Friday, June 15, 2012

Politics vs. Policy

At The American Conservative, Scott Galupo points out that as much as the welfare state could benefit from reform, it was not the cause of the recession and painfully slow recovery.
Of course, the big-government conservative legacy looks worse after the crisis, as revenues plummeted and annual deficits spiked. But to fasten onto these policies is to confuse effect for cause. So it is with the apparatus of the welfare state: It looks to be in even worse shape than it was before the crash. But it did not cause the crisis.

Does it need to be reformed? Of course it does. Only the most ideologically hardened liberal would deny it.
And he's right. It should be no surprise that the last major welfare reform, and the last budget surpluses, occurred under a Democratic President - because both the Republican and Democratic center support reforms that will make entitlements sustainable and are on the whole fiscally conservative. I suspect that President Obama was hoping to accomplish the same sort of bipartisan reforms, but was instead met with a Republican Party that correctly predicted that catering to the party's ideologues and obstructing even sensible legislation would benefit them come election time.

Romney ran for the nomination with a wink to the center, "Trust me, I'm only saying these things to get the nomination," and now he's trying to win the Presidency with a wink to the ideologues, "Trust me, I'm only saying these things to win the election." And so far he's been able to get away with implying that he holds whatever view any given group of Republican voters holds, while fastidiously avoiding making commitments or sharing details that would give us any real sense of what he stands for.

A plausible argument has been made that had President Obama's "grand bargain" with Boehner succeeded, it would have triggered the same sort of economic debacle we've seen result from austerity measures in Europe. Whether or not that's true, the fact is President Obama can get behind such a plan because a majority of voters want a long-term budget plan, want a balanced budget, and will support entitlement reform. It's difficult to know if Boehner and friends are so wedded to the destruction of Medicare and Social Security that they can no longer sign on to sensible reforms, or if they simply decided that the political price associated with doing what they argue would be the right thing for the country exceeds the benefit of helping to implement such a plan. Either way....

Meanwhile, we can't have the federal judges we need, no matter how qualified the nominees, because... politics.

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