I missed the part about there being some democrat president who actually wanted to cut retirement programs, but that (flattering-to-his-own-side) detail aside, I think Mr. Yglesias is basically right. A kind of all-time first.
The welfare state has entropy, Original Sin, and Man’s Fallen Nature on its side. Opposing it, reducing it, reforming it is hard. Being a liberal is like ordering a second Martini or agreeing to have dessert, easy. That’s actually why there are so many liberal politicians. The guys determined to be elected, at any cost, figured out long ago which side has the easier task.
What we learned, in other words, is that even with a Democratic President in the White House who’s eager to cut spending on retirement programs they still don’t get cut. That’s how robust the welfare state is. Recall that the last time we had a Republican President in the White House what he did was make Medicare benefits significantly more generous. Recall also that Mitt Romney ran on a pledge to increase Medicare benefits for ten years and then offset that by cutting benefits for younger people in the future. That’s how robust the welfare state is. Concern trolling about Democratic senators’ willingness to blink on taxes is neat, but all we’re seeing again and again is confirmation of Paul Pierson’s thesis from Dismantling the Welfare State?, namely that dismantling the welfare state is incredibly difficult.
If you want to worry about something, worry about the United States of America. What we’ve seen time and again for the past five years is a breakdown of responsible party government in the United States. Nobody gets their way legislatively, so nobody has to take the fall when things work out poorly.
The American left responded with characteristic class yesterday when confronted with the sudden death of prominent conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart.
Twitter erupted with unconcealed expressions of liberal delight at news of the death of a political opponent.
AlmightyBob @AlmightyBoob : @AndrewBreitbart haha youre dead and in hell being a gay with hitler
Dave Lartigue @daveexmachina : Andrew Breitbart has died. Honestly, good riddance. He helped poison the country where I live and we are better off without him.
DAC @dac2527 : Satan calls Andrew Breitbart home… Good riddance!
The most prominent leftwinger to comment on Twitter was Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) who contributed: “Conventions around dead people are ridiculous. The world outlook is slightly improved with @AndrewBrietbart dead.”
The response on Twitter was pretty bad, but Rolling Stone’s Nicholas Kamm had a go at topping all that in a gleeful farewell piece titled: Death of a Douche.
So Andrew Breitbart is dead. Here’s what I have to say to that, and I’m sure Breitbart himself would have respected this reaction: Good! Fuck him. I couldn’t be happier that he’s dead.
I say this in the nicest possible way. I actually kind of liked Andrew Breitbart. Not in the sense that I would ever have wanted to hang out with him, or even be caught within a hundred yards of him without a Haz-Mat suit on, but I respected the shamelessness. Breitbart didn’t do anything by halves, and even his most ardent detractors had to admit that he had a highly developed, if not always funny, sense of humor.
Still, in many ways, an even more impressive example of seriously bad form was turned in by the perennial-critic-of-conservatism-pretending-to-reside-within-its-ranks Andrew Frum.
And this is where it becomes difficult to honor the Roman injunction to speak no ill of the dead. It’s difficult for me to assess Breitbart’s impact upon American media and American politics as anything other than poisonous. When one of the leading media figures of the day achieves his success by his giddy disdain for truth and fairness—when one of our leading political figures offers to his admirers a politics inflamed by rage and devoid of ideas—how to withhold a profoundly negative judgment on his life and career?
Ezra Klein spoke for progressives throughout the land when he expressed a certain personal irritation with the “America No.1” cheerleading portions of Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
One of the first big applause lines of the speech came when Barack Obama said, “For all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world.” But as Matt Yglesias notes, soon, we won’t. China will. And that’s okay.
A decent future includes China’s GDP passing ours. They have many, many more people than we do. It’s bad for both us and them if the country stays poor. ...
In the best global economy we can imagine, the countries with the largest GDP are the countries with the most people. That’s not America. And that’s okay.
Klein proceeds to assure us that his preferred vision of the future is not all that bad for America. We have not declined into a state of want or hardship or oblivion. We’re just going to be No. 2, and content with it, since prosperous and successful China will be innovating for us.
What’s wrong with decline and fall? Klein argues. Britain declined. Why not us?
A world in which China becomes rich enough to buy from us and educated enough to invent things that improve our lives is a better world than one in which they merely become competitive enough to take low-wage jobs from us—and that’s to say nothing of the welfare of the Chinese themselves.
But perhaps it’s better to think of it in terms of Britain rather than China. Was the economic rise of the United States, in the end, bad for Britain? Or France? I don’t think so. We’ve invented a host of products, medicines and technologies that have made their lives immeasurably better, not to mention measurably longer. We’re a huge and important trading partner for all of those countries. They’re no longer even arguably No. 1, it’s true. But they’re better off for it.
Of course, Ezra Klein’s sunny picture of a modest swoon to position 2, purely on the basis of comparative demographics, old boy, is a puerile, historically illiterate assessment of how things work.
Loss of stature and decline typically does not cease when you hit number 2. If we look at Britain’s decline, we see not only loss of economic preeminence. We see a fundamental loss of national self-confidence, the abandonment of Britain’s civilizing mission abroad, diminishing military strength leading to dependency on the United States, surrender of the country’s domestic economy to the domination of trade unions and socialism, industrial collapse, decades of economic decline, mass emigration of the ambitious and enterprizing, and ultimately even the calculated remodeling of the ethnic character of the nation through Third World emigration policies covertly imposed by Labour leaders. Britain did not just sink to Number 2. Britain lost just about everything, including its national character.
Matt Yglesias echoes Klein, without bothering to sugarcoat the message.
[S]omething I thought was really striking about Barack Obama’s speech last night was how utterly unprepared American political culture is for the idea of a world in which we’re not Top Nation. And yet the reality is that while we’re the world’s largest economy today, and will continue to be so tomorrow, we really just won’t be forever. The Economist predicts that China will pass us in 2019. Maybe it’ll be 2018 or maybe it’ll be 2022.
But it will happen. And fairly soon. And it’ll happen whether or not we reform education or invest in high speed rail or whatever. And the country doesn’t seem prepared to deal with it.
We had a similar discussion, a few months ago, on my Yale class’s email list. Some liberal classmates had condemned the US Constitution and argued that, since it allowed slavery, Constitutional Originalism was obviously undesirable. The US Constitution had always been defective.
They went on to cite demographic prediction of larger Hispanic birth-rates, and gleefully predicted that in a few more decades, the United States would be a nation in which current minorities would be a majority.
I pointed out that the ongoing line of argument demonstrated only too clearly that the perspective of the left was, in fact, hostile to the political system of the United States as founded, and to the Constitution. That the same perspective, moreover, also did not like the majority of European-descended Americans, and took pleasure in imagining this country’s people and culture swept away and replaced by a different people.
Why, I wondered epistolarily, should anyone who actually supports the Constitution, loves America, or feels affirmative ties to the America people even think of listening to leftists?
As we see, in the cases of Messrs. Yglesias and Klein, in their heart of hearts, they are not on our side. They are our adversaries and opponents.
Prominent liberal blogger Matt Yglesias is finding that American democracy isn’t working out his way these days, and announces that it’s time to change the rules.
The smarter elements in Washington DC are starting to pick up on the fact that it’s not tactical errors on the part of the president that make it hard to get things done, it’s the fact that the country has become ungovernable. ...
You can have a system in which a defeated minority still gets a share of governing authority and participates constructively in the victorious majority’s governing agenda, shaping policy around the margins in ways more to their liking. Or you can have a system in which a defeated minority rejects the majority’s governing agenda out of hand, seeks opening for attack, and hopes that failure on the part of the majority will bring them to power. But right now we have both simultaneously. It’s a system in which the minority benefits if the government fails, and the minority has the power to ensure failure. It’s insane, and it needs to be changed.
You can see just how badly they taught Civics at Dalton and at Harvard. Mr. Yglesias is clearly unaware that the basic role of the Senate as conceived by the framers was to obstruct the will of the majority and to prevent majorities tyrannizing over the minority.
I shall not scruple to add, that such an institution may be sometimes necessary as a defense to the people against their own temporary errors and delusions. As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so there are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind? What bitter anguish would not the people of Athens have often escaped if their government had contained so provident a safeguard against the tyranny of their own passions? Popular liberty might then have escaped the indelible reproach of decreeing to the same citizens the hemlock on one day and statues on the next.
“What if the government put a cap on blog readership? or the number of words you could post?” one of Matthew Yglesias’s readers proposed as a thinking point in the course of arguing against the Gen Y pinko’s suggestion for a 95% tax on earnings over $10 million.
“Fine by me, I’d love to post fewer words,” replied the crafty Rand villain, carefully sidestepping the reduced benefits to him (fewer readers) portion of the analogy and seizing like a limpet onto to the “less work” portion. They train them well in precisely this kind of sophistry in our elite schools.