Sunday, March 26, 2017

Make America Kampuchea

Can't find credits for this image of Phnom Penh in 1976.

For the past month or so Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, has been serving up a series of "immodest proposals"

floating genuinely radical visions of how policy makers might respond to our order’s slippage toward something worse than stagnation. These will not be ideas that I find entirely convincing, they will not be fully fleshed-out, and I will disavow responsibility if they’re ever put into disastrous practice.
Which is kind of the ultimate in "just sayin". If you like it, I'll gladly take credit for it, but if you don't, remember I said it wasn't serious at the outset.

But then the first one was just a laundry list sounding an awful lot like a marriage between the Trump campaign at its most "populist" and the "Reformy Con" agenda to which Douthat himself sometimes likes to suggest he adheres, with tax expenditures for everybody, a kind of WPA for the middle-aged, massive deficits, and little bits of gratuitous Douthat nastiness so you don't think he's turned into a Reagan liberal:

The carrots would include a large wage subsidy and a large per-child tax credit and a substantial corporate tax cut and an employer-side payroll tax holiday to encourage hiring. They would also include an infrastructure bill written to include a certain amount of make-work spending, and an increase in government hiring in traditionally-male fields — more military spending earmarked for recruitment, more federal cash for hiring cops.
The sticks would include cuts to disability and unemployment benefits and tighter Medicaid eligibility rules for the able-bodied — not as “pay fors,” but simply to make sustained worklessness less pleasant.
Then he got a little more adventurous.

There was the offer of reparations to the African American community in return for the centuries of slavery and Jim Crow, in which the community would give up affirmative action in school admissions, military and civil service, and corporate hiring practice in return for a one-time bribe payment of $10,000 per person. That was novel.

Or the Internet Temperance movement, where they'd seize your phone in restaurants, museums, and churches, take all computers out of elementary schools, and ban Facebook accounts for kids under 16. Sadly, he realized these ideas would only have a real appeal among weathy liberals, "Silicon Valley overlords who send their kids to a low-tech Waldorf school," and no pull among the masses he was hoping to save.

Or the perfect approach to health care, to Make America Singapore, where everybody has a mandatory health savings account pulled by the government out of their paycheck, and (Ross may not know this) rigorous cost control through government regulation on the supply side:
Healthcare costs in Singapore are also contained through the government’s constraints on the supply side through limits on the number of medical graduates, fee controls, and the ownership of public hospitals. 
And hefty government subsidies and encouragement of generic drugs.

I'm sure our freedom-loving conservatives would be interested in that! Making personal responsibility involuntary with a payroll tax, and a system designed for a dense conurbation of 5.5 million people crammed into an island of 227 square miles being projected onto all 50 states!

But today, speaking of dense conurbations, is the most startling of all: Make America Cambodia—my title, not Douthat's, which is "Break Up the Liberal City", by which he doesn't quite mean literally smashing them all to return to a rural Year Zero as Pol Pot began doing in 1976, but emptying them of their intellectual power sources: shipping all the government institutions, universities, nonprofit agencies, and media outlets around to Podunk and Tooterville, presumably to stop all the liberals from hanging out with each other and force them into accommodation with that White Working Class that will serve as their landlords in the new dispensation. They can practice Internet Temperance together, perhaps, playing Parcheesi into the night and exchanging ideas on how to pay off black people to leave them alone. It will certainly put an end to all the intellectual arrogance, ridiculous frivolity, and remoteness from reality that never marks the work of somebody like Monsignor Douthat (yes, he lives in Washington, why do you ask?)...

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