parts produced to tolerances not possible by a human doing the job.
Second, the culture of “working in the plants”; fulfill the seat time needed to get out of school and go to work. This permeates the younger generation’s thinking. It worked for granddad and dad, so it will work for me appears to be the thought process.
Third, the dismissive attitude towards additional formal education and training (post-secondary) fostered by numbers 1 and 2.
Fourth, the “paid our dues” mantra. Guess what; it doesn’t matter any more. What does matter is the ability to keep learning, flexibility as to assignment; not the length of time a person has spent attaching part “x” to subassembly “y”.
There’s more, but the reader can see where I’m headed.
Spot on, 6176!
Using fnord as an example, I am thinking that her company invested in her. My father was invested in by his company – I think “the man” got “his” monies-worth on the two foregoing investments. But, it is not how things are done any more. I don’t know if it is exclusively driven by money, but I think that is a big part of it.
To amplify on the first point in the prior post; once the machine is properly programmed, 0nly an operator with a rudimentary grasp of how to feed raw materials into it and remove finished product from it is needed to produce more high quality parts at a much lower wage than a highly skilled craftsman could.
The important person in the manufacturing setting is the person that physically keeps these machines operating (these are the people that have to know the mechanics of the machine and to fix them when they break down).
The actual employee running the machine could be any ‘warm body’ once they learn the basics of how to get the raw material through the machine.
Most companies don’t really care about whose warm body is standing there – anyone will do and they treat the job as just that – a warm body job.
Well said 6176 –
I am worried about our country becoming just a service-oriented economy. Just exactly how many products are made in the USA?
A strong economy should be a mixture of manufacturing and service jobs but have we been down the road of exploiting cheaper labor offshore in order that corporations make more profit for too long?
And how do we get back to being a strong economy? Americans are very good at being consumers but are we good at being the ones making the products other global consumers want to buy?
And if Americans are only consumers in the global market place – how does that translate to keeping America as a global leader?
We have no real assets or power to deal with other countries if we are only customers and debtors – do we?
I am wondering, too, if the systematic dismantling of unionized labor has had an impact on employer/employee relationships. Derision of unions is a requirement if you belong to a certain political party. Which brings me back to Lilac’s earlier question why so many white men have been lured into supporting the GOP when they tend to pretty explicitly state their opposition to blue-collar white mens’ interests?
I worked for a natural gas pipeline company in the late 70’s. We were not a union company but that is because our company was wise enough to look around and keep our wages and benefits comparable to the union companies around us.
When I asked once why they did this – it was a pretty straightforward reply – because we keep our qualified work force happy and they in turn produce what we need to keep this company making a profit.
I think this balancing act between management and employees had been hijacked several decades ago. The emphasis is no longer on the ‘we’ but the ‘I’ – and that was made only more acceptable under Ronald Reagan (in my opinion).
It ‘s a bit like the differences in armaments, lilac. The U.S. produces an excellent tank, the M1A Abrams, for example. A great fighting machine, capable of much higher performance than any other tank. However, to take advantage of it, the army seeking to employ it needs to have facilities, etc., for maintenance and repair that it cannot afford. Meanwhile, the old Soviet T-72 can keep going with little to no such maintenance. Thus, the army seeking its tanks from outside will choose the T-72; not because it is technically superior, but because more of them may be kept operable at any time and at a lower cost than the M1A.
So it goes with consumer goods. What good does it do to produce the best if the means to utilize it effectively do not exist in the market where one is trying to sell it? A Chevy may be a great car for American streets and highways, but an original VW Beetle is a better choice for Uganda, e.g.
So is America unwilling to adapt to the new global marketplace because of our arrogance? Do we just expect the rest of the world to buy what we are making simply because of who we are?
God help us then – because I think the Nobel Peace Prize committee just told the world how they felt about George W. Bush by giving the prize to Obama.
America’s image abroad has been damaged but try to get that message through one of the Conservative minds on that other blog.
They just dismiss this as a non-fact and then spout their idea that the US just needs to go into any country we don’t like and drop bombs.
Oh yeah, that’s going to make the world love us – right?
I read recently that one of our tanks, I think it was the Abrams gets, 1/2 mile to the gallon of gasoline. The article was about how war and war machines are not good for the environment. I think it was in the progressive magazine I linked in an earlier post.
“… because I think the Nobel Peace Prize committee just told the world how they felt about George W. Bush by giving the prize to Obama.”
I do not believe the prize committee could have stated that any more explicitly than they did. But, how useful is a prize if it was given out because BHO is not W.?
Maureen Dowd, has a real cute back and forth between Bill Clinton and W. on the Nobel prize/Obama story:
I had to chuckle to myself when I heard the news that Obama won but then I thought – oh no, this is not going to be good.
Obama really does not need more fuel to add to the Republicans arsenal of hate.
But, it is rather insulting of the Republicans for them to think that just because Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize that somehow he did not ‘earn’ it?
I agree that Obama’s complete body of work has yet to be seen but I remember Obama’s speech in Berlin and his speech about race during the primary – both of these events were historical and they were both striving for peace.
But Jimmy Carter was given his Nobel prize for his work in getting the Middle East into peace talks – wasn’t he? Well, if we are judging by results only to get the Nobel prize – then the proof of the Middle East still fighting would be grounds for Jimmy Carter to relinquish that Nobel prize – wouldn’t it?
The prize is awarded by a panel. Nobody really “earns” it they win it. That’s why it’s called a “prize.”
All this crying from the conservative side about Obama not deserving it is laughable. He didn’t nominate himself, he didn’t do anything to try to win it; the Nobel Committee nominated him and decided to award him the prize. He had no control over that.
Did he do anything to justify their desire to award him a prize? In their eyes he did and that’s all that matters. And the rest is…more conservative bellyaching about non-issues.
Let me go out on a limb here, my interpretation of the weapon toting people at the town hall meetings is gov. does not represent us and they are willing to fight for their survival. What do you think?
I think you have it, Annie. But, too, I think bringing guns is not just an expression of anger, it is also an expression of fear, loathing and paranoia.
Paranoids with guns, scare me, quite frankly.
I can’t remember where I read it, but the threats on Obama’s life average about 30 per day, compared to W.’s 8 or so a day. I guess the secret service has expressed concerns about their ability to do their job. I’ll have to think of where I read that and post a link here.
I think it is also a tactic of bullies. Somehow in our society the notion of whoever brings the biggest gun to the fight wins.
Combine the gun-toting men and the yelling, screaming and ranting of the other town hall protesters – and what do we see? A group of unstable people who are capable of anything?
I agree Iggy it is not a rational response. People should respond with what they have control over. But what do we control?
I don’t think we control much any more. Powerlessness and anxiety are the true enemies of mankind.
This is where I read the threats against Obama story:
Obama may be the next Martin Luther King
well children I must perform chores but,
I’m afraid something is going to happen within the next year that will be so devastating that it will be the turning point of our country. Either we go as a united group with progressing towards bettering our country or we go continue with the old ways of beingg arrogant and wanting things the way they have always been.
The choice will be ours to make – but I’m afraid it will be a race war or have/have nots war within our own borders that will bring us to that deciding moment.
And from all the rhetoric coming out of Republican-sponsored talk radio, these people would welcome the chance to go to war.
But don’t they see that after all the fighting, what has the country been left with – a broken country with even more problems than before?
the moose’s view point
hey its good news week!
I am an angry (almost) white male………
I am angry that my gay friends are denied basic rights that all of us take for granted.
I am angry that minorities in this country are accused of being “racist” should they be so uppity to suggest that racism still exists.
I am angry that the middle class, of which I am a part of, has been treated so cavalierly by our government over the years.
I am angry that my president has been attacked so relentlessly by the right-wing.
I am angry that the US Congress, controlled by the Democratic Party, has yet to grow a set of balls.
I am angry that such organizations as Fox News and EIB exist.
I am angry that I feel that Michelle Malkin is hot but I would have to gag her to have sex.
I am angry that the Detroit Tigers blew a 3 game lead with only 4 games left in the season.
I am angry that I can’t seem to get a good shave without nicking myself.
I am angry that I have a 6’6″ personality trapped in a 5’9″ body.
Feel better, Biker?
I think some of your complaints were in jest, but I am annoyed by the conservative tendency to believe in reverse discrimination, while never being able to see forward discrimination that is still evident. If a black person complains about racial discrimination, that is turned on them and they are racist – everyone knows that all things are only based upon merit, these days, right? Right…
Biker, that was a FABULOUS rant! Hope you feel better now…
Iggy, I am very annoyed about the reverse racism stuff, too. Whenever someone has the gall to forward that to me in argument, I ask them how many black people or hispanic people that they know. Have they ever been followed in a grocery store or mall? Have they ever been completely ignored in a restaurant or upscale retail store? Have they talked to their African American or Mexican American friends about home buying or trying to get a mortgage or trying to get credit? Because I DO have minority friends and I HAVE talked to them about this and what I hear from them is positively maddening and heart-breaking. Institutional racism is alive and well in America. If they don’t believe it, that’s because they only know white people.
Another question Paula, have they ever been stopped for driving white. That is a real problem here in hicks-ville. It’s illegal, but it happens often.
It is a real problem where I live too. And we are supposed to be more progressive here in the metropolitan suburbs. But when I see police with someone pulled over in my neighborhood, it is almost always 1) someone with a late model car –“working poor”; 2) someone of color; OR a teenager. There is racially profiling, for sure, but this also brings up another issue.
Our police are being trained in revenue enhancement techniques. They know who to pull over and they always find something to write them a ticket for. And they know that the poor sot can’t afford an attorney, so they will pay and pay and pay until their fines are paid off. Even if it means they can’t fix the tail light that they were ticketed for in the first place.
Whatever happened to protect and serve?