Here is a column in the New York Times opinion section, by David Brooks, explaining what President Obama should do with the rest of his term, rather than trying to pass any laws to promote his agenda. He should revitalize and modernize the "Whig tradition," which:
believes in using the power of government to give marginalized Americans the tools to compete in a capitalist economy.
The Whigs fought against the divisive populist Jacksonians. They argued that it is better to help people move between classes than to pit classes against each other.
Brooks's vision of neo-Whiggism involves creating "a group of Simpson-Bowles-type commissions" to come up with policy suggestions that transcend the current party divisions—suggestions that Brooks helpfully pre-supplies, starting with policies to "improve family patterns" before working around to more early-childhood education, wage subsidies, and job creation. Far better that the president should convene commissions to eventually tell him the country needs jobs than that he should create any jobs.
(Also Brooks believes the president ought to ditch his "political operatives" and staff up the White House with a rising generation of "social entrepreneurs" to serve as a new ruling technocracy. These people should come from places like "the Clinton Global Initiative," where they are innocent of any connection to political operations.)
The alternative to this dynamic approach of setting up commissions would be to give in to the stagnating power of divisive populism. And the poor will never advance in America if they insist on talking about the fact that they have less money than the rich. Our classes will remain estranged, by meanness.
Meanwhile here is another column in the New York Times, from the business section, about the fact that JPMorgan Chase boss Jamie Dimon, who presided over $20 billion in fines this year because of the bank's comprehensive misconduct, saw his pay raised to $20 million:
[I]n the world of executive compensation, especially when viewed from the rarefied perspective of other chief executives, and more broadly on Wall Street, Mr. Dimon's pay — and how it was determined — is not only defensible, but laudable....
I spoke this week to several people with direct knowledge of the board's discussions about Mr. Dimon's pay. They said that the compensation committee went through an exhaustive process to determine the right level and that the board considered the likely negative reaction. "We were mindful of it, but it didn't influence our decision," said one, who like the others, spoke only on condition of anonymity....
Members of the compensation committee compared Mr. Dimon's compensation to that of other chief executives, both in banking and other industries, and to that of chief executives at other similarly large firms, which is the starting point for most compensation exercises.
This is the furthest thing from populism. Yet it, too, seems to be discouraging movement between our country's classes. Maybe another way to encourage people to move from one class to another would be to occasionally allow rich people to become poor.