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July 16, 2010

Krauthammer and Goldberg Agree The Rules of American Politics Have Changed Fundamentally; But Disagree Sharply On How They've Changed

A Corner reader suggests reading these two columns back to back. It's a useful thing.

Krauthammer: Obama's won, even if he's booted out of office.

Obama’s most far-reaching accomplishment is his structural alteration of the U.S. budget. The stimulus, the vast expansion of domestic spending, and the creation of ruinous deficits as far as the eye can see are not easily reversed.

These are not mere temporary countercyclical measures. They are structural deficits because, as everyone from Obama on down admits, the real money is in entitlements, most specifically Medicare and Medicaid. But Obamacare freezes these out as a source of debt reduction. Obamacare’s $500 billion in Medicare cuts and $600 billion in tax increases are siphoned away for a new entitlement — and no longer available for deficit reduction.

The result? There just isn’t enough to cut elsewhere to prevent national insolvency. That will require massive tax increases — most likely a European-style value-added tax. Just as President Reagan cut taxes to starve the federal government and prevent massive growth in spending, Obama’s wild spending — and quarantining health-care costs from providing possible relief — will necessitate huge tax increases.

The net effect of 18 months of Obamaism will be to undo much of Reaganism.

Grim eh? Well, Goldberg is as optimistic as Krauthammer is pessimistic.

For nearly a century now, the rules have said that tough economic times make big government more popular. For more than 40 years it has been a rule that environmental disasters — and scares over alleged ones — help environmentalists push tighter regulations. According to the rules, Americans never want to let go of an entitlement once they have it. According to the rules, populism is a force for getting the government to do more, not less. According to the rules, Americans don’t care about the deficit during a recession.

And yet none of these rules seem to be applying; at least not too strongly. Big government seems more unpopular today than ever. The Gulf oil spill should be a Gaia-send for environmentalists, and yet three-quarters of the American people oppose Obama’s drilling ban. Sixty percent of likely voters want their newly minted right to health care repealed. Unlike Europe, where protesters take to the streets to save their cushy perks and protect a large welfare state, the tea-party protesters have been taking to the streets to trim back government.

...

As a conservative, I’m very reluctant to believe that the rules change easily or often. And there’s no end of explanations for the political climate that would leave the rules intact. But it’s just becoming harder and harder to shake the feeling that something bigger than politics as usual is at work.

Whipsaw, eh?



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posted by Ace at 03:14 PM

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