|The Scrooge in Me||President Obama and the Prisoner's Dilemma|
by Christopher Chantrill
January 01, 2013 at 12:00 am
NOW I GET IT. I get the bone-deep mendacity of President Obama’s politics. Here is the money quote from from President Obama’s Meet the Press interview on Sunday.
GREGORY: “Would you commit to that first year of your second term getting significant [entitlement] reform done?” …
OBAMA: “David, I want to be very clear. You are not only going to cut your way to prosperity. One of the fallacies I think that has been promoted is this notion that deficit reduction is only a matter of cutting programs that are really important to seniors, students and so forth. That has to be part of the mix, but what I ran on and what the American people elected me to do was to put forward a balanced approach. To make sure that there’s shared sacrifice. … And it is very difficult for me to say to a senior citizen or a student or a mom with a disabled kid, ‘You are going to have to do with less but we’re not going to ask millionaires and billionaires to do more.’” …
You see what the president is doing here. He is preparing the battlefield for the day, a year from now or a decade from now, when real entitlement cuts cannot be kicked down the road for another day. He wants the rank and file Democratic voter to be just as shocked and outraged on that day as the Wisconsin demonstrators of 2011 and the Michigan union demonstrators of 2012.
You don’t hear a peep out of the president about the need for a plan to reform entitlements, and you never will. Tweets Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA): “The latest unacceptable Republican offer would mean more pain for the middle class, poor & seniors – and more giveaways to the wealthiest.” No context, no attempt to prepare Democratic voters for the future. Just simple class warfare.
The fact is, as the president and Sen. Boxer well know, the long-term prognosis for the federal government’s finances is lousy. And the reason is the big entitlement programs. That’s why I created usfederalbudget.us, Mr. President. I wanted any American with half a brain to be able to look at today’s government spending data and see that, out of the federal government’s total $3.8 trillion in spending this year, about $0.9 trillion goes for government pensions, and $0.9 trillion for government health care. That’s where the money is.
The bottom line for you, Mr. President, ought to be this. When the money runs out Democratic voters will get hurt the most. You’d think that you would want to level with them, since you care about those moms and their disabled kids so much.
I have to admit, Mr. President, that I had an epiphany last week about people like you while I was writing a chapter in my American Manifesto about governments as freebooters and government supporters as freeloaders. I was thinking about the difference between the landed magnates, the ruling class of the feudal era, and the educated class, ruling class of the welfare state era. I reckoned that the landed warrior class was a natural ruling class because, whatever their arrogance, their armed might protected the peasants from looting by Vikings and neighboring states. But what makes today’s educated class so special?
Then I figured it out. Back in the middle of the 19th century things were getting better for the poor for the first time ever, what with the textile revolution and the railway revolution and steamships and all. But suppose you were a political activist, thirsting for power and meaning. What was the point of an economy that was delivering real improvement to the working man, raising the poor out of indigence and making national figures out of textile and railroad barons, if it didn’t mean money, power and the love of beautiful women for people like you?
That’s when Karl Marx had his brilliant idea. Why not divide the masters from the workers, and win votes from the workers by demonizing the masters and plundering their wealth? Why not tell the capitalists: you didn’t build that. Divide and conquer. What could go wrong?
What could go wrong, Mr. President, is Reynolds Law. “Things that can’t go on forever, won’t. Debt that can’t be repaid, won’t be. Promises that can’t be kept, won’t be.” What could go wrong is that the educated ruling class would make a mess of everything it meddled with: health care, pensions, education, housing, green energy, the dollar. For what?
Democratic politicians are never going to come up with an entitlement reform plan and warn their senior voters and their moms with disabled kids. When the Democratic voters are reduced to eating the paint off the walls they will want to be able to say that the Republicans did it.
[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.
[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier.
Gen. Hans von Seeckt, quoted in MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050.
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists, she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican
[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State
These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self
Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable...
[1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006
No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, Letter to Lord Lytton
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel