Monday, May 25, 2009

Red Meanies

Just read Krugman's Monday NYT editorial wherein he laments the parlous state of California's huge budget deficit and finds that the main villains in the state's massive budget deficit emergency are, surprise surprise, Republicans. Presented as damning evidence of this turpitude is the passage of Prop 13 three decades ago that restricted and capped tax rates which of course is seen as the lovechild of stingy heartless conservatives. Nowhere to be found in this perfervid condemnation is any mention of the Democratically controlled legislature's grandiloquent spending proclivities. Apparently in the progressive weltanshauung the only responsibility that conservatives, and the public, have is to move whatever mountains necessary to fund whatever spending initiatives that happen to bemuse the political class at any given time. Any unwillingness to increase tax rates, and to tax whatever the heck will stand still for it, to pay for whatever the lege has decreed can only be seen as gross fiscal dereliction.

Of course when any new monies are spent by government, new programs instituted or new agencies created funding is of course needed. When this funding is spent the effect is, always, to create not merely an agency or program but a constituency of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of persons whose lives, livelihoods, and votes become an automatic self-interested brake on efforts to dis-establish or reduce funding for those programs. This is precisely why new programs and initiatives should be subjected to extremely rigorous cost/benefit analysis studies because once a program is funded and becomes entrenched in the overall bureaucratic scheme of things the chances of getting it defunded, even in the plain face of abject failure, are microscopic.

Progressive legislatures seem to have no awareness whatever of the law of unintended consequences that mitigates so heavily against grandiose spending plans with the goal of social engineering (or these days actual mechanical engineering) of one kind or another. So naturally the embedded constituency consequence is of no more concern than any other. Naturally when the budget crunch comes and cuts loom these constituencies scream murder most foul as well they might when so many lives have been rearranged in response to the initial funding effort. That this problem might be mitigated on the front end never ever ever intrudes on the thought processes the progressive social engineer.

Additionally in the past couple of decades a disheartening percentage of those of putative conservative bent have been convinced to go along with these plans. In the conservatives' case this is at least partly due to the unwillingness of some to be inevitably painted by editorialists, pundits, and the mainstream media as grumpy skinflints who do not "care" about whatever problem a given legislative initiative is purported to address.

Progressives seem to think that "caring" about a problem, or the people troubled by it, is the sole arbiter of worthiness for any programmatic response. Caring trumps everything so consequently anyone grumping about the expense just doesn't care about the supposedly terrible problem. Further anyone with the temerity to care about a program's cost is painted as engaging in "War" whose forms include the War on the Middle Class, the War on Women, the War on the Poor, the War on Unions, etc. ad nauseum.

Everyone of any given political bent questions and occasionally ridicules the principles of its opposition but frequently it seems that progressives don't really think conservatives have principles but only a kind of organized meanness, a reflexive disdain for the tribulations of anyone but their rich patrons, and a inchoate hatred of any person of color. Consequently any resistance based on fiscal sanity can be conveniently ascribed to one or all of the above odious proclivities. The fever swamps of the right attempt to use the same rhetorical tactics but clearly have been far less successful in legislative terms than the equally fevered swamp denizens of the left. If this were not the case then state and federal budgets would fractions of their current bloated sizes.

So in effect any attempts at fiscal sanity by conservatives are tarred as gross moral malfeasance by progressives instead of anything as noble as principled opposition. How, they think, can opposition to increased taxes on the rich be seen as anything but haughty disdain of those who aren't? Well of course it can be seen as principled but one has to navigate away from the aforementioned swamps to the rather more erudite, and I hate to say it, nuanced, regions of the polisphere such as National Review, The Claremont Institute, and Commentary Magazine. In such places you will find reasoned analysis, appropriate historical context, and little or none of the ad-hoc name-calling and profanity laced frothings of both far left and right. As a not inconsiderable bonus you will also find good writing.

Look up and read these guys: Charles Krauthammer, Jonah Goldberg, Thomas Sowell, Rich Lowry, Mark Steyn, John Derbyshire, Norman Podhoretz, Amir Taheri, Peggy Noonan, Heather MacDonald, Christopher Hitchens, Victor Davis Hanson, Hirsi Ali, Ramesh Ponnuru, Larry Kudlow, George Will, Kenneth Minogue, David Pryce-Jones, Arnold Kling, and last but hardly least, William F. Buckley, the only posthumous inclusion in this list which is woefully incomplete but as good a starting point as any. Principles in abundance, intelligently explicated and stoutly defended you will find and free of profanity and grubby name-calling. Enjoy, and learn.

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