Monday, June 30, 2014

Why can't we have nice things?

Because James Pethokoukis thinks nice things are so old-fashioned, that's why.
"Women voting? Get out of here with your tired old 1920s liberal prescriptions. How about harems, huh?" AP/Ishtiaq Mehsud, via.
Pethokoukis is a little concerned that we haven't had a 21st-century president yet:
How would a 21st century American president deal with America’s 21st century economic problems? More than a decade in, we really don’t know.
I guess young Bush was too busy being a 19th-century president, sending out the gunboats?
The Bush administration was consumed, by necessity, with war.
Necessity, really? I'm truly sympathetic to the idea that there was a political necessity for some kind of expedition to Afghanistan after 9/11, but not even the worst of the Iraq war hawks would claim the whole thing was necessary (the closest they come is along the lines of "we did the best we could with the intelligence we had" without noting that the intelligence was specially ordered—can we get some extra casus belli on that pizza?). The necessary part was over by December 2001, or would have been, had the Bush administration not taken steps to ensure that it would never end (in particular the refusal to allow the Taliban into the negotiations of their own surrender).

And then they did have time to start up some 21st-century economic problems, wouldn't you say? And deal with them after a fashion?
The Obama administration [was consumed, in invidious contrast], by choice, with preserving the FDR-LBJ welfare state and adding a key missing component: nationalized healthcare.
Because the War on Poverty was really a war of choice, wasn't it? We assaulted that poverty without even giving it a chance to propose a peaceful way out!

I'd just like to pause to
  1. ask Dr. Pethokoukis if the Republicans did indeed mean at the time to not preserve, i.e. destroy, the "FDR-LBJ welfare state", overwhelmingly consisting of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? Because they spent an awful lot of time denying that, if memory serves;
  2. note that it was Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s that nationalized healthcare: the Obama legislation modestly extended those benefits to a few million more people and provided health security for a few million more by means of not nationalizing it, as Dr. Pethokoukis understands, I believe, very clearly; and
  3. remind the gentle reader that the Obama administration did have some necessity items on its plate, like the 2007 collapse of the US economy adverted to above.
Child labor laws? "Are you kidding? Hey, everybody, 1904 called. They said they want their editorial back!" Via Hum-Coolie.
Obamanomics has been an expensive effort in economic nostalgia to recreate the supposedly prosperous, egalitarian 1950s. The Obamacrat obsession with bullet trains, the latest in 1960s transportation thinking, is illustrative and telling.
Obamacrat? Is that a thing? Recreate the 1950s? (Don't recollect they had Medicare then, Edna, do you?). Obsession with bullet trains? Atrios for president!!!

But really, somebody needs to do something about this new theme of tired old Democrat ideas vs. fresh new Republican ideas.

In the first place, the age of an idea is not an argument. An idea can be stupid on its face (like Laffer supply-side tax policy) or it can have been tried and failed (like allowing the market to allocate health care), but it can't be bad just because it's old. A lot of ideas have stayed on the Democratic list all these years specifically because they've been tried elsewhere and they work. Bullet trains save carbon and time and they're more fun than driving! To say nothing of air travel. And the same can be said paribus ceteris for paid maternity leave and union representation on corporate boards and dozens or hundreds of others.

In the second place, how new are those Republican ideas anyway? Pethokoukis is, of course, pimping young Senator Rubio: what's he got? Pethokoukis doesn't even bother to give us a link, but he gives us a quote:
 if we reform our taxes and regulations, we can create millions of higher paying jobs by winning the global competition for talent, investment, and innovation.
And if we modernize our outdated safety net programs and revolutionize how we acquire and pay for education, millions of people will have the skills they need for the higher paying jobs of the new economy.
It's the same old garbage of taking our government away and leaving us on our own, meaning leaving our overlords of capital on their own, back to 1928 or 1892, and that's old enough, and stupid enough, and well enough tested, that we shouldn't really need to think about it any more. However many "reform" and "modernizing" and "revolutionary" labels you stick on it.
"Thou shalt not kill? Love thy neighbor? You know the Bronze Age ended a couple of centuries ago?" Via.

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