Saturday, June 16, 2012

Republicans don't have an illness, they have a viewpoint

My favorite editorialist is the center-right David Brooks of the New York Times.  He writes an illuminating editorial in Friday's paper.  Many Democrats explain the Republicans' positions as being extremist and the result of some kind of mental illness.  David Brooks tries to explain Republicans to Democrats by saying:

"I guess I'd say that Republicans don't have an illness; they have a viewpoint...many Republicans have now come to the conclusion that the welfare-state model is in its death throes".

Democrats see Republicans trying to dismantle the gigantic entitlement state that liberals have spent many decades building and can see it only as insensitive and cruel lack of caring about and for people.  They explain it as insensitivity for people, as dancing to the tunes of the super-wealthy (who are  seen as essentially greedy and uncaring), as greedily keeping money for themselves and disregarding the needs of the people, or as psychological imbalances resulting from bad parenting or fear of change.

But, Republicans see it quite differently. To them it is obvious that the money has run out.  To them, Margaret Thatcher summed up the fatal flaw of the welfare-state:

"The problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."

It may not be totally fair to call Democrats socialists, but the Republican view of the vast welfare state in Europe (and to a slightly lesser degree in America) is that it has run out of money and cannot be saved, and it's best to abandon it before it sinks and takes the entire country down in its whirlpool of destruction.

Greece is the first massive collapse of that governing philosophy, and it looks like Spain, Italy, Portugal, and maybe others are all teetering on the brink.  

And to Republicans, how far behind is the U.S.?  When 40% of every government dollar spent is borrowed, how viable is the U.S. welfare-state?  And the Obama and Democrat claim that this can be solved by taxing the "rich" is silly, it seems to them, as the revenue raised by that would be nice, but wouldn't come close to ending the deficit.

I can certainly understand that Republican view.  And I share it, as far as it goes.  

But, I would add that it is not only the entitlement welfare-state that is unsustainable, but the military-industrial state that is unsustainable as well.  It was all nice and good that America emerged from WWII as the dominant economic and military power.  But, to be reminded of Eisenhower, we need to curb the growing military industrial complex, which drains huge amounts of tax dollars to support it.  It was developed to fight a potential WWIII with the Russian and Chinese communists.  And, indeed, those totalitarian regimes were intent on world domination and needed to be stopped.  

But, we won.  And even though a revival of fundamentalist Islamism resulted in the terrible attack against us on 9/11, I think that much of our military and defense budgets can be reduced.  We have just run out of money.  We no longer have the money to be the military hegemon that we once did.

We can't afford the welfare-state, nor the military-state of the past.  There is a new America being born, as well as a new Europe and a new Middle East.  And I think living within our means as a nation is just as necessary as it is necessary to live within our means as individuals.

Reduce government spending (with reasonable entitlement reforms as well as cutting the military), reform the tax system (that includes raising taxes overall while lowering marginal rates so as to encourage innovation) and a new world can be born.

It is going to happen anyway, because, you know, we're runnning out of money.