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The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute
Yuval Levin deftly describes Democratic and Republican policy goals. For the Ds, he says, it’s to preserve, protect, and defend the Obamacare-expanded welfare state — oh, and finance it, too:
With Obamacare enacted, they are basically done building. They might dream of expanding the reach of one program or another, expanding the tentacles a bit or consolidating some, but their social-democratic edifice has all its major parts. The trouble is that we can’t afford to keep them all, or at least in the form and structure that the left insists those parts must have. The foundation is falling out from beneath the building just as they have finished construction. That means that liberal political power must now be used to raise money to buy the liberal welfare state more time, and it must be used to hold off efforts to change the structure of the entitlement programs. … They must get as much as they possibly can in this round, and they must resist significant entitlement reforms, which would make the whole exercise largely pointless.
By contrast, Republicans want “to transform the welfare state into a series of (relatively) efficient and market friendly 21st-century safety-net institutions” while keeping taxes as low as possible.
So America needs to decide: Big Spend and Big Tax vs. Reform and Modernize. Muddling through means muddling from one cliff and crisis to the next. The 2012 election was hardly a referendum since the Obama campaign made no effort to outline the future tax burden their spending will require. Raising taxes on the top 2% isn’t going to cut it. Raising taxes more broadly will be easier if the Obamacrats are successful in turning these social welfare entitlements into something more akin to constitutional rights, putting them beyond mere politics. As Harvard’s Harvey Mansfield said in a WSJ interview last weekend:
But Democrats’ refusal to address the future in positive terms, he adds, also reveals the party’s intent to create “an entitlement or welfare state that takes issues off the bargaining table and renders them above politics.” The end goal, Mr. Mansfield worries, is to sideline the American constitutional tradition in favor of “a practical constitution consisting of progressive measures the left has passed that cannot be revoked. And that is what would be fixed in our political system—not the Constitution.”
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