I’ve attacked Hugh Hewitt many times over the years for being a Republican homer. I’m happy to give him credit now for leading the charge against the House Republicans for failing so far to cut the budget or cut government in any meaningful way.
House Republicans lost the first round of the messaging battle over the budget last week with a lame attempt to cut less than $40 billion against the Pledge to America’s goal of at least $100 billion, but then President Obama forfeited round two with an absurd budget that elicited a genuine bipartisan reaction of scorn for his fecklessness.
Proving themselves equal to the challenge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the new GOP majority promptly proceeded to block what looked like a clean attempt to defund Obamacare sponsored by Representative Steve King of Iowa and then followed with a series of failed amendments to cut spending featuring numerous senior Republicans voting to defend appropriations for, among other programs, the Legal Services Corporation.
Now that they are in power the Republicans can’t quite commit themselves to the radical cutting of government that the Tea Party voters want. They don’t understand that things have changed.
Why at this late date cannot the Republicans get serious about cutting spending and reducing the debt?
In a word, inertia. The welfare state has been in existence for about 75 years. In all that time government has only grown. William Voegeli says that liberal victories advance liberalism, whereas conservative victories postpone liberalism — but they don’t cut government.
Politicians hate to be the bringer of pain. No one ever got elected by saying “I will take away your benefits and your money from you.” There are more votes in being Santa Claus, in giving stuff away (with other people’s money).
The path to electoral success has been to borrow to buy votes and let the next guy worry about paying off the credit card. Welfare state politicians have been helped over the decades by the dynamic power of capitalism to create wealth. If the government can reign in the growth of the state even a little, as it did under Reagan and Clinton, economic growth can ease a lot of the pain.
George W. Bush and Obama threw out any attempt to restrain the state, and spending has skyrocketed since 2001. W was bad, and Obama has been even worse. This increase in deficit spending comes during a time of weak economy, and just as the leading edge of the Baby Boomers are reaching retirement.
I believe the Democrats, and probably many Republicans, are hoping to get out of this crisis by inflating the dollar. Inflation has already started with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s policy of “quantitative easing.”
Last year I noticed that I could take $100 worth of grocery from the trunk of my car to the kitchen in one trip. Yes, I carried five or six bags in each hand (plastic, of course — none of that green nonsense for me), and I’m not including cases of liquid refreshment. Still, 10 years ago $100 would have taken me several trips to move.
I bet that three years from now I will be able to move $200 worth of groceries in one trip. I’ll report back to you in 2014.
Politicians can’t resist inflation because it’s a hidden tax for which they evade the blame. Instead — and this makes it particularly enticing to a leftist like Obama — the rise in prices can be blamed on greedy capitalist pigs.
Both Rahm Emanuel and Hillary Clinton have sung dithyrambs in praise of crisis. These people are hardcore statists who understand that crises help the growth of the state. They don’t care if we’re heading for disaster; in fact, they will do what they can to bring it on.
So much for the Democrats. Only the Republicans can head off this crisis, and it looks like they don’t have it in them.
It will take an emergency to get us out of government business as usual. Our national security is in a similar rut. Islamic fundamentalists are still at war with us, but we do nothing serious to end the threat. We will do nothing until they attack again — and they will — then maybe we’ll be shocked and outraged into doing something. Or maybe not. Maybe we have lost the will to survive.
In both domestic and foreign policy America today is like a fat man who does not exercise, who smokes, eats food full of grease and sugar and evades medical check-ups. His veins are clogged with cholesterol, and he is heading for a heart attack or stroke. He should change now, but after decades of happy, sedentary life, he cannot change his habits.
One hopes that such a man, if he survives the coming medical emergency, is shocked into facing the reality that he must reform his ways or he will soon die. We can only hope that the coming crises shock the better politicians into real, substantive change.