Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Exception to the rule - "A Conservative Case for the Welfare State"

Authentically conservative and eminently sensible policy wonk Bruce Bartlett - a former advisor to Reagan, GHW Bush,  Jack Kemp and Ron Paul - combats The GOP Crazy:
At the root of much of the dispute between Democrats and Republicans over the so-called fiscal cliff is a deep disagreement over the welfare state. Republicans continue to fight a long-running war against Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and many other social-welfare programs that most Americans support overwhelmingly and oppose cutting.

The bottom line on the central spending issue facing the US
Republicans in Congress opposed the New Deal and the Great Society, but Republican presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower through George H.W. Bush accepted the legitimacy of the welfare state and sought to manage it properly and fund it adequately. When Republicans regained control of Congress in 1994 they nevertheless sought to repeal the New Deal and Great Society programs they had always opposed.

Energized by their success in abolishing the principal federal welfare program, Aid to Families With Dependent Children, in 1996, Republicans tried to abolish Social Security as well, through partial privatization during the George W. Bush administration, and they more recently have attempted to change Medicaid into a block grant program with funds going to the states and to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

In the 40th anniversary edition of his book, “Capitalism and Freedom,” Milton Friedman advised conservatives to use crises as opportunities to advance their agenda. “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change,” he contended.

Thus Republicans are now using the fiscal impasse to try to raise the age for Medicare and reduce Social Security benefits by changing the index used to adjust them for inflation. They know that such programs will be easier to abolish in the future if the number of people who qualify can be reduced and benefits are cut so that privatization becomes more attractive.

This is foolish and reactionary. Moreover, there are sound reasons why a conservative would support a welfare state. Historically, it has been conservatives like the 19th century chancellor of Germany, Otto von Bismarck, who established the welfare state in Europe. They did so because masses of poor people create social instability and become breeding grounds for radical movements.

How Crazy Are They?

Just how intellectually, emotionally and morally dysfunctional is contemporary "conservatism"?  Some clues in this incredible New York magazine feature story on National Review's "Ship of Fools" Cruise - a boatload of their most elite supporters and subscribers at sea in the Caribbean just weeks after the November elections.  Read the whole thing - even for someone who is extremely cynical about the GOP,  it's both jaw-dropping and eye-opening that The Crazy runs this wide and this deep.