Obama’s Irreversible Agenda
Ross Douthat has discovered Barack Obama’s evil genius:
What Obama does have, though, is an atmosphere of crisis and a massively-unpopular opposition party, which grants him an unparalleled political opportunity to pass whatever spending the Democratic Party likes, and damn the short-term cost. And what you see in his budgeting proposals, I think, is the liberal equivalent of the conservative attempt to “starve the beast.” In both the Reagan and Bush eras, Republicans passed tax cuts and ran up large deficits while hoping that by starving the federal government of revenue they would curb its long-run growth. Obama’s spending proposals would effectively reverse that dynamic – they would create new spending commitments and run up large deficits, in the hopes that the dollars poured into health care and education will create a new baseline for government’s obligations, which in turn will create the political space for tax increases on the middle class. Like the starve-the-beast approach, the Obama strategy puts off the hard part till tomorrow: Give them tax cuts today, conservatives said, and they’ll swallow spending cuts tomorrow; give them universal health care, universal pre-K, subsidies for green industry and all the rest of it today, liberals seem to be thinking, and they’ll be willing to pay for it tomorrow.
Kevin Drum agrees:
As Bill Kristol knows all too well, social spending programs, once they get started, tend to be pretty popular. The odds of deep sixing, for example, national healthcare after it’s up and running is essentially zero. And once it’s up and running, taxes will follow because most Americans would rather see their taxes go up than their healthcare services go down.
Of course, this mostly applies to broad-based programs. Smaller ones are still hard to get rid of, but not impossible. It’s the bigger ones that become third rails. Both Obama and the GOP are smart enough to know this, which is why Obama wants to swing for the fences and congressional Republicans want to become the Party of Nyet. If they don’t stop him now, they never will.
Well . . . yeah. There’s a reason people get so excited about politics: elections have major consequences.
It’s hard to undo tax cuts because people like keeping their money. Even “temporary” tax cuts become the baseline so restoration to normal rightly gets called a “tax increase.”
Ditto spending. People don’t like to pay for government programs and they often don’t like the administration of said programs. But they love free stuff. Moreover, when they’ve been conditioned to count on said free stuff and planned for the long term accordingly, then they’re really hooked on the free stuff.
It’s government as crack dealer. You get the first taste for free. After that . . .
Photo by Flickr user Hryck., used under Creative Commons license.