America’s politics are more and more resembling those of the Soviet Union, where very little is at stake, 90% of the issues are off the table and decided by committees of connected elites, and the theater of politics, including elections, are there mostly to cover up the reality.
Last week we observed vitriolic denunciations and counter-denunciations of Republicans and Democrats in the run-up to the budget funding bill, but in the end only $60B (and possibly less) was ultimately cut. These cuts only affected the small sliver of discretionary spending. This is chump change when we have a $1T yearly deficit and tens of trillions(!) of unfunded liabilities in the decades ahead.
Obama this week in a highly partisan speech denounced the Republican proposals, in particular those of the fairly serious Paul Ryan, as mean-spirited and violative of the American “social compact.” His liberal supporters swooned at his passionate defense of the welfare state, but in doing so he and they as well remind us that they are not serious people and are not taking seriously the unfunded liabilities that cannot be sustained in the decades ahead. Something must give.
Republicans may not be terribly serious or courageous on average, but a few of them are very serious and are saying what needs to be said about the budget problems. Of course, sacred cows like our bloated defense budget, bailouts for banks, various forms of corporate welfare such as farm subsidies, and much else should be on the table. But at least the topic of our fiscal problems is on the table among Republicans and not dealt with through magical thinking, as in the mind of Obama. Much of the credit belongs to the Tea Party, the amorphous collection of grass roots conservative activists who were not terribly impressed with W’s spending spree and were jolted into action by Obama Care. This movement, while containing many unserious people, has at its core a very serious point: we are spending ourselves into oblivion and must get a handle on it or our country will destroy itself.
Obama is no leader. I believe he knows the fiscal crisis to be a reality, but he also knows that it would be very costly politically to do something about it. He has been willing to expend this capital to grow the welfare state into a permanent institution that makes everyone a welfare case through Obamacare, but he has not done what is necessary to preserve (or sensibly reduce) the commitments already made in the form of Medicare, Social Security, and much else. This reveals him as what I always thought he was: a coward, a mouthpiece for conventional Democratic Party talking points, and someone indifferent about America’s strength and prosperity.