Tim Shipman On Brexit, Boris, And The Embattled Crown

A lively dispatch from across the Pond.

  
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Tim is simply the best political reporter in Britain. He’s their Bob Woodward, but he can also actually write. His two books, Fall Out, and All Out War, are indispensable to understanding the politics of Brexit. He knows the Westminster political class as well as anyone.

In this episode, we talk about Boris Johnson’s astonishing luck and charm, as well as the Labour Party’s floundering. For three clips of our conversation — on the Tory leader’s knack for winning over the working class; on his and Brexit’s vindication over the vaccine; and on whether the monarchy might not survive the death of Her Majesty — pop over to our YouTube page. You can listen to the whole episode in the audio player embedded above, or right below it you can click “Listen in podcast app” — which will connect you to the Dishcast feed. If you want to understand how the politics of the UK helps us understand the politics of the US right now, have a listen. We had a blast.

Looking back to last week’s episode on welfare and immigration in the US, a reader writes:

I enjoyed your conversation with Mickey Kaus immensely. I realized I’ve never understood these generational shifts and counter-shifts in government policy emphasis, and that if that’s the case, the vast majority of voters don’t, either.

I take issue with one comment, though. Biden has, in fact, harped so incessantly on the “dignity of work” that it invited blowback during his campaign. Do not confuse the activist position with Biden’s. He is the President, and I do not see his acceding to any assistance policy that doesn’t support work. My understanding of even the the child credits argument is that it supports day care, so the parent(s) can work!

A sharper dissent comes from this reader:

Can you just stop it with the “The Media is monolithically behind Biden” — it’s so lazy and obviously false. Is Fox News behind Biden? NY Post? Washington Examiner? National Review? Townhall.com? Sinclair? Washington Times? Wall Street Journal? Ann Coulter / Hannity in their talk shows? Or are they not part of the media?

I get that you had a bad experience with NY Mag and you don’t like Charles Blow, but time to move on and look the world as it is — not some caricature.

Over to immigration, another dissent:

It’s such a fear-mongering narrative to spin immigration as a conspiracy by shadowy forces on the left to flood the country with non-white racial groups so as to destabilize the structures of white supremacy … you’re sounding like conspiracy theorist! What kind of American politician would invest so much in a strategy that won’t see a pay-off for 20+ years? The waiting list for green cards is backlogged decades, and that’s not even counting the waiting period for becoming a citizen after that. And you even admit that plenty of immigrants don’t automatically vote for one party over the other! This would be the most convoluted conspiracy ever. There are far more effective ways to grow the party than to be pro-immigration.

It’s not a conspiracy. It’s out in the open. Almost every argument against mass immigration is instantly stigmatized as racist or “white supremacist.” White liberals have increasingly come to see non-white skin as a sign of moral worth, and opposition to mass or illegal immigration as de facto proof of racism.

Another reader on immigration addresses an angle that could divide the left:

To your point about there being two primary concerns with mass immigration (the traditional labor concerns Mickey spoke to, and the concerns about social cohesion that you and David Frum share), I would add a third (related) concern: environmental sustainability and quality of life.

For the past 50 years, immigration policy has driven the majority of U.S. population growth. Without reductions, the Census Bureau projects the U.S. population to surpass 400 million by 2060. In other words, if current trends (2020 notwithstanding) continue, we will grow by roughly the entire population of France in just a few decades.

Biden’s immigration proposal would more than double annual immigration. Some might say that’s a good thing, and others will say it is a bad thing, but either way, immigration-driven population growth will have a profound impact on American life. We are making decisions today for future generations. Not only should we be allowed to talk about it, but we should be encouraged to talk about it.

For instance, I don’t know if your environmental concerns extend to biodiversity, natural habitats, or access to open space (I know you are very worried about climate change), but each of these become more difficult to guarantee with Congress mandating population growth through immigration. A quarter century ago, President Clinton’s Task Force on Population and Consumption wrote, “We believe that reducing current immigration levels is a necessary part of working toward sustainability in the United States.”

I agree. I have no problem with a stable or declining population. For the planet, it’s a good thing. I think of Japan, and see a country that would rather shrink and remain itself than grow and become unrecognizable. The passion for mass immigration and “diversity” is a very Western one.

Circling back to the welfare debate, this next reader digs into the many nuances of the child tax credits under the American Rescue Plan:

I had to turn off the episode in the midst of the discussion of the “Biden Dole."  Mr. Kaus’s attitude toward this idea was straight outta 1985. Parents should get the money but “only if they work.” So by that logic, if a couple opts for one parent to stay home and raise the kids, their bonus should be cut in half. 

What really grinds my gears is Mr. Kaus’s obliviousness to the value added to the economy by the unpaid work that occurs in every household. Domestic work — parenting, cooking, cleaning, taking Granny to her appointments — is the grease that allows the machinery of society to operate efficiently. One of the reasons our society feels like it is disintegrating is that too many people are working too damn much.

Do you ever think about why memberships in social and fraternal organizations have been declining for decades? Or that church attendance has collapsed? These declines map pretty closely to the increases in labor force participation by women. Do you know how long the waiting lists are for infant daycare? Do you know how people who work 50 or so hours a week plus commute time manage to get the grocery shopping and laundry done? That is what young families are doing on Sunday mornings, and so things like church get crowded out of the weekly schedule.

These government payments are a godsend and a first step toward rebuilding the kind of communities that many of us were lucky to grow up in. Families could get by, if modestly, on one income, leaving one parent free to raise the kids and keep the house going, as well as participate in the community. 

The old system wasn’t great, in that women were always the ones assigned this role and so many women who wanted to do things differently felt trapped. But that is no longer the default; now each couple can decide how it wants to operate. Both parents can keep working full time and use the extra money to buy services to support their choices — maybe a nanny vs. a daycare center, or a cleaning service, or a caregiver for an aging parent. Or one parent can stay home with the kids and the extra money replaces their contribution to household income minus what would have been paid in extra taxes and in daycare costs. Or maybe the extra income allows them to pay off student loans faster and make a down payment on a house. 

As to Mr. Kaus’s statement that this will provide incentives for poor people to avoid work: possibly. We don’t know that. It may allow low-wage workers like Dollar Store and Walmart clerks to organize and even strike for predictable schedules and decent benefits because they have a cushion to fall back on. 

But yes, in every society there are layabouts who milk the system. We have them today and they are milking the disability system. The advantage of a program like child allowances is that since every family benefits, there is less resentment seeing your undeserving neighbor or brother-in-law scamming disability payments while you virtuously work and get nothing. One of the reasons the old welfare system was so toxic was that working-class people who were having trouble making ends meet lived cheek by jowl with those who got welfare payments. The workers at the bottom were hardly better off financially than the non-working welfare recipients. It was also a binary system: If you got a job, no matter how low paying, you got kicked off welfare, so many women were not willing risk an uncertain income (a job they could be fired or laid off from) vs. a certain income.

I really hope you will rethink this topic and invite a different guest with a different perspective to talk to you about what it is like in 2020 to be a young family trying to juggle jobs, kids and aging parents, and how this universal child allowance will strengthen families and communities. Senator Mitt Romney comes to mind. I believe it is his experience in the LDS church and his large family that gives him a much better understanding of the conditions on the ground in 2020 for raising families. Or how about Liz Bruenig? She just wrote a great piece in the NYT on this very topic, and could educate you and your audience about what it’s like to have young children today.

I’ve asked Bruenig, actually. She didn’t reply to my email.