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Although I’ve been critical of my state’s current governor, it’s usually been to twit him for not cutting budgets sufficiently. While Tom Corbett is spot on in wanting to privatize Pennsylvania’s liquor monopoly, he should not be trying to feather the nests of other public employees by promising to pay off teachers with the proceeds gained from selling state-owned liquor stores. It seems wrong to mix something as desirable as privatizing liquor sales with something as silly as paying teachers to instruct adolescents in the proper use of alcoholic beverages. Let parents or some voluntary group do the instructing!

Unfortunately I’m not at all on the same page with most residents of the Keystone State, who presumably dislike Corbett for being a budget cruncher. According to the latest Franklin and Marshall poll, Corbett, who enjoys only 26 percent approval, may be the most hated governor in Pennsylvania history. It seems nothing he does is really popular: you’d think everyone but state employees working in the state-owned liquor stores would be applauding Corbett’s proposal to privatize liquor sales. After all, state residents, according to extensive studies conducted by Commonwealth Foundation, are paying 50 percent more on their liquor purchases than people in surrounding states.

Strangely enough, the privatization plan resonates positively with only 52 percent of those polled. I suspect that once this idea was linked to the supposedly stingy Corbett, a plan that otherwise would have been immensely popular lost part of its appeal. It apparently makes no difference in terms of his popular standing that Corbett’s state budget, given rising costs, is still higher than previous budgets, if not nearly as high as the one Governor Rendell would likely be giving us. There is nothing to suggest the governor will slash our extravagant pensions for public employees.

This situation illustrates for me a general problem facing this country, perhaps even more critically than is the case in other Western countries. Unlike Canada or Germany, which have large welfare states but are willing to economize, in the U.S. voters just want more and more social programs, and politicians are too cowardly or ideologically driven to say “no.” I’ve never accepted the idiocy pushed on Fox News that the U.S. is a “right of center” country, but I also never realized until recently how undisciplined we’ve become as a government-dependent society. Other social democratic countries focus attention on soaring public debts. We by contrast just ask the state to pay for more stuff, which in the end we finance out of our earnings or cover with Chinese loans. I don’t believe for a moment this problem is confined to minorities. The 74 percent of those surveyed who are against our minimally penny-pinching governor includes far more than minority discontent.

ORDER IT NOW

I began noticing this intensified craving for more and bigger government programs during my later years as a professor. It was obvious by then that my students associated the welfare state with endless goodies, of which education loans would be only the first in a string of expected favors. I came to understand why the young, once employed, didn’t resent paying disproportionately for benefits for retirees. They imagined they would be getting even more loot from the state once the time came for them to retire.

Notice my argument is not that we return to being a constitutional society with a strictly limited government. The hour for that is long over, and I may be in a diminishing number of those who regret that’s the case. I just wish we became a better disciplined social democracy, like Canada, which does better in reining in unsustainable government costs. As a free-market economy the U.S. now lags behind at least ten other countries, according to the Index of Economic Freedom, and has been falling during the last five years. The contention that unlike Europeans we don’t accept a large welfare state is malarkey. What makes us different from other “progressive” societies may be the reason they can provide cheap socialized medicine and we probably couldn’t. Other countries expect less from their governments and in return for being looked after as wards of the state recognize there are limits as to what the state should be doing for them.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Republicans 
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  1. As long as you do not actually call it by the S-word, then America has always been rather good at it. The only America that anyone now alive can remember is the land of big municipal government, of strong unions whose every red cent in political donations buys something specific, of very high levels of cooperative membership, of housing cooperatives even for the upper middle classes, of small farmers who own their own land, and of the pioneering of Keynesianism in practice.

    In stark contrast to that vast global brand, the English Premier League, the National Football League maintains the equal sharing out of ticket and television revenue, and there is still the hard salary cap for players, as well as the very extensive welfare provision. The 2011 Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers, have a not-for-profit model of community ownership which has had to be banned from spreading for fear that it would otherwise prove so popular. The Packers have never moved out of a Midwestern city of only 102,313 people as of the 2000 census. The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball more than do their bit, too. In all three cases, displaying the name or logo of a commercial sponsor on the kit would be considered the very height, or depth, of sacrilege.

    America still had enough Faith, Flag and Family by the 1980s to restrain neoliberal economics then and subsequently. In Britain, we did not, so we could not. Comparing your giant sporting interests to ours makes the point. God Bless America. Games that still begin commonly with the Lord’s Prayer, and which invariably begin with the National Anthem, could never become what their counterparts have become here in a country where many people probably no longer know the words to the Lord’s Prayer and where most people now alive have probably never known all of the words to the National Anthem.

    That is the America which long led the world in protecting high-wage, high-skilled, high-status jobs, both against the exportation of that labor to un-unionized, child-exploiting sweatshops, and against the importation of those sweatshops themselves. Until very recently, that America led the world in “not seeking for monsters to destroy”. Once the universal public healthcare option has come to be, then everyone will say that it is as American as apple pie. As, indeed, it is. ObamaCare is in fact less Socialist than the scheme that was proposed by Richard Nixon.

    That is America, the most successful example of non-Marxist, and where necessary anti-Marxist, Socialism in the world. No one alive can remember America as anything other than that. The only thing missing was universal public healthcare. And even that has now been taken care of. So much so that the last Presidential Election was between the man who delivered ObamaCare and the man who delivered RomneyCare, with no opponent of the principle on the ballot. Romney, remember, was the choice of millions of registered Republicans. Well, of course he was.

  2. icarusr says:

    “Unlike Canada or Germany, which have large welfare states but are willing to economize, in the U.S. voters just want more and more social programs, and politicians are too cowardly or ideologically driven to say “no.””

    You miss the point. In Canada or Germany, there is a direct link between taxes and the welfare state. We do not have an ideological opposition to taxes – we tax ourselves to pay for the services we expect the government to provide for us. When the taxes are too high, we cut the services to fit what we can afford; when services are not being funded at the level we think necessary, we raise taxes to pay for them. In 1995, we had tax surcharges on high-earners; in the aughts, provinces started having special levies on high-earners to pay for health care costs. That is one way we “economize” – but to do that, it is essential that the people feel the costs of the services they are receiving. In the US, that is simply not the case. You like services, but have been conditioned by your “conservative” media and political masters to refuse to pay for them. That is why you end up with a war and Medicare Part D even as you cut trillions off your taxes. This is not because people like getting services, but because conservatives have taught them to hate paying for them.

    We also do not have an ideological commitment to corporate welfare or to maintaining the privileges of the rich. Take Medicare Part D. The most asinine part of the program is not that it is unfunded or, worse, that it was coupled with an actual tax cut. No. The worst part of it is the provision that prohibits the US government from using its buying power to bring prices down. The program is, thus, a transfer – actual corporate welfare – for Pharma. Here in Canada, we not only have a robust generics program, but provinces are getting together to use their buying power to pressure even the prices of generics down. This is because our tax-funded health care spending is meant for health-care spending, rather than to enrich Pharma shareholders. We have also imposed cuts on payments to doctors; they kvetch and complain, of course, about having to earn $500 K instead of $600 K a year – but on the whole, we recognise that taxpayer-funded programs should be managed sensibly, for the benefit of the taxpayer, and not that of the recipients of the funds.

    Fix these two problems, and you will fix the debt issue. Instead, we get sloganeering (“socialist!””food stamp president!””I built it!””Makers and Takers”), gimmicks (BBA? Really?) and more calls for unfunded wars and adventurism abroad.

  3. Jon B says:

    Could it be the case that the “big government” – “small government” framing is partially to blame? My sense is that up until the 90’s, it was the case that conservatives wanted less government and liberals wanted more. But that formulation stopped holding up in the Clinton era. Once we move away from a purely quantitative debate to one that actually considers what governments do well and what they do poorly, we might start thinking about these sorts of things a little more clearly.

  4. Ken T says:

    One of the key differences between the US and countries like Canada or Germany is that in those countries, it is actually possible for the parties to have a rational discussion of policy options and costs, and present them to the voters. In the US, any attempt to discuss the matter is met with hysterical screams of “Socialism! Marxism! Communism!” from the politicians on one side. So in the absence of actual debate, it always becomes an all-or-nothing question, with no real chance for moderation. This is why most liberals really do want to see a RATIONAL conservative opposition party arise to replace the screaming idiots who make up the current GOP.

  5. LauraNo says:

    Didja ever think the _reason_ people want more government these days is because the private sector is so aligned against them? They have lost much of their bargaining power for wages or benefits or working conditions, wages have stagnated for eons, banks and credit institutions charge usuary rates and force us to _pay them_ to withdraw our money, ‘our’ money that we printed and then handed to them so they can charge us those usurious rates, we must submit to credit checks to apply for jobs or apartments, the financial system nearly collapsed around us because our regulators were not regulating, we pay a fortune for the gas that is derived from OUR oil we need to get to work on roads where the bridges are falling down because ideologues refuse to invest in necessities, we can’t trust that the food we buy is safe or isn’t frankenfood or isn’t loaded up with anti-biotics, we look around and we see that every other major country has universal health care for it’s people and that they pay a fraction of what the private insurance companies charge us…You would want more government too. It is our only line of defense.

  6. LauraNo says:

    …then there’s events like Katrina, where government didn’t exist but it did for Sandy and people see the difference. People know there are few jobs that offer pensions anymore, and that we can’t trust the financial sector to act responsibly when there are profits to be had, so they are more apt to appreciate Social Security. People know if the private sector takes over mail delivery, workers will earn less and the big shots will make fortunes, as happened with the prisons (which also meant many more people needed to be incarcerated because profits), as happened with outsourcing our military defense to Haliburton and religious-freak mercenaries, if the private sector takes over our highways, we will pay high tolls (those of us lucky enough to be able to) and Saudi princes will get richer (Ontario, look it up). Government is We The People when one political party is not enabling corporate bad behavior with it.

  7. Ampersand says:

    SS and Medicare are incredibly popular.

    The military is incredibly popular.

    Pork-barrel federal money coming to local areas is incredibly popular.

    A variety of federal agencies and departments are so necessary that we don’t even think of them in terms of popularity, they’re just there, cemented and protected. I have a busy life; I don’t have time to make sure my water and meat are safe to consume. And the disaster relief example is a good one.

    If you add it all up, yes, government is the most popular thing in America. But people would never think of it that way, or think to phrase it that way.

  8. Travis says:

    I join the chorus calling for a rational political debate on the scope and role of government. The problem is that the drumbeat demonization of “big government” from one side of the spectrum doesn’t fall in line with the reality that most people experience.

    OK, sure, we all know about the stereotypical gripes of bureaucracy, and as someone who works in a federal government agency, not all of those stories are unfounded. There are inefficiencies, there is regulatory capture, there can be bureaus whose need no longer exists but survive by sheer dint of existence (I would argue that state liquor monopolies are among the latter category).

    But most people also have good experiences with government. They call 911 in a medical emergency and a corps of trained, skilled rescuers arrive without first asking for a credit card number or insurance plan. They visit a national park and find helpful rangers, beautiful landscapes and the freedom to roam the public’s land. Their child rides to school on a subsidized bus and learns from teachers who are, by and large, competent and caring. They can breathe clean air and drink safe tap water, eat at restaurants and shop for produce with few worries because they know regulators monitor safety and quality.

    Are all these government activities perfect? Of course not. But Americans know that they did not spring forth from the minds of Marxist-Leninist ideologues hell-bent on forcibly installing socialism. Each of them arose from an unfulfilled need, from a failure of the unfettered market to serve the cause of humanity rather than profitability. Each of them represents a point in time at which Americans said “We need government to act.” Americans don’t want “big government” – but they do want sensible government, and they don’t want a Grover Norquist government “drowned in a bathtub.”

    Collective action for the common good is not an epithet. There is, and should be, a constant debate about what collective action and what common good. But Americans have understood, from the founding days of our nation, that we are stronger together. Indeed, that is the very reason we wrote the Constitution in the first place.

  9. Perhaps conservatives should try arguing, not for cuts, but for tax increases to the level that would actually pay for the things people say they want. In addition to expecting an endlessly-expanding welfare state, people in the 1990s and until this winter, were also trained to expect endless tax cuts.

  10. Many liberals would like to see sensible reforms to government to make it run more efficiently and to get a better value from taxes. The problem is 1) the Republican party is so radical, uncompromising and focused on scoring political points that no sensible reforms are available and 2) even though the Republicans do not have popular support, our institutions allow them to block changes the Democrats would like to make. Other countries don’t have these problems to the same degree.

    Republicans are fighting a losing battle trying to invalidate the basic presumption that there should be a welfare state. No one in Canada or Germany is trying to get rid of their national health system. Once you accept that there should be a welfare state, and that government has an important role in certain areas of the economy, it becomes a lot easier to have a rational discussion about how best to economize and balance.

    It will only be when the Republican party is completely defeated that we will start to see some sensible free market reforms.

  11. Robert says:

    “After all, state residents, according to extensive studies conducted by Commonwealth Foundation, are paying 50 percent more on their liquor purchases than people in surrounding states.”

    While I’m sure the “experts” at the Commonwealth Foundation based the above claim on the best available data, it nonetheless seems to be at odds with the real world. Thanks to the modern economy’s insistence on a mobile workforce, I’ve lived in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia at various points over the last decade. And while I’m by no means a heavy drinker, I do feel I’ve spent enough time perusing the isles of “beverage centers” to at least make an intelligent comment on the price of spirits in these respective states. This being the case, I have to say that my experience has been that PA almost always had the lowest prices on the few brands I’m familiar with. Perhaps it’s possible that New York’s prices are low enough to bring the data into line with the aforementioned claim, but I kind of doubt it.

    On a more serious note, I think part of the American public’s reluctance to accept smaller government is due to the lack of viable alternatives. For example, dealing with the IRS may be infuriating, but dealing with the cable company is maddening.

  12. Walter Mondale called it in the 1984 presidential debates. With results known to all.

  13. Travis says:

    Perhaps conservatives should try arguing, not for cuts, but for tax increases to the level that would actually pay for the things people say they want.

    Thing is, is tax hikes are put in those terms, the people will often actually vote for the tax. Which is, to the Norquistian no-tax-ever folks, an unacceptable outcome.

    In California, long the land of terrible budgeting from both parties, the Democratic governor put a combined income and sales tax hike on the ballot last year, and made it very clear that if the revenue-generating measure failed, there would be additional cuts in government services to balance the budget. The measure was approved by a 10-point, 1.5-million-vote majority.

  14. tz says:

    Every senior citizen should be given a firearm and a booklet explaining how to rob their own grandchildren – which should be made legal. This would eliminate the middleman.

    (Or the ponzi scheme where we spend the taxes now and promise to repay the “trust” fund later).

  15. cka2nd says:

    “There is nothing to suggest the governor will slash our extravagant pensions for public employees.”
    –Paul Gottfried

    “It is important to understand that the average annual pension amount that retired public school employees receive is roughly $24,000 and retired state employees receive on average $24,500, hardly the exorbitant sums often reported in the media.”
    –Stepehn M. Vak, President of the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees http://www.pennlive.com/editorials/index.ssf/2012/04/public_pensions_offer_many_plu.html

  16. “Once the universal public healthcare option has come to be, then everyone will say that it is as American as apple pie. As, indeed, it is.”

    Ugh Mr. Lindsay! Here we go again. How can it be as American as apple pie when it isn’t authorized by the Constitution, the charter that I would think should have some relevance to what is America? I guess you could argue that violating the Constitution is as American as apple pie and unfortunately you would be right, but I’m sure that is not what you had in mind. Your native country does not have a written constitution that limits the role of your central government, but we do. You consistently fail to understand this.

  17. “the Republican party is so radical, uncompromising…”

    Yeah, that’s the problem with the party that gave us No Child Left Behind, prescription drug coverage, ballooning spending, etc. It’s just too radical.

  18. >Unfortunately I’m not at all on the same page with most residents of the Keystone State, who presumably dislike Corbett for being a budget cruncher.

    I dislike Corbett for being a creature from outer space compared with a Pennsylvania Republican tradition built by the likes of Scranton, Heinz, and Specter. I dislike Corbett for requesting outrageous cuts, e.g. 25% in a year, in education so that frackers can keep raping our land for free. I’m surprised that anyone so brazenly disobliging, especially to young people, as Corbett even dreams of being re-elected. He’s managed to do enough dirty work in just three years that anyone who either voted for him or stuffed money into his pocket can be quite happy with the result. It would be easier for everyone if Corbett retired in undoubted comfort and the GOP came up with someone else to dangle before the electorate.

    About the state liquor stores I have no strong opinion. Living near Philadelphia, I can tiptoe across the border into either Delaware or New Jersey and buy booze from private vendors, but my needs for the stuff are far too modest for the trip to be worthwhile; and frankly, I don’t see that dramatic a difference in price. For a government to raise revenue (and it does) by means of such voluntary programs has always been recommended by libertarians as an alternative to coercive taxation. Unless owning a liquor store yourself is among your ambitions, I don’t quite understand your objection to the status quo.

    Corbett has also mooted privatizing the state lottery. This idea is more interesting to discuss, at least momentarily, if only because it sounds like an outright contradiction in terms. In what sense is a privatized state lottery still a state lottery? Presumably the state still expects to realize the proceeds, but so does the buyer of the erstwhile public operation, so how would this work? What is the difference between the owner of a “privatized state” lottery and the owner of any of those numerous fully private casinos sprouting up like weeds? Will promotion and advertising give the impression (as in another State I’ve lived in) that our own government is enthusiastically tempting its citizens to form a bad habit? If so, I’d rather see it privatized. Really, no government that stoops to such tactics can any longer be respected as a benevolent authority.

  19. hetzer says:

    I think someone on AmCon (Rod?) proposed Republicans abandon fighting big government and instead try to make *simpler* government. Accept large programs of government welfare and infrastructure, but make them easy (and inexpensive) to navigate. Start with the tax code and healthcare. Reclaim the “good government” role.

  20. Travis says:

    Ugh Mr. Lindsay! Here we go again. How can it be as American as apple pie when it isn’t authorized by the Constitution, the charter that I would think should have some relevance to what is America?

    The Constitution expressly authorizes Congress to tax and spend in such manners as might “promote the general welfare” of the United States. The provision or subsidization of health care for citizens of the United States would seem to quite properly fit within that clause.

    If you disagree with the Hamiltonian interpretation of the general welfare clause, take it up with the U.S. Supreme Court.

  21. Who would have thought the good professor had so many liberal reader-admirers?

    The reason that the American welfare state is as inefficient as it is, is due to our culture and not to structural issues. Simply put, we Americans turn everything into a racket if given the chance. Germans could make even communism work after a fashion. Canadiens have a communitarian culture. We Americans are inventive opportunists to the core and any scheme involving free public money will be exploited to the maximum extent possible for personal or group gain. That’s just who we are.

    Our dilemma is that over time we have constructed such a sclerotic, rats-nest of interwoven rackets that only a full collapse of the system will impel real systematic change. But no new system of “social justice” here would survive the immediate assault of the lawyers, unions, political whores, lobbyists etc.

  22. I’m no expert on the State Store issue. There is this however. According to one journalist I’ve heard, the price of spirits would actually go up under privatization. The reason, the state stores can take advantage of economies of scale in buying huge lots of common brands. This is not available to the individual liquor stores. If this is true, the effort might backfire on Corbett even as he does what I think is the right thing.

  23. Dan Phillips says:

    >How can it be as American as apple pie when it isn’t authorized by the Constitution, the charter that I would think should have some relevance to what is America?

    Anyway, what does the Constitution mean anymore? Congress is authorized to maintain post offices and post roads. A Postmaster General (namely Benjamin Franklin) was a member of the first cabinet. But cries to privatize the U.S. Postal service even further and “run it like a business” continue regardless, from the same quarters as cries to privatize whatever else in the name of the Constitution.

  24. “Yeah, that’s the problem with the party that gave us No Child Left Behind, prescription drug coverage, ballooning spending, etc. It’s just too radical.”

    Obviously way back during the GWB administration, these were not compromises. The Republicans are a different party when they are in the White House.

  25. Some things about Germany in comparison to the USA:

    -If you want to look at perhaps the best managed wellfare state, try Switzerland. The German Wellfare state still works better than the US one, but I would suggest that you copy the best, and not the average.

    They are using the following concepts to actually run things incredibly well:
    –As much decision making as possible is localised and decentralized. For example, if someone immigrates into a Swiss village, the swiss citizens of that village will actually have an important say on wether the immigrant will be naturalized.
    –For all decision making, accountability exists. Decision on how to spend local money are made by exactly the same actors that collect this money. This is actually not the case in Germany.
    –A high degree of transparency exists on nearly all levels. If some gouverment official writes a report, this report will propably be public unless there are very good reasons for it not to be public.
    –Switzerlands public train transport system is propably the best of the world, again this has to do with clear decision making. The directives for their Transport system are: 1:Provide the best possible trains on the most reliable way and be always on time. 2: Dont loose money. They are explicitly not for profit because certain things should simply not be optimized for profitability.
    They got some really good engineers (the managers also have a natural science background) and effectivly optimized the transport system for being good, reliable, clean and always on time.

    Come to think of it, I think gouverment efficiency does, generally speaking, correlate well with proportion of natural science/engineering backgrounds vs. law/management backgrounds, China and Switzerland are both run quite well, and both have a lot of engineers in important positions.

  26. “The Constitution expressly authorizes Congress to tax and spend in such manners as might “promote the general welfare” of the United States.”

    Oh good grief Travis, surely you didn’t just whip out the “general welfare” clause. Nothing says you don’t have an argument quite like resort to the “general welfare” clause, and you just went to it first resort.

    “If you disagree with the Hamiltonian interpretation of the general welfare clause, take it up with the U.S. Supreme Court.”

    If you disagree with enumerated powers doctrine which was conceded by both the Federalists and the anti-Federalist, then take it up with the Founding Fathers.

    And where precisely did Hamilton say that the “general welfare” clause could/should be used to trump enumerated powers arguments? I’m not saying he didn’t because I don’t put a lot of mischief past him, but I’m not aware of him explicitly doing so.

  27. I guess you could argue that violating the Constitution is as American as apple pie and unfortunately you would be right, but I’m sure that is not what you had in mind.

    Pretty much, it is. That is how you have ever protected conservative Christian values against the original intentions of the proto-Jacobin Deists. That is how you ever came to have a conservative movement at all. By your own criteria, you shouldn’t have one. By your own criteria, you wouldn’t have one.

  28. BobbieMac says:

    Well said Mr. Meehan. Like you, I don’t think any meaningful change will come unless there’s a revolution, a complete collapse, or part of the country secedes.
    I am involved in an estate dispute that has gone on 10 years & cost me thousands of $. It will no doubt go on longer. Why? None of the principals involved have any incentive whatsoever to conclude the case. The trial lawyers lobbying group likes it that way.
    Calling our local school to get a transcript for one of my kids, I find that the guidance counselor — yeah, the guidance counselor — has a personal secretary. This in addition to the principals, assistant principals, and all the top-heavy bureaucracy already in place. Like you say, this public school setup is little more than a racket.
    Really, any discussion of these issues seems pointless.

  29. Travis says:

    Oh good grief Travis, surely you didn’t just whip out the “general welfare” clause. Nothing says you don’t have an argument quite like resort to the “general welfare” clause, and you just went to it first resort.

    So your argument is… that you don’t like it? Does your apparent dislike of the general welfare clause somehow render it less powerful, less legitimate or less existent within the Constitution? No? Then nothing says you don’t have an argument like resorting to “that part of the Constitution is lame.”

    The Supreme Court ruled in 1936’s U.S. v. Butler (297 U.S. 1) that the general welfare clause constituted an independent power to raise money through taxation and expend that money for public purposes, so long as the spending addressed an issue of national scope. In Helvering v. Davis (301 U.S. 619) two years later, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Social Security, as authorized by the general welfare clause.

    You will note that the constitutional challenges to Obamacare didn’t even address its spending provisions – they merely attacked its definition of a “tax” as opposed to a penalty. The spending part of Obamacare is unquestionably a constitutional exercise of the general welfare clause.

  30. Travis says:

    And yes, Alexander Hamilton argued that the Taxing and Spending Clause constituted an independent power granted to Congress.

    “The only qualification of the generallity of the Phrase in question, which seems to be admissible, is this–That the object to which an appropriation of money is to be made be General and not local; its operation extending in fact, or by possibility, throughout the Union, and not being confined to a particular spot.”

    http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a1_8_1s21.html

  31. Mia says:

    Two things:

    First, if the majority of the public approves of it, and Republicans need to tell them no, are you really in favor of a democracy? What is the point of representative government if the GOP feels they must tell people what they should want? And deny people what they want if the GOP themselves are ideologically against it?

    Secondly, am I to gather that the only way you find criticism against your governor credible is if the population against him is larger than the minority population + white liberals? Gee, I’m shocked–shocked Republicans have a minority problem *sarcasm.*

    If you want to attract minorities, you need to stop assuming they are leaches.

  32. Adam says:

    We become more socialist as the gains for production continue to go up instead of out and wealth is transferred generationally, without end. If the income is taken away through taxation that incentivizes capital to keep rather than distribute gains, it creates an ever larger vacuum that can only be filled by government.

  33. Marc says:

    “The Constitution expressly authorizes Congress to tax and spend in such manners as might “promote the general welfare” of the United States.”

    It amazes me the faith and trust Leftist put in government. They believe that 535 Congressmen and Senators have the capability to determine what constitutes what is the general welfare for 310 million people. That might be possible if we were all the same but since we are all different isn’t it possible for hundreds of millions of people to have hundreds of millions of different opinions concerning what is or isn’t good for their welfare? Honestly , my personal welfare has been severely degraded with all the taxes I’m forced to pay. Not that any of the Leftist here actually cares.

  34. Travis, it has nothing to do with what I dislike, although I do think the “general welfare” language is unfortunate because it has been used by people like you to argue for a general grant of power. It has to do with the intent of those who wrote it and the understanding of those who ratified it. The “general welfare” clause was not intended to be a general grant of authority for the Fed Gov to do whatever it saw fit. The Federalist went out of their way to assure people that the new government would be a government of enumerated powers in answer to anti-Federalist objections. And just to make sure it was clear, we ratified the 10th Amendment. “General welfare” clause proponents essentially have to argue that the Federalists had their fingers crossed.

    And you are correct that opponents of Obamacare did not argue their case on the basis of enumerated powers. That is because they are a bunch of wusses who are afraid of the implications of that argument. (That probably 80 -90% of what the Fed Gov does is unconstitutional.) Far from being the wild-eyed radicals the centrist caucus that seems to like to hang out on TAC threads portray them as, they are tame lap dogs arguing for slightly less social democracy than the other guys. I WISH they were as radical as the centrist hand-wringers believe.

  35. cka2nd says:

    Marc says: “It amazes me the faith and trust Leftist put in government.”

    You’d be amazed by some of the comments that Marx and Engels made about the corruption and bloat of the bourgeois state. Lenin made similar statements, especially after the example of the Paris Commune, where the elected assembly exercised not just legislatislative but administrative powers as a so-called “working” congress. And let’s not even start on the anarchists!

    Marc says: “They believe that 535 Congressmen and Senators have the capability to determine what constitutes what is the general welfare for 310 million people.”

    So, representative democracy and republican government are of no use in determining the general welfare? Or should we just have a House of Representatives, as some have argued, so that each member represents a smaller, more manageable and possibly more homogenous polity. In other words, a bigger House might make it more subject to local control.

    Marc says: “That might be possible if we were all the same but since we are all different isn’t it possible for hundreds of millions of people to have hundreds of millions of different opinions concerning what is or isn’t good for their welfare?”

    Yes, but we are talking about the “general” welfare, and the vast majority of the public think the general welfare is severd by Social Security and Medicare and, yes, a Living Wage, a clean environment and public schools.

    Marc says: “Honestly , my personal welfare has been severely degraded with all the taxes I’m forced to pay. Not that any of the Leftist here actually cares.”

    Well, if you really want to give us a chance, you could go into the specifics and maybe some of us would care. Of course, we’d also want to know what benefits you or your family have garnerd from public services or goods, which taxes you feel especially harmed by and in what way and to what degree your personal welfare has been degraded by said taxes.

  36. Marc says:

    First, if the majority of the public approves of it, and Republicans need to tell them no, are you really in favor of a democracy?

    I’m not a Republican but I do consider myself as part of the Right. I’m 100% against democracy. It’s a horrible form of government that’s completely incompatible with property rights as evident by the millions of people who turn out on Election Day to vote themselves a portion of my income. Viva mob rule!!!

  37. Bob Jones says:

    “In Helvering v. Davis (301 U.S. 619) two years later, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Social Security, as authorized by the general welfare clause”

    Wasn’t it also part of the decision that Social Security was upheld on the basis of the taxing authority of Congress. I.e., the payroll tax portion of SS was seen as a legitimate Constitutional taxation under both Article 1 and the 16th Amendment. Didn’t Roberts address this in his opinion that the ACA was a “tax” and thus within Congresses power to legislate?

  38. Dakarian says: • Website

    (While I normally see myself as center with a touch of Left, there’s that side of me that carries a lot of sympathy for the farther Left even if I disagree with them. Below could be said less of how I see things and more of how They do: it might help to show why many Right side arguments fall flat. If you want MY actual ideas o nit, look for the double line.)

    “On a more serious note, I think part of the American public’s reluctance to accept smaller government is due to the lack of viable alternatives. For example, dealing with the IRS may be infuriating, but dealing with the cable company is maddening.”

    During one particular year, I ended up with unpaid tax bill (mostly due to misreading a particular new law and actually trusting the tax program I used). Once I started receiving letters telling me about it, about half a year afterwards, I called them to discuss options. Right off the bat, they offered the ability to wait another 6 months before having to pay. If I wait the entire time, the interest will amount to about $20.

    For just about every private group I’ve had similar issues with, a smaller obligation would result in a larger late fee and a cutting of services within the month, no matter if I discussed the matter with them. I’ve also had issues with particular companies that took half a year punishing me for fees due to their mistake and one particular issue that cost me hundreds that was never rectified.

    And I’ve been blessed when it comes to dealing with private industry. Among the working class (excluding the lowest of the classes that obtains a hatred for the publicly owned police) private industry has been the source of far more pain than the public sphere, except in policies that tend to be created by those who have declared their dislike for said public sphere.

    For most, “right wing economics” means “Trusting in Bank of America” which tends to get people to stop listening.

    Meanwhile “individual freedom” is another phrase that seems more of a mockery the lower in class you go. The life of the lower class has rarely been one of individual freedom. In the past, it has been the life of the peasant, the serf, and the slave. They’ve been marked as non-citizens and, at times, non-human. To many, the industrial revolution simply changed the master and the punishment: instead of physical force, it was neglect. “Work for me, or we simply watch you starve.” (note that by now we’ve moved from self-sustaining farmers to industrial workers who can’t make their own food or shelter). That you have some choice on who to work for helps, but doesn’t change the main theme: depend on someone ‘higher’ than you and do their bidding or die. As industrialization became more standardized, the look and feel of the ‘choice’ of jobs standardized: a McDonald’s job looks a lot like a call center job as far as how it seems to leave you half starved and drained of hope. The result is that the choices offered in the private sector seem cosmetic.

    Government, in contrast, offers not freedom (which, again, is simply not an option at all) but two other factors: control and kindness. In theory, if your ‘masters’ are treating you poorly, you can go to a building every few years and fill in a check mark to remove them. This choice doesn’t come with starvation followed by a desperate bid to find a new home(unlike what happens if you quit your job).

    Now, that ‘choice’ seemed cosmetic to most for a long time, thus the low turnouts. The last few elections, however, have presented the public with the perception that it DOES make a difference if they work as a group (not unlike the idea that brought unions into power). Note, again, that ‘freedom’ isn’t in the cards, just the ability to choose who controls you and how without dire consequences.

    The second is ‘kindness’. The perception is that, should you face troubles, the private industry will find you useful and leave you to die while the government will take mercy. A slow, incompetent mercy, but look at the alternative. Many here see people desperate for ‘free stuff’, gobbling all they can. What’s seen from below is the choice between a master that will kill you if you displease them and a master that picks you up and feeds you even after the first master left you out in the cold. The government is a kind idiot that gives you a sandwich before you starve to death. Private industry sees you trip then dumps you in the cold wishing that you’d die (not an exaggeration when you see how many take up social darwinist rhetoric).

    The massive increase in food stamps isn’t seen as ‘government buying more people’. It’s seen as the middle class that relied on the Private Master experiencing what the Lows have always felt. The “I hated welfare, then I lost my job..” stories is a case of sweet irony suitable of a “Welcome to my world.”

    Most of America was never free, and never would be. Eliminate the ‘oppressive government’ and you leave the ‘oppressive business’ as the new boss except that you eliminate the few controls and kindness the old system offered (“But corporations use the government to rule over the people.” So you think they’ll stop once they’re the only game in town? How the master rules matters little.) You, who makes enough money to afford repairing your entire house, not wearing 7 year old clothing, go on vacation every year, AND have leftovers to put into savings, can argue about being free to life and die as you choose. For the “47%” who don’t, freedom was never a choice. The only choice has been to life as they choose or die as they choose. Most will choose life, even if it comes at a cost.

    …oh, but now you don’t get as many choices? “Welcome to my world.”

    —————-
    —————-

    This is how a large portion of the world, including about half of this country, lives nowadays. The thinking isn’t new: just the number of people who hold it, especially when the 2000s basically gutted the trust in private industry and those that advocate for it. It shows WHY talk of ‘freedom from government’ or even the dangers of an overreaching government, fall so flat. Note that it’s NOT from a ‘leeching’ mentality so much as it is a survival tactic. Private industry, which is meant to be a collaborative grouping (“I trade my work for your resources”) is seen, instead, as an exploitative one with no way out. Socialism vs Capitalism, then, isn’t a choice between ‘slavery’ and ‘freedom’ but instead ‘being a well fed slave’ or ‘being a slave that’s dead or as good as dead’. And that’s the cynical version. The other ideal is based around Romney’s parent’s story; someone who was in the pit being given support by the government long enough to recover and become a success themselves.

    Note that in either story, there’s no trust in Private improving your life. So long as this item remains, you will continue to see a decline in Capitalism. It will be worse than Europe, which at least sees Capitalism like a beast that’s useful once domesticated. The US may see Capitalism as rabid.

    How to fix it? I came to TAC to find out as I’m not sure myself. I take note that when God was faced with people with a slavery mentality, He was called Master. The people were still, in many ways, acting like slaves: just to a new boss. It took generations to weed that out and, thus, convert the relationship to a familial one. If Capitalism wasn’t to rule the country again, perhaps it has to be seen as a better boss than the current one.

    “But how can you beat free?” The music industry learned, slowly, that easily accessible $1 songs that don’t break beats potentially dangerous and tricky to access songs that are free. Note that we had a welfare system that gave more and was easier to exploit in the past and most avoided it when possible. It’s now harder and less lucrative to rely on the government now. It’s just become much, much, harder to rely on Private than it use to.

    Basically, make Capitalism reliable to the common people and they’ll jump back into it. The question is how?

  39. Travis says:

    If you think 80 to 90 percent of what the federal government does is unconstitutional, you are simply out of step with the political preferences of an overwhelming numerical and electoral majority of the American public. That’s why Obamacare opponents “are afraid of the implications of that argument.”

    If the Supreme Court ruled tomorrow that the whole wealth of federal programs founded on the general welfare clause (everything from highways to Head Start, Medicare to SCHIP) were unconstitutional, you would see an instant move to amend the Constitution to restore the general welfare clause as a power, and such an amendment would be ratified within months.

  40. Ben Frank says:

    Sure. People who lived through the 1920s and 1930s, like Jacques Barzun or Mortimer Adler, recognized that our economic system had become a synthesis of capitalist and socialist approaches. Americans who had to work with other governments in the Cold War period also saw that we weren’t so very different from Western Europe in terms of what the public and private sectors did. Rhetoric differed — we didn’t have collectivist or socialist or communist parties as many European countries did — but what used to be called the “First World” countries had more in common with each other than with their “Second World” or “Third World” neighbors.

    I don’t see anything wrong or avoidable in this. But with the end of the Cold War, with the removal of the communist competitor Americans — particularly right-wing Americans — began to lose sight of just how mixed our economy was and just how similar we were to Europe. It’s pleasant for some people to stigmatize their opponents as “socialists” or “statists,” but that obscures the extent to which almost all of us are “socialists” or “statists” to some degree.

  41. Travis, I have never said that strict constitutionalism is politically popular. Citing the Constitution against this or that program you oppose appeals to many, but the logical implications of strict Constitutionalism would horrify the vast majority. But my metric is not the modern “political preferences of an overwhelming numerical and electoral majority of the American public.” My metric is the intentions of the people who wrote it and the understanding of the people who ratified it. And by that measure Obamacare (and Medicare and Medicaid etc.) IS unconstitutional. Call me old fashioned, but I think we ought to actually follow the Constitution. Obviously all these programs can’t be politically or practically abolished over night, but respectors of the Constitution should never concede their legitimacy.

  42. LauraNo says:

    Andrew Sullivan discusses reasons for the growth in need for government here. It’s very insightful, especially from a conservative perspective.
    http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/02/19/how-capitalism-creates-the-welfare-state/

  43. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I believe one of this issues is that the USA media/politicians perpetuate this falsehood that Europe is a socialist cesspool and the USA is a bastion of freedom, individualism, and the antithesis of Europe.

    Lets realize that Europe is a large continent. The stereotypes that are in the American mindset are those of France and the UK. Is Italy like France? Is Switzerland like any of its neighbors? How about Austria? The countries of Eastern Europe?

    Ignoring the welfare state and going to social issues… The USA now has gay marriage. Does the EU? Some countries allow it, others have no laws for or against, and others have constitutional amendments outright banning it.

    Smoking? One can still buy packs of cigarettes in vending machines in Europe. These were outlawed in the USA in the 90s.

    Food? The Europeans love their morning pastries (bacon fat drizzled – mmmm good). The food police have not gotten to the EU yet.

    Machine Guns? Bank secrecy? Low taxes (depending on Canton)? Confederacy (Neutered Federal powers)? Welcome to Switzerland.

    On a lot of issues, I put Europe firmly where the USA was in 1990s. These were pretty good times in the USA. Let’s hope the EU does not decide to mimic the USA….

    For my fellow Americans. Don’t believe the B.S. Europe is a large continent with different countries… not just states under the thumb of Washington. I prefer central and Eastern Europe… others prefer the Western European countries and the UK. Choice still exists in the EU… something that has disappeared in the USA.

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