In this light, the American system of government is inherently conservative: change is slow, requiring broad consensus among the branches of government and among the American people.
It has, in my opinion, served us well to resist radical change. Other civilized countries, without the tradition of gradual systemic evolution, have fallen prey to power-hungry political leaders and whimsical fantasies of idealism and egalitarianism. China, Germany, Italy, Cuba, among others.
Often those who seek absolute power ride into town spewing fanciful promises that they will change everything for the better in a short period of time. I would never consider these men “conservative” in the proper sense of the term. Slow and steady wins the race, in life and in politics.
Regarding spending in California, click around here at you can verify that CA’s spending rose from about $80 billion in 2000 to about $200 billion in 2011. That’s an increase of 150% in eleven years. It’s true that in the past couple years they’ve pushed spending down by a relatively small amount. That certainly isn’t because the legislature felt a compulsive desire to reign in runaway spending. It’s because they were forced to. They ran out of money.
I do agree that Gov. Brown is more connected to fiscal reality than most Democrats. He has made some modest attempts to take on the public sector unions with their soaring pay and benefits, which are the real reason for California’s problems. Most of the Democrats in the legislature, however, are opposed to even those modest measures. Meanwhile disaster still looms. As the article that you linked to says:
For all that Brown has accomplished, his state is not out of the woods. The combination of the state tax increase on high earners and the subsequent tax-the-rich levies imposed by the federal government means that those earning more than a million dollars a year face a combined federal-state income tax bill of 52 percent. Brown’s critics say that this will encourage some high-earners to move themselves and their businesses to other Western states such as Nevada and Washington, which have no state income taxes. It’s too early to know if this concern is merited.
But even if they stay put, California still faces fiscal obligations that are hidden in plain sight. The accounting gimmicks used by past legislatures to “balance” the budget created a $35 billion wall of debt as revenues were shuffled from one fund to another. The state owes the federal government $10 billion for unemployment-insurance payments.
California also has the highest public pension debt of any state except Illinois. The teachers’ pension fund alone wants $4.5 billion more a year. As the Economist observed, “This would immediately swallow up this year’s surplus and drain the budget for another three decades.” State Treasurer William Lockyer says that if politicians continue to ignore pension debt, state finances will implode. But his observation is not unique to California; the same could be said for at least 30 other states.
Well, the question you ask is one of the reasons I’m a conservative. The more people are dependent upon entities other than themselves, the more risk there is in those things not being there to help them. That, and the more determined you are to make sure that you plan for your future.
I would correct one of the assumptions you seem to have made: I know of no conservative that beliefs in either zero taxation nor zero social safety net. That’s as wrong as saying that liberals are unconcerned about growth. I firmly think that a society in which people have to assume that they are responsible for themselves will result in us having more oars in the water, so to speak. Once people feel there is a way to exist without them pulling, the drag on society becomes larger.
I think one of the most unhelpful things to have happened in the last 40 or so years is the normalization of welfare, the removal of its stigma. I have elderly relatives who were raised in tenement housing in NYC in the 1920s. They tell me that Home Relief was a social safety net that was used from time to time by many of them and people in their neighborhoods. But, it was something people were very reluctant to tap into. There was stigma. And because there was, they used it only when they had to, and only for a very short time. It also caused them to go look for work, doing anything, just to feed their families.
There was a great scene in Cinderella Man. Russell Crowe, playing, upcoming boxing champ, Jim Braddock, can’t find work and needs to put food on the table. Very reluctantly, and very embarrassed, he goes to get a government check. Later, when he wins a purse he goes back to the same line and pays the money back.
Now, that might be an extreme, romanticized account of what I’m talking about, but it contrasts well with an all-too-prevalent attitude today of “I’m owed that money”. It’s become a way of life. That is not good for society (greater drag and fewer oars in the water), nor the individual. It creates a world were doing less will get you more.
A look into the what this can breed can be seen in a very short news piece Alexandra Pelosi did, at the suggestion of Bill Maher. After going to one of the gulf states and taking a look at poor people there and kind of making fun of them while examining the notion that, as republicans, they were voting against they’re own self interests, she went to the Welfare Office which was , literally, on the block she lives on in NYC. There, she interviewed people jumping through the minor hoops the government put in place so they can collect a check. People whined about there being no jobs. She then walked around the block (this is not in this version of the video) and saw signs in windows for help. If I remember correctly she found eight jobs.
Like I said, and anecdote. But all to representative of an attitude very unhelpful for society.
As it turns out, there is much of the 1950s that would serve us very well today. But when people point that out it does not mean that they want to revert back separate drinking fountains for blacks and whites, etc. Knee-jerking your way to that cartoonish position is well, cartoonish. It offers nothing to any debate. In fact, it’s a tactic to close down a line of debate. Perhaps you might not be party to such tactics. Just a thought.
I once read Andrew Sullivan define conservatism as something like being in charge of a vehicle and tasked with making minor adjustments as necessary, with the goal of keeping the whole show on the road.
If conservatism were like that in practice, I’d probably be one. Sullivan’s example is complicated because it’s interested in maintaining long-term stability through minimalistic reactions to the reality of the day; but it’s not interested in extrapolating how a policy will function 100 years from now and trying to adjust for that in the present day. In fact, I’d think that’s almost the exact opposite of Sullivan’s example.
No, but here’s a more important question. Are liberals doing anything to indicate that they understand the financial peril of major cities and want to change course?
Detroit has been circling the drain for a long time. The city’s problems are clear: high taxes and regulations drive away business. The city government is corrupt, spends too much, has too many employees, and meanwhile can’t perform basic functions such a policing the streets. All of this is generally acknowledged even by liberals, and it’s been true for years. But the Democrats who have run the city have refused to change course. For years they’ve been unwilling to even consider loosening regulations on business, firing unneeded employees, and trimming expenses. Actions speak louder than words. Their actions show clearly that they weren’t thinking about long-term viability over the past few years.
Now that the bankruptcy has occurred, liberal groups still aren’t thinking long term. They’re filing lawsuits, desperately seeking a judge who will intervene to prevent the bankruptcy. Thus far they’ve been unsuccessful. But think about this for a moment. Suppose these unions manage to win these lawsuits? Then what? The city is still out of money and unable to pay its obligations. How is that thinking long term?
As I mentioned, Detroit is not the only city facing financial trouble. Chicago, for instance, will be bankrupt in around five years. Are the Democrats who run the city thinking long-term about this problem? Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, formerly of the Obama Administration, has shown some spine in trying to trim the budget, but he’s fighting an uphill battle against the unions and the liberal media. And what’s their plan for preventing Chicago from going belly-up? I have yet to see one.
I think the general conservative viewpoint is to look back and think that this is the way things were for a long time so we know it works. The United States existed without gay marriage, to give one example, for a couple of hundred years. So obviously the country can function without gay marriage. Liberals may argue that legalizing gay marriage would make the country better but how do we know if they’re right? And what if they’re wrong and gay marriage causes problems? Why not stick with what we know works?
Why is your vision of welfare limited to things like food stamps and not things like farm subsidies and corporate tax breaks? Since those things typically cost a lot more than people standing in modern day bread lines, why aren’t you chastising millionaire CEOs who feel no compunction about taking bailouts and the like? If you are gonna get mad about something, make sure the subject of your ire is deserving.
The difference is that economic conservatives sometimes have points worth hearing, but social/religious conservatives are always entirely and completely and absolutely wrong about every single thing that distinguishes them from others.
It “SOES”!!! Ha! Your opinion lacks a basis in reality. And the point made was that there is plenty of good stuff from the fifties, in spite of the sad and disgusting level of inequality. Tell me, are you really you not capable of separating different aspects of the fifties and classifying some of them as good, some of them as bad? Do you really find that exercise that difficult? Or is it just that you like spewing the nonsense that Republicans want to bring back separate water fountains and have blacks ride in the backs of buses so much that you don’t want a little thing like reality to get in your way? It must make you all atingle.
It is deserving. In and of itself. Are there other forms of welfare that are bad, as well? Yes. But farm subsidies that wind up in the hands of HUGE corporations are a different problem. As are corporate bailouts, which I am not a fan of. But neither of those two is as insidious. The reason is that Welfare, food stamps, etc. have stripped from people the sense of self reliance and the hard work it generates. It deprives them of incentive to work and robs them of the pride one feels when one has earned his way. This is not true of all recipients, of course,. But the point is that by making the help SO available and removing the stigma that used to be attached to it, it has changed society, for all, not for good.
The problem is you’re assuming the primary reason people don’t have jobs is a lack of incentive. But that’s not necessarily so. The economy has changed a lot in the last sixty years. Automation and global competition has eliminated a lot of the low-level jobs that used to be available at the bottom of the economic ladder. We may have more poor people than we have available jobs for them. If that’s the case not everyone is going to be able to find a job no matter how hard you push them. So the alternatives are to create jobs for people (which most conservatives would oppose), to throw some people to the wolves (which most people would find immoral), or to accept that some people will be on long-term welfare.
I don’t know. I’d agree that it is not the only reason, but it may, in fact, be the primary reason. I know this ism just an anecdote, but as I mentioned, Alexandra Pelosi found a bunch of jobs just walking around the block from the Welfare line where she interviewed people. I think a couple were actually just down the street.
Another piece of information I recall is that people on unemployment magically manage to find a job when their benefits expire.
I do not question the need for the safety net. But the fact that the stigma has been removed is not helpful. It’s become an acceptable way of life.
A lot of people who do have jobs are on assistance anyway, such as Medicaid and food stamps. They are working as hard as anyone else, but they still need the help.
They stigma may be less from the perspective of those who accept assistance simply because there is no other way for them in the 2013 economy. If it just becomes a fact of life that you need food stamps when you’re working full-time at Walmart (ahem, I mean 38 hours so that Walmart doesn’t have to give benefits), then people are going to get the food stamps and, on average, be less liable to beat themselves up about it.
OTOH, people who can get by without the assistance still rhetorically beat the shit out of those who do, as if they have any choice. The stigma is still there, even if those on assistance don’t apply it to themselves, or do so less than before.
I think a conceit of Conservatives is that anybody willing to work enough in 2013 can go out, get a job… and be fine! A-OK. I think even without the Great Recession, the structure of the economy has changed to a degree that that is not the case.
Politicians don’t think long term, because the public doesn’t tend to think long-term. It’s not a conservative/liberal thing. Both sides are equally guilty, because they’re pandering to us, and we’re guilty.
Considering that Republicans today revel in the Confederacy, honor unrepentant racists, work to rid the poor of all their safety nets while lying to their face and telling them its good for them, then my “opinion” obviously is completely based on facts.
Show me a Republican who doesn’t think the South should honor Confederates, who thinks Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms were pissant racists, or believe that we should have expanded food stamps, welfare, and health care for the poor and I’ll show you a Democrat.