“A Very Profound Trespass of the American Consensus.”

October 16, 2010 at 9:15 pm (By Amba)

That is so beautifully put.

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27 Comments

  1. Peter Hoh said,

    Balderdash.

    Americans aren’t fed up with spending. They want spending, but only on the stuff they like, which is pretty much all of it.

    Tell me more about the “radical policies” of the Obama administration. I haven’t noticed any radical policies.

    A backlash against a perceived overreach on health care is also a silly claim. Democrats have been advocating for something like a single-payer health care system for a long time. Carter didn’t try. The Clinton attempt failed. This time, instead of trying for single-payer, they lower their sights and come out with a plan that is similar to what the GOP proposed as a counter to the Clinton plan.

    Between the Clinton plan and the Obama plan there was what? A steep rise in health care insurance rates, a little talk about tort reform, and a little talk about health savings accounts. Oh yeah, and a 500 billion sop to seniors and the pharmaceutical industry.

    We have a system in which less than a quarter of House seats are actually competitive. The gains Dems made in 2006 and 2008 were in these toss-up seats. They are easy for the GOP to pick off in a year when there’s voter dissatisfaction, just as they were easy for the Dems to pick off in 2006 and 2008.

    The leadership in the House typically sits in safe seats, so they remain, like barnacles on the ship of state. The voters can whipsaw control of the House between the two parties, but they can’t get really change it.

    The Senate is not likely to change hands, even with this supposed groundswell against the Democrats. Yes, some Democrats will lose their Senate seats, but not enough to swing the Senate. Be sure to thank Christine O’Donnell and the Tea Party, should there be a 50-50 split.

  2. amba12 said,

    I don’t know if “radical” is the right word for hugely growing the government — even further — but that’s what is objected to. It’s taking up more and more of the functions of life (e.g. job creation) into government, which has the power to coerce and penalize, which has no competitor to make it efficient, and which has been demonstrated in Europe to bankrupt economies.

  3. amba12 said,

    The leadership in the House typically sits in safe seats, so they remain, like barnacles on the ship of state. The voters can whipsaw control of the House between the two parties, but they can’t get really change it.

    Agreed. I’m so looking forward to the change from Pelosi’s facelift to Boehner’s fake tan.

  4. Peter Hoh said,

    In the US, government has grown in size and scope since its inception. Growing government is as much an American tradition as apple pie.

    As for government power, what’s the alternative? You really want a weak federal government? It’s not like the federal government just acquired the power to coerce and penalize. Remember the Whiskey Rebellion? Had they the internet, those guys in western Pennsylvania would have written fiery blog posts about President Washington, the usurper of freedom, bent on expanding government and threatening to destroy their livelihood.

  5. Rod said,

    I think the difference in the last two election cycles is fear. People understand the economy is broken. They intuitively understand the way to fix it is to balance the budget. They get a lot of talk about cutting taxes from one party and unlimited spending from the other. Neither party is willing to trim government because every program has its constituency.

    The Republicans will probably win big, but it will not be a ringing endorsement of them. People remember that the economy fell apart on their watch. However, there is no sense that the Democrats have an answer. The mood of the public isn’t anger so much as frustration. They are sick of both parties, and they are grasping at straws to find an answer.

    It is the kind of time that gives rise to demagogues.

  6. amba12 said,

    Peter, that sounds like a justification for endlessly growing government. (What comparison is tickling the edges of my mind? What in nature always gets bigger and bigger?) One would have to be a nut to want to abolish the federal government, but Democrats tend to argue as if any complaint or question about its size was tantamount to wanting to abolish it. That’s disingenuous arguing, like saying any opposition to President Obama is racism — it’s silencing rather than countering the argument.

    The size of the federal government has burgeoned under both parties, but only Democrats have an ideological enthusiasm for that development. A majority of Americans across a pretty broad ideological spectrum had a gut feeling that the 2300-page health care bill and the new layers of bureaucratic labyrinth it creates far exceeded the optimal size and efficiency of government, and that it was passed without the consent of the governed. We can’t just say “We are helpless to stop the growth of government, it is inevitable, a law of nature.”

  7. amba12 said,

    But, Peter, BTW, it’s certainly true that people like spending that benefits them. I have a friend in NJ who’s been unemployed for 2 years and is still job hunting. Her daughter-in-law’s a teacher, her husband drives a bus part-time and has been denied full-time status and bennies for budget reasons. They are really strapped. She’s a Christian conservative (if it weren’t for her faith she’d be completely bonkers) and she compares Gov Christie to Obama and hates him nearly as much. She says they both just high-handedly do what they please.

  8. wj said,

    I think I might say that this election is not about anger, or fear (another analysis I have come a cross several times). Rather, I would say that it ispessimism.

    The big issue, not the only big issue, but the one that overwhelms all the others, is the economy. It’s not like this is the first time the economy has tanked. Granted, the previous couple of decades featured much milder economic cycles, and those are all that a fair number of people can remember. But a lot of the rest of us have been thru bigger swings, and even those who have not may at least have read something of the Great Depression (even if they are not familiar with the “panics” which afflicted the last half fo the 19th century).

    But what is different, from what I can see, is the state of mind of the population. The normal American mindset, for the first couple of centuries of the nation’s eistance, was optimism. Things might get bad, but the belief of most people was that they could and would get better. They would bet better again when things were bad. and they would get better over the long term as well. “Progress” was the expectation.

    But that level of optimism does not seem to be present at anywhere near the same level today. There are groups that maintain it (especially immigrant groups, interestingly enough). But overall, people seem to think that the future has little or no prospect of being better than the past. The “past” that they view as better may have little relation to how that time actually was, but what matters is that they think it was better. In short, they are pessimistic about the future. And that, I would say, isthe critical part of the “new concensus”.

    There are a couple of results from this:
    — There is a strong desire to turn away from anything (or anyone) who is preceived to have changed things from the way they were in that happy past.
    — There is a huge potential opening for any politician who can articulate a theory about what would ahve to happen to get back to that happy past.
    — There is little willingness to listen to anyone who tries to inject a little reality and dares to say “We’ve been living in a dream world. The party’s over, and now we have to deal with the hangover and pay the bills.” (Sorry for the mixed metaphors.)

    All of which leads to an anti-incumbant swing (which mostly impacts Democrats, because they are the ones who won the litmited number of swing seats in the past couple of elections). It also leads to a rise in groups like the Tea Party, which haven’t articulated much on what they would actually do, but are real clear on what they are against: government spending on any program that they don’t personally benefit from. (But just try asking any Tea Partier what specific parts of Social Security, Medicare, and defense they would, and see if you can get an answer that even recognizes that major cuts in those are necessary if government is to really shrink and the budget balance.)

  9. Peter Hoh said,

    I don’t believe that I suggested that you wanted to abolish government.

    Your notion that “only Democrats have an ideological enthusiasm” for government growth doesn’t match up with the track record of the past dozen years. Am I to believe that when the GOP held all the marbles in D.C., they grew government against their will? Or am I to believe that their expansion of government is somehow more acceptable, because they demagogue against it when the Democrats are in power?

    Over the past 25 years, what spending has been cut? What spending programs have been substantially reformed? Welfare reform — under Clinton.

    Ethanol has been shown to be a failed experiment, but the subsidies still flow. Doesn’t matter which party is in control, this boondoggle benefits those who fill the campaign coffers, and so it continues.

    Defense spending has ceased to be about meeting military needs. It’s morphed into a jobs/stimulus program. The industry has figured out how to spread the money over enough congressional districts to keep them in business forever.

    As for consent of the governed, what do you want? A referendum on each and every bill? Or only bills above a certain scope? We have a representative system. It works best when there’s transparency and accountability, and when rules are followed. Yes, a 2,300 page bill is not very transparent. But the GOP leadership doesn’t get points for transparency and following the rules. Consider how far they went to pass their major health bill, Medicare, Part D.

  10. amba12 said,

    Peter, I’m not defending the Republicans. But you are defending the Democrats. As far as I’m concerned they’re both unforgivable (but Bill Clinton is looking better and better, isn’t he? Heh). It’s a sad state of affairs when all we can do is slap one cheek in one election and the other in the next election, so that neither form of screwing up gets as far as it otherwise might.

    One thing that is rarely mentioned is that as population grows, the systems that worked well enough to manage life with half as many people no longer work. Changes in technology and the evolution of finance may not be able to keep pace with the wavefront where a quantitative change becomes qualitative. How are so many people going to be supported? People are expensive and so business wants as little as possible to do with them — part-time work, contract labor, outsourcing, automation. Having government take care of them is a stopgap solution, because government is so unwieldy and printing money for social welfare is economically unsustainable. There may not be a solution. Ron? Tom Strong? You there?

  11. wj said,

    I don’t think that the problem is that we can no longer cope with population growth. Rather, at least as far as government finances are concerned, it is closer to accurate to say that the problem is that the population stopped growing so fast. (Note that this is not to say that there are not lots of other problems associated with population growth.)

    The deficit problem for the Federal government (and for a lot of state governments) is that there are major programs which were designed for one demographic distribution, that are not viable with the one we now have. Suppose our generation had been full of 4 (or at least 3) child families, as our parent’s generation was, rather than the 1-2 children per family that actually happened. The bulge in the population that is the Baby Boomer generation would not be rolling like a tsunami into the age bracket where the bulk of government outlays occur. If we still had a substantially growing working population, giving us a half dozen people working for each retiree still, Social Security and Medicare would be much smaller issues in the overall budget. Probably still a problem, but nowhere near as big a one.

    But instead, we are looking at 2-3 workers per retiree. And that just isn’t enough money coming in (absent enormous tax increases) to support the number of people who are “entitled” to benefits on the scale currently provided. Put another way, there were enough of us to support our parents on that scale. But there are not enough of our children and grandchildren to support us the same way. And an awful lot of us cheerfully ignored the obvious, and didn’t bother to save enough to support ourselves.

  12. Peter Hoh said,

    Defending the Democrats? Only against the charge that they are significantly worse than the Republicans. Put me in a room full of Dem apologists, and I’d change my tune.

    I agree that the two party system is too resistant to change. Moving from one to the other, when we ought to reject both, doesn’t do enough.

    There’s nothing in the constitution about two parties.

  13. amba12 said,

    wj — Social Security has never made sense to me. It’s like a pyramid scheme you can never stop, because the people who paid in expect to get theirs back.

  14. amba12 said,

    Peter — you’d think two parties WERE in the Constitution. Why are we so stuck with them? Sheer inertia?

  15. Peter Hoh said,

    When I was passing out John Anderson campaign literature in 1980, an old guy yelled at me. I can’t remember his exact words, but he was pretty upset. He said something to the effect that running as an independent was un-American.

  16. Maxwell James said,

    Bill Clinton is looking better and better, isn’t he? Heh

    Not really.

    Bill Clinton was extremely fortunate – he became president right before the crest of a massive increase in the use and effectiveness of computing technology, which was a great and huge boost to the economy at the time. Other than that, what actually separates his governance approach from Obama’s (other than Obama was lucky enough to get HCR passed and Clinton was not?)

  17. amba12 said,

    Welfare reform.

  18. amba12 said,

    But I agree that Clinton was lucky.

  19. Maxwell James said,

    Passed in 1996, two years after the last Republican tidal wave.

  20. amba12 said,

    But proposed by Clinton. i.e. it was actually something a Democrat and some Republicans managed to agree on.

  21. Peter Hoh said,

    I could support Mitch Daniels. Althouse has made some noise about him, too. Today, Andrew Sullivan posted this, which suggests that Daniels will have a hard time persuading the GOP to listen to him, let alone nominate him.

  22. amba12 said,

    the real point is that all this should be debatable, if conservatism is going to regenerate as a serious governing philosophy, rather than as a formula for media success.

    Exactly.

    There you go breaking my heart again — pointing out someone I too could support who probably doesn’t have a chance, who won’t pander to unrealists and promise everything to everybody, won’t pretend to a pie-in-the-sky ideological purity impossible in the real world.

  23. Maxwell James said,

    But proposed by Clinton. i.e. it was actually something a Democrat and some Republicans managed to agree on.

    Sure. And assuming the GOP retakes the House, I have no doubt Obama will propose an education reform bill. Thus far, Obama has governed as if Clinton were his favorite uncle, and I fully expect that trend to continue. And I think that remains true whether or not you admire or despise Bill Clinton.

  24. Maxwell James said,

    Here’s a somewhat more lengthy argument for my position.

  25. Peter Hoh said,

    Maxwell, that’s a brutal review. And it’s not in the New Republic or some other liberal rag. It’s in the Weekly Standard.

    My favorite line: “Readers will not be shocked that D’Souza’s paradigm easily passes D’Souza’s test. . . .”

  26. amba12 said,

    Oh, Maxwell. (Comment 24) That’s the most delicious fisking I’ve read in a long time. I feel warm all over.

  27. Peter Hoh said,

    Andrew Sullivan highlights a post from a Tea Party supporter who nonetheless is willing to offer some pointed criticism.

    Christian Hartsock writes:

    A convenient Tea Party mantra has been the presumptuous, and seemingly amnesiac notion that President Obama “betrayed the American people,” that “We the People have spoken and never wanted Obama’s policies.”

    Obama made his agenda clear during his campaign: He promised to socialize health care, to push for cap and trade, to implement tax policies that would “spread the wealth around,” he equated redistribution of wealth with “neighborliness,” supported the 2008 Wall Street bailouts, demonstrated his faith in Keynesian economics, his class warfare mentality, his distrust for the free market…

    We the People were given these promises and facts, and We the People elected Barack Obama president by a 7 percent margin. Period. In fact, many of the promises the left held Obama to were broken, including his promise to preserve bans on offshore drilling, to close Guantanamo, to pass an immigration bill in the first year, and to pass the Freedom of Choice act, among other things. Thus the President has even fallen shy of satisfying his most liberal supporters.

    To trumpet this narrative makes conservatives seem like sore losers in denial, and to threaten a “second revolution” with upside-down flags as a reaction to losing a fair election speaks more about a general bitterness towards the electoral process itself which is inconsistent with our supposedly superlative support for the constitution.

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