Andrew Sullivan clarifies his thoughts on the “new cultural divide” between “the producers of wealth and the recipients of redistribution.” In the process, he augments David Frum’s recent notes on an adaptive, big-tent conservatism.
Frum writes that conservatism:
… will only be successful to the extent it is knowledgeable, to the extent it is public-spirited, to the extent that it is based on evidence and research, to the extent that it advocates the greater good rather than the narrow interests and values of one class or one geographic section.
What conservatism needs to do is to regain the confidence of ordinary Americans who value work, thrift and self-reliance.
Elsewhere — on a not-really-related-but-still-intriguing note — James Surowiecki offers a rationale for the Obama administration’s disparate approaches to banks and auto manufacturers:
The money the government has been giving the automakers has been going not to shore up their capital base, but literally to pay their bills. In the absence of government aid, the automakers would have had to shut down their factories because of their inability to pay suppliers and workers. That’s not true of even the most troubled big banks, which are having no problem meeting their debt payments or paying their bills: the government’s aid has gone instead to replenish their capital and allow them to stay in regulatory compliance. That doesn’t mean the government’s aid was not essential, but it was different: the money the government gave G.M. has already gone out the door, while in the case of the banks it’s still, for the most part, sitting on their balance sheets (which is where it’s supposed to be).
More important, it’s not obvious that that was going to change any time soon. G.M. and Chrysler have been losing money for years, and market share for literally decades. While they were successful in the nineteen-nineties, thanks to the S.U.V. and truck boom, it’s been a long time since they were able to make money consistently on cars. So one could imagine a scenario in which these companies required regular infusions of government money just to stay afloat. It’s that scenario, I assume, that Obama’s hardline approach is intended to avert.
The banks are a different case. With interest rates as low as they are now, the profit margins banks earn on their loans are significantly higher, so that on an operating basis they’re likely to make money this year.