Friday, January 01, 2010

Fighting Over Scraps of Nothing

RealClearPolitics - Fighting Over the Squandered Decade

EJ is a nice well respected far lefty, and I think he does a good job of laying out the false choices of the supposed "left / right" dichotomy that I increasingly reject. Both Democrats and Republicans of today are very far to the left in terms of the America of 1900. We have been on the "wrong track" for essentially 100 years and part of how it shows is that most of our arguments are so false that we don't even realize what they are about.
I'm afraid that the past 10 years will be seen as a time when the United States badly lost its way by using our military power carelessly, misunderstanding the real challenges to our long-term security, and pursuing domestic policies that constrained our options for the future while needlessly threatening our prosperity.
"Afraid"? Don't you mean that you "fervently hope"? Later in the article he is going to hold up the 60's and the 30's as exemplary -- the 30's involved ignoring the rising threat of Fascism and a world war that followed, the 60's brought us Vietnam and the 70's economic collapse that followed (EJ fails to remember the existence of the 70's). EJ fervently hopes that Bush is seen as "the cause" of what he probably realizes will be the disastrous decade of the teens given the policies that BO has already embarked on. What are the actual drivers of the deficis? FICA, Medicare and other entitlements -- policies of the 30's and 60's. Dionne has a nice sleight of hand.

Domestically, Obama inherited an economic catastrophe. Dealing with the wreckage required a large expenditure of public funds that increased a deficit already bloated by the previous president's decision to fight two wars and to cut taxes at the same time. Bush's defenders, preferring to focus attention away from this earlier period of irresponsibility, act as if the world began on Jan. 20, 2009, by way of saddling Obama with the blame for everything that now ails us. But the previous eight years cannot be wished away.

I certainly hope that Democrats are in complete agreement that who controls congress is meaningless. They took over in '07, and it was obvious that they were going to do so in '06. If the Republican's could manage to wrest control in '10, I'm sure that EJ would never blame any subsequent problems on them. It must be a tidy world that is split into "Bush defenders" and "reasonable people". Did deficits start with Bush? Other than '69 and '99, we have always had deficits since the '30s. The major false choice here is that there is somehow a big difference between W and BO -- W created a medicare drug benefit that is about as big a bloat as something like half of BOcare. Over even the medium term, that alone is more costly than the "two wars". It is always interesting to me how the liberal retrospectives of the decade somehow tend to ignore 9-11. Were BOTH wars optional? Should Bush have raised taxes into the teeth of the recession that he was handed from the Clinton administration after the dot com crash and the 9-11 shock?
It should not surprise us that the battle for the future will be shaped by struggles over the past. How often over the last 40 years have conservatives defended their policies in the name of rolling back "the excesses of the '60s"? For even longer, liberals were charged with being locked into "the New Deal approaches of the 1930s." Liberals, in turn, pointed proudly to both eras as times of unparalleled social advance. 
As for the 1980s, they remain a positive reference point for conservatives even as progressives condemn the Age of Reagan for opening the way to the deregulatory excesses that led to the recent downturn.
I'd say that the core difference is really there -- the 30's and the 60's gave us a host of entitlements and expansion of government that have saddled us with ever increasing debt, unfunded liabilities, and loss of the sense of individual responsibility to save to provide for ones own retirement. Both eras also gave us significant wars -- WWII and Vietnam. If Iraq was a "war of convenience", then Vietnam was even more so -- NOBODY attacked us. It is very interesting to try to claim that the subprime bubble is a product of "Reagan deregulatory excess". There is plenty of blame to go around, but the key element in sub-prime was the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977 that forces lenders down the path of finding ways to loan money to people that actually didn't qualify for loans. It simply got out of hand.

BOTH parties have been giving away the store for 100 years. The original "progressives" were led by Teddy Roosevelt, supposedly a Republican. Wilson, FDR, Johnson, Nixon and Carter moved the "progressive" ball farther -- Nixon was big on the environment, lots of government controls and big government in general. Yes, Reagan did away with enough of the excesses of 80 years of government fattening to ignite the best period of economic growth in our history, but he did NOTHING to fix the entitlements mess, and in fact did the biggest tax INCREASE in history with the FICA/Medicare bill that increased the rate and allowed the caps to keep rising.

We need a MASSIVE entitlement REDUCTION -- but we are getting the exact opposite!