Friday, August 31, 2012

Buchanan's Pessimism

Columnist Pat Buchanan is at it again with his culture-war pessimism, this time hitting on the unlikely success of an economic resurgence from the Romney-Ryan ticket.

In his latest piece, "The 'Larger Purpose' of the Romney-Ryan ticket, the national conservative begins his argument pointing out the 49-state landslides of Nixon the Reagan during tough economic times, men who poised themselves to carry every state in the union because they stuck to and stood for a "larger purpose" of taking our troops out of unnecessary foreign conflicts or cutting taxes to jump-start the economy.

Yet he foresees only difficult options which Romney-Ryan will not be able to implement without harming hordes of voters who demand their handouts.

I wish to rebut his cynicism, which seems mostly a long-term shtick which distinguishes him from the more "conservative" conservatives who practice a measured optimism in this fallen world.

For consider the major categories of federal spending.

The largest domestic programs are Medicare and Social Security. Pare back these middle-class entitlements, and a President Romney will be at war with AARP, tens of millions of seniors and an army of baby boomers now reaching retirement age at a rate of 10,000 a day.

Governor Christie announced his belief that seniors in this country are not going to throw their grandchildren under the  bus for a subsidy which is dwindling faster than current revenues can even put a dint on stemming. If Marco Rubio could ride to Senate victory pledging entitlement reform in a state populated with elderly recipients, then the politicians in Washington can no longer plug away at the lie that voters in this country or so selfish and short-sighted to recognize the truth about this nation's dire financial situation.

If Romney is going to bring the budget even close to balance, he has to end U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and stay out of any new wars in Syria or Iran. But a policy of no war where no vital U.S. vital interest is imperiled would be seen as a moral abdication by the democracy crusaders and a betrayal by the neoconservatives.

"Neoconservative" is a bad word, and the majority of GOP presidential candidates ran on a platform of measured retraction from armed conflicts around the world.

As for defense, Romney has taken that off the table and would increase it to 4 percent of GDP.
What about education? The major items here are Head Start, Bush II's No Child Left Behind, Pell grants and student loans. Has any president since Sputnik jolted America awake ever cut back on education?

Obama offered a waiver to the states to opt out of "NCLB", so what's stopping the next generation of Republicans from doing the same? There will be no Pell grants if the federal government does not subsidizing higher education, which is only raising college costs with less return.

What about infrastructure? Since the Interstate Highway Act of President Eisenhower, when has federal spending for highways, roads, bridges, airports, ports and mass transit ever been cut?
Among the major poverty programs are rent supplements, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, welfare and Medicaid. Would a Romney administration that is slashing tax rates for the top 20 percent dare to cut programs that benefit the working poor?

The decisions to cut, cut, cut cannot wait any longer. The voters in this country are not stupid. The Tea Party upstarts

Only once in the lifetime of Americans now living did the U.S. government slash spending. Right after World War II, the feds' share of the U.S. economy was cut by two-thirds, and all those dollars put away in wartime savings came flooding out to buy the homes, cars, TVs, freezers, and washers and dryers suddenly available.

This country faces unprecedented challenges, and therefore the leaders in this country will have to make unprecedented choices. The "past is prologue" argument is hollow all the way, considering that Tea Party elements in the House and the Senate forced cuts for the first time in years, even if the billions of dollars taken out of the budget were a mere rounding error. The fact that federal legislators spent time talking about cuts is a sign of better things to come.

What would a Romney-Ryan administration do once in office?

A guess: freeze federal spending rather than slash it. Retain the Bush tax cuts, and pass the new Romney rates. Take a chainsaw to regulations choking free enterprise. Tighten eligibility for federal programs. Cut federal payrolls through attrition.

 I can hear John McLaughin booming "Predictions, Pat!", and this is the answer that Buchanan would rattle off.

"Freeze federal spending' -- that's a winner, something the President can do without Congressional approval.

"Retain the Bush tax cuts" -- Yes, he certainly will do that, and extend them so that the debt-deficit-tax cut dance does not break out once again, tying up the government while setting off businesses and investors throughout the world.

"Take a chainsaw to regulations" -- Senatorial and Congressional candidates have signalled their support to put every regulation through rigorous scrutiny. Linda McMahon of Connecticut and Bill Bloomfield of Los Angeles are two of many voices challenging the institutional incumbency of regulations reigning in Washington.

"Tighten eligibility for federal programs" -- the Romney-Ryan ticket will have the upper hand on this one, because if they do nothing, there will be no federal programs left. Rescinding Obama's Executive Order softening Clinton's welfare reform requirements will be a step in the right direction, without any Congressional stalling to prevent the move.

"Cut federal payrolls through attrition" -- perfect move. City and state governments are doing the same thing.

Yet Buchanan failed to mention Ryan's voucher proposal for Medicare, he forgot to mention the repeal of ObamaCare, which will replace the multi-billion dollar raid on Medicare. He neglected to mention the Simpson-Bowles suggestions, which may have a more receptive audience with Republican majorities defined and confined by Tea Party purism.

And pray it all works, as it did for the Gipper not so long ago.

GOP operatives must stop looking backward to the Big Gipper. Those days are long gone, when Presidents could talk up tax cuts yet ignore the necessary spending cuts, as Reagan did all too easily. This country is not facing the same geopolitical threat then, which precipitated a questionable military build-up.

But however it turns out, those 49-state landslides are history.

This country, these reforms, do not depend on landslides, but measured majorities. More than any previous time in history, voters are well-informed and well-aware, and they demand that their leaders in Washington do well on their behalf to curb entitlements, cut the spending, and care for the basic requirements of the Constitution without crossing over.

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