Friday, October 14, 2016

The End of My Fantasy of Welfare State Reform

I like to imagine all the cutting things I could say to my liberal friends, but in the end I don't use them. So, when dining with a liberal couple recently, I merely said that, with Trump, I see the end of my libertarian-conservative dream.

The point is that Trump is bringing a bunch of people into the Republican Party that don't care about reducing the weight of government. They just want it to act for them and give them back their good old good jobs at good wages. Oh, and treat them with respect. 

So what does it matter that Paul Ryan wants to privatize Social Security? Good luck on that, pal. Nobody is talking about entitlement reform: not Clinton, and not Trump. Why? Because everybody getting the entitlements already paid in. And the young are too stupid to understand how they are getting ripped off.

So if the white working class stays in the Republican Party after Trump, the old agenda -- of limited government and grow the economy -- is dead.

And why not? Government is all about rewarding its supporters with loot and plunder. And Social Security and Medicare are the loot that the great middle class expects in return for its support of the ruling class. Or at least in return for turning out and confirming the ruling class in its power and privilege. So what government in its right mind would even consider meddling with the basic entitlement loot that the government offers to its supporters?

That saddens me, because I believe in an America that is higher and nobler than a neo-feudal Patron/Client regime, where the ruling class struts its stuff  and strips the land of its increase, and the peasants touch their forelocks, grateful for the crumbs that fall from the lord's table.

Yet obviously you can't elect a mouse based on what used to be called retrenchment and reform. People expect loot from their politicians, and the politicians tell them what they want to hear.

Why do I care about limited government?  How am I different from the average bear? Is it because my father's family in Russia got cleaned out by the Bolshevik revolution, and ended up in Britain depending, for a season, on the kindness of relatives? Is it because my mother's family was cleaned out by the start of World War II right after the Great Depression when her father had to sell his business in Japan in 1940 to a Czech Jew that had no place else to go and my grandfather lived his last years in a boarding-house in Kent?

That kind of family history does tend to make you think on the lines of the emperor Claudius's friend and aide in Robert Graves' I, Claudius who told the Roman emperor: "Trust no-one, not even me."

So I do not believe the blandishments of politicians and their promises of loot. In the end the loot will vanish and the promises will evaporate in the desperate measures of the next emergency. It is up to me to keep a sturdy ship that can survive the gales and the storms of government folly.

The example of Venezuela is front and center. President Chavez sets up programs to delight his supporters in the bright glare of the noon-day sun, when oil prices are high and revenue abundant. But when the storm appears over the horizon and the winds begin to blow, the government is hog-tied. Because the one thing a government cannot do is reef its sails and cut the spending and disappoint its supporters. So instead of sensible retrenchment of unaffordable programs it bellows "steady as she goes" to the helmsman and piles the ship of state on the rocks. And now the government's supporters are starving.

People like me complain and yearn for another Reagan. But the time is not yet for another Reagan. We are not yet thrashing in the toils of "stagflation," the Carter-era combination of inflation, sky-high interest rates and a no-growth economy. In the 1970s Ronald Reagan was perceived as a fool, an extremist, a light-weight, and anything else the liberal ruling class could use to anathematize him. Even I, in early 1980, rallied to good safe George H.W. Bush until I went to a precinct caucus and encountered the Reagan supporters, the deplorables and bitter clingers of that time, and got to understand that something was afoot. Things are not yet bad enough for voters to rally to a Reagan.

So I told my liberal friend about the end of my libertarian-conservative fantasies. And I did not segue into my "little darlings" meme, how the white working class Trump supporters are the little darlings betrayed by the liberals of 50 years ago, who switched from pouring benefits over the heads of working stiffs and decided that they liked women and minorities much more. Because the white working class was, after all, merely a bunch of Archie Bunker racist, sexist bigots.

(I'm sure that they would have called Archie a homophobe, but the word hadn't been invented back then. Leastways, I don't think so.)

And I did not say that the next group to show up at the Republican Party, turned out of the lord's Democratic estate, would probably be Catholics, followed by the Jews.

Going forward with Trump, we aren't going to reform entitlements. And with Clinton we aren't going to reform health care, education, and end the climate change boondoggle. So nothing changes, and the rocks get closer. And Lord knows what happens with the Russians the the Chinese and the Muslims.

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