|A Budget Valentine||The Home Equity Partnership|
by Christopher Chantrill
February 19, 2008 at 11:41 pm
LAST WEEK several conservative columnists, with one voice, declared presidential candidate Barack Obama an empty suit. At least, they reckoned that his speechifying demonstrated an astonishing lack of content.
Charles Krauthammer complained about the idea of getting people to pay with their votes for something that ought to be audaciously free: hope. John Hawkins called Obama an empty suit who excites gullible dimwits by reciting words like hope and change. Barack is old wine in a new bottle, reckoned Mona Charen, an utterly conventional, down-the-line liberal Democrat.
You could say that the Obama operation acts like any up-and-coming winery, selling an ordinary wine with a colorful label that really jumps off the shelf at the supermarket.
You can get a flavor of Senator Obamas conventional, liberal program on his website. Thats where he has published his platform, a set of detailed policy prescriptions called The Blueprint for Change.
Mona Charen is right. Barack Obamas platform is standard Democratic boilerplate. He proposes universal health insurance to cover the presently uninsured. On education he proposes a Zero to Five program of learning and care for children and families, adds funding to No Child Left Behind, and makes college more affordable. On Social Security he is strongly opposed to privatization, opposes raising the retirement age and proposes to choose a payroll tax reform package to keep Social Security solvent. Hell bring all our combat brigades home from Iraq in 16 months. There will be no permanent bases in Iraq, but theres an out. If al Qaeda attempts to build a base in Iraq hell use US troops for targeted strikes on al Qaeda.
Its interesting to compare the listing of Obama issues on BarackObama.com with the issues on JohnMcCain.com. You can tell that the two candidates are running in different parties. Obama writes about Civil Rights, Disabilities, Faith, Family. John McCain talks about Human Dignity & the Sanctity of Life. Where Obama writes about Economy and Fiscal, McCain writes about his Economic Stimulus Plan, his McCain Tax Cut Plan, and Government Spending, Lower Taxes, and Economic Prosperity.
So when you compare the two platforms you realize that both are predictable. The candidates are building them of the same old planks that have been used in Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns for the last several elections.
This suggests that the 50-50 nation politics of the past twenty years is likely to continue through the November election. As they have for the last generation, the Democrats will stand on a platform of defending and extending the pensions and subsidies of the welfare state, and Republicans are still trying to find a way to wriggle out of paying for it.
Political parties, like people, do not change their ways unless forced to do so. People change their ways after a loss: of a love, a spouse, a career. Political parties change their ways after they have lost landslide elections. There hasnt been a landslide since 1984.
By all rights, Republicans should be staring defeat in the face this year, having subjected voters to a mortgage meltdown and, very likely, a recession. Yet the very emptiness of the Democratic challenge, a promise of change built upon a platform of more of the same suggests that we have not yet arrived at a point of political inflexion.
Real change issues not from the ordinary manipulations of practical politicians but when politicians climb aboard a movement of moral renewal. Thats the thesis of William G. McLoughlin in Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform. For him the three great reform eras in the United Statesthe Revolutionary era, the Civil War era, and the Progressive/Liberal eraall issued from movements of religious revival. In The Fourth Great Awakening Robert William Fogel suggests that the current religious revival in the United States represents the start of a new reform era, one that is likely to take liberals out of power unless they can figure out how to co-opt it.
It is this emerging movement of moral revival that surprised our governing elite in the aftermath of the Supreme Courts triumphant decision in Roe v. Wade that freed women, victims of the species, from the yoke of unwanted pregnancy. Unexpectedly, a movement of rejection erupted against the elite assumption that childbearing was a mere interruption in a life of self-development and creativity. Nobody knows where this movement will end.
But it is clear that the change proposed by the pro-life movement promises a lot more change to the political and moral/cultural status quo that the audacious hope for change proposed by Senator Barack Obama.
When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of agesthey seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990
In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society
We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.
E. G. West, Education and the State
Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures
The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since
1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and
philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West
Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its
characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then,
once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities
But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie
that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all.
In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness...
But to make a man act [he must have]
the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove
or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action
[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
When we received Christ, Phil added, all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh
The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital