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img055 - 1 12 Politics by Other Means and 19705 Socially...

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Unformatted text preview: 1 12 Politics by Other Means and 19705. Socially this group is heterogeneous, ranging from ill— ‘1. paid social workers to lavishly compensated attorneys. The group is so heterogeneous that sociologists have debated whether it is meaningful to Speak of this “new class" as a coherent social and po- litical force.12 But groups are constituted in the political realm, and in the 19605 and 19705 political entrepreneurs were able to mo- bilize large numbers of professionals on behalf of such liberal causes as environmentalism and opposition to the Vietnam War. The Republicans attempted to divide this new class by shifting the political debate to the issues of tax and budget cuts. The 1981 tax cut was promoted as a means of stimulating the private sector. The tax reform package that Reagan made the centerpiece of his second administration was especially beneficial to professionals with high salaries. Professionals in a position to take advantage of these new opportunities—namely, those who worked in the private sector—were attracted into the Republican party. Republican reductions in federal domestic expenditures, how— ever, restricted opportunities for professionals who worked in the public and nonprofit sectors. The Republicans were not altogether unhappy to see schoolteachers, social workers, and university pro- fessors try to defend their interests by becoming increasingly active in Democratic party politics. The more committed the Democrats became to the cause of boosting domestic expenditures, the more likely it was that taxpayers, business executives, and private sector professionals would flock to the Republican party. This Republican strategy was quite successful. College gradu- ates working in public sector occupations gave the Republicans only 40 percent of their votes in the 1984 presidential election. On the other hand, college graduates in the private sector supported the GOP by the overwhelming margin of 68 percent to 32 percent for the Democrats. From Workers to Patriots The GOP also sought to appeal to blue—collar voters. During the New Deal era, members of urban ethnic groups had been integrated The Republican Ojj‘emive 1 13 into politics in their capacity as workers, through organizations in— formally affiliated with the national Democratic party: trade unions, political machines, and urban service bureaucracies. These institu- tions provided members of urban ethnic groups with public and private employment at relatively high wages, with social services, and with preferential access to locally administered federal pro— grams. At the same time trade unions and urban machines and bureaucracies functioned as the local institutional foundations of the national Democratic party, mobilizing urban voters to support Democratic candidates.13 The Republicans weakened the links between the Democrats and blue-collar workers by attacking these institutions. They un— dermined organized labor by encouraging employers to engage in antiunion practices; indeed, the Reagan administration set an ex— ample by destroying the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Or— ganimtion when the group conducted a strike in 1981.14 The Republicans also appointed officials who were hostile to organized labor to the National Labor Relations Board (an agency formerly controlled by labor sympathizets). Moreover, as discussed above, the Reagan and Bush administrations supported policies of dereg— ulation that provided business firms with a strong incentive to rid themselves of their unions. The Republican commitment to free trade also allowed foreign goods to flood American markets, in— creasing unemployment in heavily unionized industries and re- ducing labor’s bargaining power. As a result of these policies, union membership dropped sharply during the 19805. The Republicans attacked urban political machines and na- tional and municipal service bureaucracies mainly through do- mestic spending reductions. The programs whose budgets suffered most under Reagan and Bush were precisely those that once pro- vided local governments with substantial funds, such as revenue sharing and the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). The tax reform package whose enactment was secured by the Reagan administration in 1986 reduced the deductability of local sales taxes (thereby heightening taxpayers’ resistance to rate ...
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