Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Two Welfare States, Both Heading for Ruin

There are two welfare states in America, according to Robrt J. Samuelson. Both of them promised more than they could deliver.

Broadly speaking, the U.S. welfare system divides into two parts -- the private, run by firms; and the public, provided by government. Both are besieged: private companies by competitive pressures; government by rising debt and taxes.

GM is your typical private welfare state, and it is in ruins. The public welfare state will end up in ruins. But its collapse is still in the future.

We've known that the GM welfare state was bound to collapse--for nigh on 25 years. It was pretty easy to figure out what had to be done. In fact other corporations are doing it. They are abandoning defined-benefit pension plans and retiree health care. But the UAW had the power to stop that kind of reform. It had the power because the Democratic Party backed it up.

On this view, you can see that the Obama administration has done the sensible thing with GM and Chrysler. It has given them to the UAW. If the UAW loots them before their members die off, well, they have only themselves to blame.

The same scenario seems likely to play out with the government's public welfare state.

The U.S. welfare state is weakening; insecurity is rising. The sensible thing would be to decide which forms of public welfare are needed to protect the vulnerable and to begin paring others.

But we probably won't do the sensible thing because liberals are powerful enough to stop us. Anyway, you think that all the people who have gotten benefits over the years are going to give them up for the sake of the greater good?

It's a pity, isn't it. The people that will be hurt by this will be the people, the Democratic faithful, that put their trust in the government. "Put not your trust in princes:" That comes from Psalm 146. Presumably politicians were just as two-faced then as now.

Meanwhile the job for conservatives is to develop the ideas and the reforms that will be needed in the post-welfare state. And where we can, in the here and now, we should push through reforms that will help mitigate the awful suffering of the government program beneficiaries, after the Fall.

None of this is rocket science. We know exactly what needs to be done. No more government pensions. No more government health care. No more government education. No more government welfare.

But wait, you say! What will happen to the poor and the vulnerable if there are no government programs to take care of them?

How about this? They will be better off in the conservative sociable state than in the cruel, corrupt, unjust, wasteful, and deluded welfare state.

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