It is certainly true that conservatives and Republicans feel disoriented and confused this election season. But it misses the point to say, as Packer does:
Now most conservatives seem incapable of even acknowledging the central issues of our moment: wage stagnation, inequality, health care, global warming. They are stuck in the past, in the dogma of limited government.
On the contrary, conservatives have rather clear ideas on the "central issues." Conservatives have a cure for wage stagnation and inequality. It is called education reform. Conservatives have a cure for inequality. It is called Social Security reform and aims to get lower-income Americans onto the wealth creation ladder. But we can't enact reform because Democrats won't let us. We'd like to reform health care by curbing the wasteful third-party payment system, and we are making some progress under the radar with Health Savings Accounts. But Democrats are pushing one-size-fits-all top-down changes to health care policy instead.
If you look back over the last 30 years, back over the record of conservative reform, there is one thing that stands out. Conservative reform never had a chance unless there was a crisis. The Reaganomics of hard money and low tax rates only got done in the crisis of Carter inflation/recession. The Bush tax cuts only got passed in the tech meltdown. Welfare reform only got passed when Newt Gingrich put a gun to President Clinton's reelection prospects in 1996.
The problem that today's conservatives face is that things aren't bad enough on the Social Security front, on the education front, or on the health-care front for the American people to be ready for "change." So Republican primary voters sensibly nominated John McCain, a man to fight the war on Islamic extremism while holding the line on domestic issues.
If you want to be cheered up about conservative prospects, you need only take a look at the resurgent Conservative Party in England. Eleven years ago Tony Blair got elected as "New Labour" to improve public services, supposedly wrecked by "Tory cuts." But after a doubling of health care expenditure and huge increases in education costs there is no improvement and the voters are hopping mad.
Now that he is 20 points ahead in the polls, what are the "central issues" for Conservative leader David Cameron? School choice, welfare reform, and police reform.
Stupidity and the State
Last August, the government lost track of six nuclear warheads that ended up in cruise missiles affixed to the wings of B-52 bombers flying over American cities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently spent $2.7 billion to purchase 145,000 formaldehyde-soaked house trailers. They were for use by people who'd lost their homes when levees designed by the Army Corps of Engineers broke and flooded New Orleans. The FBI is currently forcing its most skilled and experienced antiterrorism field supervisors to accept "promotions" to paper-shuffling jobs in Washington.
But the millions of inanities that occur daily throughout the government's world-wide empire are mere trifles compared to its big-ticket failures. What kind of government forces people to make gasoline out of food, artificially boosts the price of corn to $6 a bushel, guarantees that inflated price as the "base" for higher federal subsidies to corn farmers in the future, and then tries to hide its own depredations by excluding high food prices from its measure of "core" inflation?
Washington never learns from its mistakes. In "The Worst Hard Time," Timothy Egan notes how federal price supports encouraged farmers in World War I to plow up millions of acres of dry grasslands and plant wheat. When the price of wheat crashed after the war, the denuded land lay fallow; then it blew away during the droughts of the 1930s, turning a big chunk of America into a Dust Bowl.
On top of everything else, Washington tries to cover up the cost of its failures and incompetence by officially misstating the government's financial results. For instance, the government says that the tax burden will be $2.6 trillion in 2008. But counting the "deadweight" loss from damage done by taxes to the private economy, the real tax burden is twice that - roughly $5.2 trillion, according to various estimates, including ones published by the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Congressional Budget Office. On the spending side, a study by the Office of Management and Budget showed that government programs on average fall 39% short of meeting their goals. Thus, in 2008, government will spend $2.7 trillion to provide $1.65 trillion of benefit.
A real tax burden of $5.2 trillion to pay for a $1.65 trillion benefit seems a bit excessive, even by Washington standards. Perhaps one of the presidential candidates should do the voters the courtesy of at least telling them the truth, and asking them if they really want quite so much government at such a high price. Then again, maybe the voters already sense the truth, and perhaps that is why they are so furious.
Hispanics no help to McCain: "A new Gallup Poll summary of surveys taken in May shows Obama winning 62 percent of Hispanics nationwide, compared to just 29 percent for McCain. Others have found a wide gap as well. The pro-Democratic group Democracy Corps compiled surveys from March through May that show Obama with a 19-point lead among Hispanics. And a Los Angeles Times poll published last month showed Obama leading McCain among California Hispanics by 14 points."
Media bias, You bet!: "Just 17% of voters nationwide believe that most reporters try to offer unbiased coverage of election campaigns. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that four times as many-68%--believe most reporters try to help the candidate that they want to win. The perception that reporters are advocates rather than observers is held by 82% of Republicans, 56% of Democrats, and 69% of voters not affiliated with either major party. The skepticism about reporters cuts across income, racial, gender, and age barriers."
For more postings from me, see OBAMA WATCH, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)