The Tea Party movement arose in part against the Republicans of the last decade, specifically President George W. Bush expansion of domestic spending and the federal government. National Review‘s Andrew McCarthy called out Charles Krauthammer for revealing on The Daily Show that he is one of those Republicans who has accepted modern statism.
McCarthy wrote that Krauthammer, a former Walter Mondale adviser, is “more sympathetic to Obama’s case for the welfare state than to the Tea Party’s case for limited government and individual liberty.”
“The statement may have been provocative in the sense of expressing a truth that people on the political Right prefer not to talk about. But it was not controversial because it is indisputably true,” he writes.
He writes that today’s “smartest Republicans, self-aware enough to know their core views deviate significantly from those of conservatives in the tradition of Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan, are more likely to say what they think to Jon Stewart.”
“His audience is apt to be receptive, maybe even won over, by a mature progressivism portrayed as what conservatives really think,” he writes.
McCarthy criticizes Krauthammer for accepting Stewart’s premise that the “responsibility of governance” embraces the “massive, centralized welfare state” and for pronouncing that today’s “conservatives” accepted “the great achievements of liberalism–the achievements of the New Deal, of Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare. The idea that you rescue the elderly and don’t allow the elderly to enter into destitution is a consensual idea [accepted by] conservatives, at least the mainstream of conservatives.”
McCarthy slams Krauthammer for conflating conservatives with Republicans, which often occurs in Washington.
“With due respect to Charles, no, the New Deal and the centralized welfare state that is its progeny is accepted by the mainstream of Republicans,” he writes. “What Charles describes, moreover, is as fanciful a portrayal of what the New Deal did as it is of what conservatives believe.”
As McCarthy notes, “conservatives, including most of those who were against the New Deal, are not opposed to social welfare for the truly needy,” but believe “in the constitutional framework, which reserves the promotion of social welfare to the states and the people”:
If welfare policy is made at the state level, there are important disciplines in the equation that can prevent the programs from bankrupting the state and unduly punishing productivity. Economic conditions vary widely in a nation of our size, so welfare programs are best designed and run at the local level, by elected officials directly accountable to the people who live with the consequences–officials who can easily alter the programs if conditions change. States know they are in competition with each other, and if wealth redistribution is too onerous in one state, people and businesses can move to others. States and localities also may not print money, and they have incentives (and often constitutional requirements) to balance their budgets that do not exist at the federal level. At the state level, there can be a sensible balancing of “internal order, improvement, and prosperity.”
Such is not the case at the federal level, which McCarthy acknowledges is a poor delivery system of such services and notes that “Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare are” “prosperity killers” and not, as Krauthammer contends, “great achievements of liberalism.”
“By loading everyone onto the gravy train, even if that meant the poor and middle class would subsidize the rich and near rich, progressives hoped to ensure that no one would object to the arrangement — people would just expect to get theirs in due course,” he writes. “Unlike transparent, accountable welfare programs, however, these ‘entitlements’ never had a sound relation between what was paid in and what was to be paid out.”
The massive federal entitlement state, though, creates and sustains the “permanent political class” by “promising more benefits to ever more people and demagoguing all who resist or attempt even the slightest reforms.”
There is, furthermore, an equally destructive corollary. Once one accepts the premise of federal control over these matters of social welfare, there is no principled case against federal control over any matters of social welfare. Every aspect of life becomes potentially subject to central-government regulation. And so it has, through a metastasizing federal code and bureaucracy that regulates everything from cradle to graves.
In the Framers’ construct, the states would experiment and compete, developing best practices–or at least practices that best suited the conditions and sensibilities of the local communities. By contrast, there is no disciplining or escaping Leviathan. And if, as is inevitable, federal officials expand their outlandish schemes and promise favored constituencies more than they can deliver, they just borrow or print ever more money: Government borrows from its tapped-out self, monetizing its debts, degrading our currency to reward sloth and punish thrift even as it steals from future generations.
McCarthy writes that what Krauthammer calls “the great achievements of liberalism” have “undermined the Burkean intergenerational trust at the core of conservatism” because the “welfare state is a betrayal of our constitutional traditions: It is redistributionist gluttony run amok, impoverishing future generations to satisfy our insatiable contemporaries.” Many so-called neoconservatives became Republicans due to foreign policy matters but have favored more liberal social policies, leading conservatives to believe there is not that much difference between these Republicans, many of whom supported No Child Left Behind and the TARP Bailouts and support comprehensive immigration reform:
The Republican establishment aspires to preserve the Washington-based entitlement culture. Charles Krauthammer thus suggested that Jon Stewart look to Paul Ryan as the best exemplar of today’s “conservatism.” It made perfect sense. Representative Ryan, as I’ve observed before, has supported creation of the Bush prescription-drug entitlement (adding trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities to our burden), TARP, Keynesian “stimulus” spending, and the auto-company bailout.
This is not constitutional conservatism. It is moderate statism. Or, to repeat, the current Republican establishment “is more sympathetic to Obama’s case for the welfare state than to the Tea Party’s case for limited government and individual liberty.”