Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Story Of Our Country

Paul Gottfried writes,
What are at issue here are two different conceptions of the welfare state, both with rival advocates. The Tea Partiers favor a massive welfare state, providing that entitlements are aimed at them. They oppose the increased use of revenues and above all, the increase of taxes to finance a different welfare state, one designed to accommodate low-income minorities, government workers, and amnestied illegal aliens.
I disagree with Gottfried, on the whole. The population in this nation that wants a social safety net that helps others is quite small. Pretty much every population, individual or corporate, fits the description Gottfried assigns to Tea Partiers, "favor[ing] a massive welfare state, providing that entitlements are aimed at them".

For those trying to ensure a social safety net to benefit others, I'm really not aware of any of note who favor what is so easily caricatured as "a massive welfare state". That may be a suitable description for some of the advocates of social welfare programs in the 1960's or 1970's, but the notion of "a hand up, not a handout" seems more resonant post Reagan's "welfare queen" stories and Clinton's welfare reform. (G.W.'s advisors recognized that fact, and thus put those very words into his mouth; unfortunately, he had little interest in doing more than mouthing them.)
These are the groups that are likely to benefit most from the present Democratic revamping of the public sector. They are also groups that will propel Democratic victories in the future; and what such legislation as national health care, and the bill to amnesty illegals, now under congressional consideration, will do is create a more solidified Democratic constituency.
Even if you accept Gottfried's thesis that the Democrats are trying to build a welfare state that will inure principally to the benefit of low-income minorities, government workers, and beneficiaries of what to-date is an imaginary amnesty bill, what he describes is in no way altruistic. He's describing G.W.'s push for immigration reform in the early months of his Presidency (when his approval ratings were quickly tanking), G.W.'s push for a massive expansion of the corporate welfare state, G.W.'s unfunded "Medicare, Part D", G.W.'s financial industry bailout proposal (initially "You give us $1 trillion or so, you get no oversight, we're not answerable to anybody in how we spend the money", but "refined" into a corporate welfare program both parties could support). You could argue that Bush thought each of those welfare programs was "for the good of the nation" but, as with Gottfried's cynical interpretation of the Obama Administration's agenda, "for the good of the party" might be a better answer.

Gottfried's idea that "a gift-bearing regime always lands up producing squabbles among the gift-recipients" is not untrue, but given the actual track record of the Republican Party the conceit that we're talking about a "democratic welfare state" is laughable. Both parties got us into this mess, and it's usually the Republicans who strive to identify and exploit wedge issues to create the various "squabbles" over who gets what.

Bush was trying to serve business interests that want immigration reform, and to gain advantage in the immigrant communities that would benefit from reform and amnesty; it's not that the Democrats have an advantage in implementing immigration reform, so much as it is that the Republican Party's catering to populist rage against immigrants "taking our jobs" has poisoned the well for that party's outreach. It's the same thing Chairman Steele conceded to the African American community. The Democratic Party doesn't have to work very hard to gain an advantage in the communities the Republican Party is content to alienate as they instead attempt to leverage Tea Party rage.

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