Friday, December 31, 2010

Winning the war is more important than fighting individual battles

A very sobering assessment of the political landscape awaiting Republicans in 2011 comes from the Wall Street Journal this morning, The Liberal Reckoning of 2010. Here is the key section…

There is a lesson here both about modern liberalism and for Republicans who will soon have more power in Congress. For today's left, the main goal of politics is not to respond to public opinion. The goal is to impose the dream of an egalitarian entitlement state whether the public likes it or not. Sooner or later, they figure, the anger will subside and Americans will come to like the cozy confines of the cradle-to-grave welfare state.

This is the great Democratic bet with ObamaCare. The assumption is that once the benefits start to flow in 2013 the constituency for "free" health care will grow. As spending and deficits climb, the pressure for higher taxes will become inexorable and the GOP will splinter into its balanced budget and antitax wings. A value-added tax or some other money-machine will pass and guarantee that the government will control 40% to 50% of all economic resources.

It is a sad reality that this is exactly right. Americans are famous for yammering about taxes and spending except when it comes to taxes that impact them or spending that they “benefit” from. Conservatives and those who are concerned about the direction of our country need to see the big picture here and it goes beyond one policy change at a time. The big battle is not defeating liberals on Bill A and Bill B but rather thwarting the agenda of political liberals and changing public perception. I think that credit goes where it is due and in this case liberals, whether they mean to or not, have done a remarkable job at pushing their agenda by transforming American expectations of government and creating an atmosphere where American citizens are gradually more and more dependent on the government for their daily basic functioning. Each victory for encroaching government is permanent. Liberals may lose five battles but each one they win becomes permanent. That is why the article argues, and I concur, that it is imperative that Obamacare gets rolled back.

Conservatives have been handed an actual mandate to bring government under control but what does that mean? There is a lot of talking about “reining in government spending”. That sounds great but that is not what we need. Reining in a horse means tightening up the reins, slowing the horse down. We are way past that point. What we need is to rein the horse in, turn it around, head back to the barn and trade the horse in for a pony that is walked with a firm hand on the halter.

The last 100 years have seen a dramatic change in the United States. Some of it has been beneficial, like laws to prohibit race based discrimination. Most of it has transformed America into a far different place than it once was. One hundred years ago America was not a “superpower” that was expected to defeat tyranny again and again and eventually become the police force for the world on our dime. One hundred years ago we didn’t have a cradle-to-grave social welfare system that threatens to bankrupt America and that has trapped generations in a cycle of poverty and government assistance. I heard this morning that in the next twenty years the number of Medicare recipients will double to 80,000,000. Think about that number. 80 million people is a huge number to be on the government dole. Many on the Left argue that Medicare and Social Security are promises made to American seniors that we must keep and keep undiminished. I see these as promises made by past generations without the consent of the future generations who have to pay for them. There is no right to income security in retirement nor medical insurance. As more and more people stop paying into the system and start taking from it, replaced by a shrinking number of workers to fund this entitlement, we will go bankrupt. The weight of Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, Obamacare, public sector pensions and retiree benefits, enormous military spending, etc. will eventually crush this country. It is inevitable and unavoidable without some very hard decisions being made.

The question before us is two-fold: do Republicans coming into Congress in 2011 have the courage of conviction to make the hard choices now and if they do will voters thank or punish them for it?
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