First it was David Brooks’ Harold and Erica. Now it’s the Obama campaign’s Julia. Harold, Erica and Julia are all fictitious characters born into a perpetual present. They live and grow old in a world that doesn’t change. As Michael Shear at the New York Times writes:
At age 3, Julia is enrolled in Head Start programs, thanks to Mr. Obama. By 22, she’s covered by her parents’ health care because of Mr. Obama’s health reforms. At 42, she’s getting a small-business loan from the government. When she reaches 67, she’s retired and drawing Social Security benefits.
In Julia’s world, demographic, technological and environmental change are on pause. She doesn’t need to worry about waiting for the new Intel chip to come out before she buys a new laptop. The new chip never comes. And in the same way, the government doesn’t need to worry about the effect of unforeseen new medical technologies on the cost of health care. The policies that work today will work equally well tomorrow.
There’s no ageing population problem. There’s no demographic bulge threatening Social Security or Medicare. The labour market goes on as it does now with undisrupted by technological or trade induced change. And while climate change is a constant source of anxiety, it remains lodged in a future that never comes.
Are Americans in denial about history? And if they are, how would that warp their decision making?