02 Jun 2009

Against the Center

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Michael Barone rejects the craven advice so commonly being circulated these days urging the GOP to move toward the center.

I think Republicans today should be less interested in moving toward the center and more interested in running against the center. Here I mean a different “center” — not a midpoint on an opinion spectrum, but rather the centralized government institutions being created and strengthened every day. This is a center that is taking over functions fulfilled in a decentralized way by private individuals, firms and markets.

This center includes the Treasury, with its $700 billion of TARP funds voted last fall to purchase toxic assets from financial institutions and used instead to quasi-nationalize banks and preserve union benefits for employees and retirees of bankrupt auto companies. It includes the Federal Reserve, which has been vastly increasing the money supply. It includes a federal government whose $787 billion economic stimulus has so far failed to lower the unemployment rate from where the government projected it would be without the stimulus package.

To govern is to choose, as John F. Kennedy said, and those in charge of these new centralized institutions are making choices that inevitably favor some and hurt others. Unsurprisingly, the politically well connected tend to get the favors. Banks forced to take government money are now blocked from paying it back and in the meantime must direct funds where the government wants them to go.

Chrysler and General Motors bondholders have their property redistributed to the United Auto Worker retiree health-care fund (how the retirees help the companies make cars profitably is left unclear). Stimulus funds go to state governments with lavish contracts with public employee unions. And out of every dollar that goes to a union, a certain number of cents make their way to the Democratic Party.

Read the whole thing.

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