I find Pat Buchanan's grasp of concepts to be weak. He does, however, have two abilities which are so far above the norm to keep him plausible. First, I have never read a shrewder judge of character and personality. His description of Richard Nixon's personality, which I read in the late 80's clarified for me all the ambiguities that I had noted until then. It gave shape to his paranoia, which seemed otherwise incongruous in as pragmatic a personality as Nixon's. When I heard Buchanan describe the relationship between Bill and Hilary Clinton on Imus in 1994, everything came instantly into focus, and nothing surprized me thereafter.
Secondly, he knows how to condense his thoughts into a narrative. Narrative is a step above anecdote in reasoning, and Pat can paint word pictures that give you the impression that what he describes is happening to simply thousands, tens of thousands, of working men and women. Even if you don't agree with his solutions, you listen to him and believe he has identified the problem.
Buchanan believes that globalization is bad for the American economy. He notes, accurately but selectively, jobs that are going overseas. Good jobs, that Americans would like to have. When challenged with the plain fact that the unemplyment rate is extremely low - low enough that people with bad attitudes and no interest in work are getting jobs - he counters that the new jobs being created are crummy jobs. The high-tech and information jobs are going to India; the putting-sneakers-in-a-box jobs are being created here.
It's a highly plausible narrative. We read often about plant closings, jobs lost, restructurings, and downsizings counterbalanced by stories about how much of our clothing is being made in China. We all know people who have lost high-paying jobs, and we all know about crummy jobs that are available. It all ties in nicely. In theory, or rather, in narrative.
But large changes in the economy eventually show up in the statisitcs, which provide a reality check on the narratives. Or should. When we go looking for these results in the actual jobs in the American economy, we don't find what PB predicted about NAFTA and GATT. It is the old jobs that have the stagnant wages, not the new ones. The new jobs are more varied and volatile in remuneration, but they pay more overall than the old jobs. Unions protect old jobs. They achieve pittance wage increases and slow the loss of those jobs, but sectors with unions are not the growing sectors. I don't have much objection to the theory of unions - I used to belong to the one where I work before it affiliated nationally - but it's a suckers bet, an us/them at this point. It's the new small businesses, and new departments in old businesses, that are not only creating the jobs, but creating the good jobs. There are new medical specialties, new medical jobs, because we can do more now. Hospitals didn't used to be able to do much for you; now we do magic. That's why they're filled with technically competent people who get paid more than sneaker-in-the-box people. We manufacture stuff that didn't exist 10 years ago.
My son just got a job as a filmmaker. For a Methodist church. In 1976, do you think the Methodists had even one full-time filmmaker, anywhere? (Okay, maybe at national. Or maybe not.) My job existed 30 years ago. It's going nowhere.
The new jobs are where it's at, Pat.