The future is now, writes Patrick Ruffini:
One of the biggest reasons for the Right’s decline in the Bush era is that we had long since completed most of the items on our to-do list. Low marginal tax rates? Check. The Soviet Union gone? Check. Welfare reform? Check.
This empty cupboard of ideas had led to progressively more minimalist Republican governing agendas and campaign platforms. If John McCain proposed any big, game-changing policy shifts in the last election, I must have missed them. It’s true that Obama’s ideas were not new either — but he was able to sell them as “change” because they had been not tried in toto since the Johnson Administration, and people had forgotten how badly they had crashed on the rocks their last time out. Obama’s central thesis — that government ownership and central planning can outpace returns in the private market — is actually very, very old. His playbook is that of FDR in 1933, Attlee in 1946, and Mitterand in 1981.
The effect on the Right even before Obama had been so corrossive that the institutional right was utterly incapable of offering any competing thesis of the economic crisis, leaving government ownership and bailouts as the only “appropriate” policy response. Even the previous Administration, made up of men of the Right, justified the bailouts — and particularly the auto bailout that precipitated the White House putsch at GM — as inevitable, “temporary,” “emergency” measures.
Fast forward two months into the Obama era. Pro-forma denials of nationalization and socialism aside, the White House feels responsible enough for the insurance and automobile industries to dictate their management and maximum salaries — the classic hallmarks of ownership. The Federal budget has swelled to $3.6 billion, and revenues cover barely half the bill. To an extent probably never seen before in our history, there are no consequences for business failure, no consequences for individuals who took out loans they couldn’t pay for, and no consequences for government that overspends.
The Welfare State mentality of the ’60s that created the conditions for 1980 and 1994 systemically excused bad behavior at an individual level, creating millions of individual tragedies. Obamanomics systematically excuses bad behavior at the wholesale macroeconomic level, creating a vicious circle of irresponsibility with major consequences for every American.
If nothing else, the first 70 days of Obama — with an assist from the last 4 months of Bush — has left government economic policy so off-kilter that it may take a decade or more to fix. Remember that exhausted to-do list? Not a problem any more.
Meanwhile, Janet Daley writes, “If capitalism is ‘overthrown’, we’ll lose our political freedom.” And she should know–her essay in appear in the Telegraph, published in England, or as it increasingly resembles, Airstrip One.
Update: “The fact that we have been here before is part of what makes this all so frustrating.”