by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 5
August 2021
Seen Elsewhere
07:00

Will Biden look beyond the bobos?

The President looks genuinely interested in the non-college educated
by Peter Franklin
Credit: Getty

At the beginning of the 21st century, David Brooks wrote a book called Bobos in Paradise — which was all about America’s changing class structure. Bobos are ‘bourgeois bohemians’, also known as the ‘creative class’ or, more broadly what we might call ‘knowledge workers’.

Urban, educated and progressive, they now dominate the commanding heights of the economy, and of culture too. For all their egalitarian pretensions, the rise of the bobos has left a lot of non-bobos feeling more excluded than ever before. That might be because of economic disadvantage or feelings of cultural alienation, but either way the bobos are resented. 

Of course, much of Brooks’ analysis will be familiar to readers of UnHerd; but in his latest essay for The Atlantic, he provides fresh insights. 

For instance, he makes the important point that President Biden is a throwback — an old-fashioned progressive who still cares about the non-bobos:

His programs—his COVID-relief law, his infrastructure bill, his family-support proposal—represent efforts to funnel resources to those who have not graduated from college and who have been left behind by the creative-class economy. As Biden boasted in an April speech to a Joint Session of Congress, ‘Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree…
- David Brooks, Atlantic

While Donald Trump exploited the anger of the non-bobos, Joe Biden promised help — and is now providing some.

Brooks believes this could help narrow the “class chasms” that have done so much to polarise American politics. However, he also points out that these measures do nothing to deal with the “sorting mechanism” that allocates Americans to their position in society.

This centres upon an education system that values academic achievement above all else. Though it is meant to be meritocratic, it is nevertheless overtly hierarchical — openly advertising (and monetising) gradations of prestige. Furthermore, there’s a strong hereditary component. Brooks refers to research that found that “children whose parents are in the top 1% of the income distribution are 77 times more likely to attend an Ivy League college than those whose parents are in the bottom income quintile.”

At great (and unsustainable) expense, Joe Biden is attempting to bind up America’s political wounds. But beneath the bandages the causes of division are still there, waiting to be ripped open again. 

While Biden may be the last of his kind of progressive, Trump is just the first of his kind of populist. 

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Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

So he’s given up on letting the economy flourish and is going to improve people with taxpayer-funded non-jobs?
“Funneling resources”
“Relief”
“Family support”
=
welfare
welfare
welfare

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago

Agreed, welfare is not the solution, but simply posturing and vote gathering. What is Biden doing to improve the lot of the non-bobos, generation to generation? Creating an economy where they can have jobs and dignity?
This “While Donald Trump exploited the anger of the non-bobos, Joe Biden promised help — and is now providing some” is distinctly misleading.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

It’s called ‘buying votes’ – otherwise the Democrats are bereft of solving problems & creative thinking.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

No, they also are doing superbly well at fomenting racial hatred and pitting every group of Americans against the others. They are succeeding beyond their wildest dreams at destroying USA. Soon their destroying the economy will trigger such a collapse the nation will have to be on permanent government control. This is their goal. Everyone on some form of government money, and thus everyone owned by them. It is the return to Feudalism.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
1 year ago

Seems to me the non-Bobos were doing quite well under Trump. You know, ACTUALLY policing the border to keep illegal aliens out. Granted, the Democrats found it harder to get pool boys and waiters, but the reduction in the available labour force was driving wages UP. The non-Bobos didn’t actually need government help.

Last edited 1 year ago by Francis MacGabhann
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago

An education system which doesn’t value academic achievement is like a medical establishment which doesn’t value healing – both of which we have in Britain. Thanks to socialism and state control, instead of pursuing their natural aims, they set “equality” as their end, with variously disastrous and murderous results. “Our” NHS is lauded as value for money – nonsense when you consider how much money it eats; how little its output improves in consequence and how even a King’s Fund report pointed out that it is not very good at – how shall we put this? Ah, yes – saving lives. Rather than forcing schools to do everything and train everyone, we should restore selection as soon as may be, making appropriate provision for other kinds of talent at the same time. This obtains in Germany with remarkably benign results. It is only the grip of Marxists on our Left which has prevented this natural and beneficial reform from being instituted.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

The NHS costs the taxpayer considerably less per head than the American system, and it provides the entire country with free healthcare at point of use, even down to doctors visits. For all it’s faults, such as being a rather bureaucratic and top heavy organisation, I certainly wouldn’t trade it

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There you go again – the American comparison – because the euro comparison damns the NHS completely. It’s called social health insurance and is considerably more efficient. The number of beds per capita is much higher, public and private services cooperate and health outcomes are better. And you totally ignore the point that the NHS doesn’t keep people alive. In short, it kills them. I have experience of this among my own kin. And all this is “value for money”, is it? Not only is this crude Benthamite calculation heartless, it is wide of the mark in its own terms.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Afraid that’s wholly incorrect in terms of expenditure. The number of beds is a random metric as doesn’t convey much.
UK spends less per capita than France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and many others. It’s 17th on the list of OECD countries, between Iceland and Finland.

Now your other points about general efficacy, fine we can agree on some of those – but Billy Bob also pointed that out.
NHS is far from perfect, and its monolithic structure and sainted status prevents any realistic reform and hinders any decent attempts to address its problems.
But let’s not forget its strengths. Private healthcare is about profit and keeping the company afloat. The NHS has patient care as its priority. This is undeniable, in spite of its many flaws.
Furthermore we have Doctors and a huge powerful organisation at the point of purchasing from big pharma. In the UK we are not bombarded with medical advertisements by these companies trying to push their products on us. Instead we have medical professionals judging what is best for the most.

Source for expenditure: https://data.oecd.org/healthres/health-spending.htm

Last edited 1 year ago by A Spetzari
D Ward
D Ward
1 year ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

It doesn’t have to be about profit. Not-for- profit organisations can, and do, exist.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
1 year ago
Reply to  D Ward

No of course – my main point was mainly to dismiss the oft repeated but wholly inaccurate claim about UK spending more than other countries on healthcare. It simply doesn’t

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Profit depends on efficiency and so acts as a guarantee of worth. That’s first. And if you had had my experiences, you would not prattle so blithely about “patient care” as the NHS priority. The NHS priority is its own convenience as an unaccountable state monopoly – a point which plays out in the staggering, stinking neglect and contempt with which it treats its patients. End of. As for number of beds – you’re talking through your hat – as most defenders of this crummy system do. With a sufficiency of beds there would be fewer delays to treatment; shorter queues and a capacity to cope with epidemics.

Last edited 1 year ago by Simon Denis
A Spetzari
A Spetzari
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I do not prattle blithely about patient care – it’s quite literally what the processes are built around, as you would know if you had any direct experience of it.
I have factually refuted some of the nonsense you push about expenditure and efficiencies, which you have ignored and dismissed as “prattle” and me as a “defender of this crummy system”
So now you know that you were wrong and the UK spends less than other countries, has that adjusted your view at all in the slightest?
And what do you think about the roles of patient vs doctor as the primary customer in a country’s medical care system? Would you rather pharma marketed direct to patient?
Or do you just want to feel better by ranting about how much you hate the NHS?
For what it’s worth, I think the NHS is broken, indeed one of the biggest issues for the UK. But there are undeniable strengths at its core.

Last edited 1 year ago by A Spetzari
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

So you arrogantly deny the facts of my experience. “It’s quite literally what the processes are built around” – come again? So ignoring a sweaty, agonised, weak voiced patient begging for attention is a process “literally” built around patient care, is it? And no, I do not “know” I was wrong simply because the UK spends less – it confirms me in my conviction that I’m right – because our system shovels people up as cheaply as possible, denying them care whenever it can, grudging it when it can’t and as a result allowing them to die. My direct experience of this fills me with seething contempt for your ideological dismissal of concern. So yes, you are prattling – arrogantly, ignorantly and intolerably. The NHS has no strengths. It is despicable, like all bureaucratic, state run monopolies. And in your purblind refusal to respond compassionately to devastating personal experience, you show that you share in its stony hearted smugness.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I do not deny the facts of your experience – it’s an anecdote and a horrible one. I have not referred to that once.
Whilst I am sorry for your experience as a person, I am afraid it’s not relevant to the points you or I were addressing. But I think we’ll leave this since it’s not going anywhere.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

The Europeans actually spend more on their healthcare as a percentage of GDP than the UK does, with very little difference in outcomes to show for the extra expenditure.
You’ll also be very hard pressed to get the UK to agree to privatisation of the health service, as their other experiences of private companies running state assets has been largely negative. They were promised increased competition would lead to better and cheaper services when public transport and utilities were sold off, however the cost savings never materialised for utilities and the public transport system is an expensive shambles

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

My few experiences of the NHS left me with no enthusiasm for its future. One of my last experiences went thus: middle ear infection, large sign in waiting room – x hundred people missed their appointments without cancellation in the last 3 months (not a good sign), followed by appointment lasting 3 minutes – given anti-biotics, didn’t help, went back – given more anti-biotics. On arriving home went straight to doctor who said the anti-biotics given me were wrong for the condition. Got sorted. Are these appointments still 3 minutes?

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago

This is typical of NHS provision. They will do as little as they can get away with – sometimes just for the hell of it. I have one example of their conduct which I could mention, but it is so monstrous and so appalling that to venture into such territory is still beyond me. Suffice it to say that they are encouraging a species of de facto euthanasia and then failing to supply the necessary degree of palliative care. My anger is immeasurable, my contempt beyond description and my resolve, to make whatever tiny contribution I can to demolishing the NHS, adamantine.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I have written of how NHS was the worst experience of caring for my aged father – they were Destructive more than helpful. I hold the NHS in total contempt, they are a social engineering (of the weird far Left) organization which does health care on the side to justify their Billions. NHS Suc*s.

I brought my old father to live with me in USA for his last 6 months, to get him away from the NHS, who come into the house and force the most monsterious things onto the family – they required 4 visits a day, each of 2 people, and they were pretty useless, and VERY expencive as my parents had over the limit for free homecare – but NHS Required the weird loosers to come in the home, AND be paid for it! I said I was going to fire them as we as a family (I moved there to care for him) did all the care (I have credentials as a nursing aid) – but they said no – they would force him into a home if we stoped these idiots from coming 4 times a day at huge expense – the ‘carrers’ did nothing as we did it all, but were expencive…

So I made a hospital room in my guest cottage and cared for him in USA, and it was MUCH better – and now I have my mother living with me – she left UK for good now, Covid meant the coming and going was too difficult, and she does not require actual care – but when she does I will be very glad NHS has nothing to do with it.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Congratulations to a caring son.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

And why do you think that care would improve if you add a profit motive to proceedings? Whether public or private, the healthcare system will still be working within the same budget, therefore they will still be having to process the same number of patients with the same limited funds.
Privatising the NHS, even keeping it free at point of use, will simply lead to a hollowed out service with wealthy shareholders at the top driving down wages of frontline staff to line their own pockets

Joe Hipgrave
Joe Hipgrave
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Home visits? Not since Dr Finlay had his casebook.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

Despite the condescending U and non-U tone, the David Brooks article is a solid piece of analysis.
Perhaps it will help the Bobos who read The Atlantic wake up as to why there is a such a divide in the US, and that a lot is due to them.
However he misses the driver if he thinks welfare and money is the solution and Biden’s approval rating is worst among the non-college educated.
Overcoming the sense of powerlessness and injustice that the non-Bobos feel is what is needed. People are looking for ‘a fair crack’ as the Aussies would have it, or the ability to stand on your own two feet without the government getting involved. Faith needs to be restored in instutitions that increasingly feel biased against ordinary (or non-Democrat) Americans.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

“While Donald Trump exploited the anger of the non-bobos, Joe Biden promised help — and is now providing some.” The man is a Saint.

“Joe Biden is attempting to bind up America’s political wounds.”

Hahahaaa, the Biden plan is totally out to destroy USA, and thus is no friend of the sub-bobo.

“At great (and unsustainable) expense, Joe Biden is” (quote from Yoda)

Look, this trillions of spending on sheer insanity and waste – the lockdown excuse first, now ‘Infrastructure’ (of which a couple percent will go to roads and dams, the rest to Pork, the ultra wealthy, and helicopter money to garner votes) is going to destroy the global economy. This is not a kindness to the working man.

Inflation is loosened on the land. Interest is kept ZERO. (Biden spends 120 Billion per month buying bonds and mortgage backed securities to keep interest zero – which destroys the savings of the working people, reducing this is the ‘Tapering’ they say they cannot do without collapsing the economy – and they cannot)

So a working guy cannot save! He gets zero interest in his bank accounts, inflation is +4.5% officially, and higher in reality. Every cent the worker saves is worth 4.5% less next year – in twenty years his savings are worthless – hell of a way to save! The workers pay is shrinking 4.5%, sure eventually he will get a pay rise, maybe, but then he lost earning all the time till he gets it.

The worker’s pension is in negative! His IRA, 401K, KEOGH pension is shrinking! More he puts in, more he loses. ‘UNFUNDED MANDATES’, his gov pension called Social Security, the medical insurance after 65, Medicare, and all the rest – are 130 TRILLION – no way he will get that, it can not be paid.

Biden did this!!!!!!!!!!!!!! His spending has brought inflation, his debt so high interest MUST remain Zero or the debt is unsustainable, the money sloshing in the system, Trillions and Trillions, printed but not associated with any production of goods and services, just means asset price inflation – AND price Inflation – which kills the savings, and the pay, of the worker.

The open border means the unskilled worker likely loses his job to a young Mexican, and if not, likely the pay is reduced, or does not grow as it would without those Millions of unskilled, dependent free, group living, truck sharing, cheap food eating young men.

Biden is the enemy of every worker in America!