‘Puter read with interest this Eugene Robinson opinion piece in this morning’s Washington Post. Mr. Robinson identifies what he perceives to be the Republicans’ failing: they don’t have a convincing narrative about the economy.
Mr. Robinson then spends the remainder of his column implying that letting the markets sort themselves out without government interference, reducing job-killing regulations and reforming the tax code is not a plan.
‘Puter’s not going to spend his precious time tearing apart Mr. Robinson’s column. Instead, ‘Puter’s going to agree with Mr. Robinson. The Republicans’ economic narrative is not convincing.
Before you get your knickers in a twist, let ‘Puter explain. ‘Puter thinks Mr. Robinson is dead wrong on the facts. ‘Puter believes strongly that permitting the markets to clear, reducing regulation and reforming the tax code would set our economy on fire, sufficiently so that the Fed would have to hike interest rates to prevent overheating.
But Mr. Robinson is right that Americans are not buying what Republicans are selling. He correctly identifies the effect, but whiffs on identifying the cause.
The reason Americans don’t agree with the Republican cure for what ails America’s economy is because we are selfish bastards. That’s right. Selfish. Bastards. Hell, the reason Americans don’t like the Democrats’ plans to cure the economy is because we’re selfish bastards. ‘Puter’ll say it slowlyone more time. Selfish. Bastards.
You can see writ large Americans’ selfish bastardom in our bankrupt government. Our government (and thus our country) is essentially broke. We borrower one-third of what we spend. It’s patently unsustainable, a point on which most sentient economists agree. And Americans don’t give a fig, because we want our stuff, we want it for free, and we want it RIGHT NOW!!!1!eleventy!!1!
Perhaps a more thorough examination of our government’s penury and our puerile response thereto will elucidate ‘Puter’s position.
Righting the government’s balance sheet is going to mean tough decisions. And there’s only a couple of decisions to make:
(1) What gets cut?
(2) Who pays more, and how much more?
‘Puter’s watched patiently as America’s grappled with these questions over the last three years. ‘Puter’s seen enough to know that Americans decided to answer as follows:
(1) No government program we like or benefit from gets cut. Ever. Or we’ll vote you out of office.
(2) Everyone who is not us or an organization we like should pay more, and by more, we mean as much as it takes to preserve each government program we like or benefit from.
Talk about fixing social security, and the recipients scream “that’s my money,” even though most of them long ago recovered their lifetime input with a small rate of return. Talk about fixing Medicare, and old people freak out so thoroughly, you’d think the world’s coming to an end. No one is willing to consider any change, no matter how small if it means we have to give up anything. Everyone benefiting from a government program, no matter how small, becomes a hard-core, big government leftist Democrat the minute you talk about messing with what we perceive as “ours.”
OK, we say to the seething horde of entitled, selfish bastards, we’ll keep all your programs and fund them at current levels, but we’re going to have to pay more to sustain them. All of a sudden, you meet the biggest bunch of rock-ribbed, conservative, small government Republicans you’ve ever seen. Everyone bitching pays more than his fair share, and the burden should clearly fall on those people over there who have more money or are better looking or pegged them in the newts with a dodgeball in 5th grade gym. Anyone but me should pay to keep me rolling in clover.
And there’s the rub. America is fat, dumb and happy on the backs of an historical anomaly: the destruction of all meaningfully industrialized countries during World War II. We got used to having an ever-increasing standard of living, because there was no one else competing with us. How could they? All their factories were flattened. We forgot we got rich off hard work and frugality, coupled with a sense of duty to others.
To the Boomers, this was all they’d ever known. America the Great, growing richer simply because it existed. So what was the problem in giving people stuff without asking anything in return? America’s awash in money, and always will be. So give it away the Boomers have. From the Great Society, to Medicare, to Medicaid to corporate tax loopholes, to crop subsidies, to unsustainable pensions, to cushy public sector union jobs, the Boomers promised something to everyone. Worse, the Boomers required nothing in return.
But it didn’t quite turn out as Boomers planned. Europe rebuilt, albeit tethered by an unsustainable cradle to grave welfare system. China and India rose, fighting for and winning jobs that Americans wrongly assumed would always be theirs. And here at home, the moral hazard created by promising generations something for nothing crippled our work ethic and created a class of incapable government dependents who consume and do not contribute.
So, Mr. Robinson is at end correct. Americans, long accustomed to receiving benefits without costs, don’t want to see Republicans cut their programs. But neither do Americans want to see Democrats raise their taxes.
We are a nation of selfish bastards, insisting on something that can never be, no matter how hard we wish it: cost-free benefits. And if something doesn’t give soon, we will be to blame for destroying our once great nation.