Friday, January 22, 2010

Noonan: Nuts vs. Creeps

It sounds like gang warfare, but Peggy Noonan has redefined the political arena. It's not the Dems vs. the Reps, she says, but the Nuts versus the Creeps.

Back in 2006 and 2008 the Democrats succeeded in persuading the voters that they were not so Nutty as the Creeps were creepy.

In 2008, the voters went for Mr. Obama thinking he was not a Nut but a cool and sober moderate of the center-left sort. In 2009 and 2010, they looked at his general governing attitudes as reflected in his preoccupations—health care, cap and trade—and their hidden, potential and obvious costs, and thought, "Uh-oh, he's a Nut!"

Enter Bob McDonnell, Chris Christie and Scott Brown.

But the Republican candidates in Virginia and New Jersey, and now Scott Brown in Massachusetts, did something amazing. They played the part of the Creep very badly!

They ran, if you like, as practical, pragmatic moderates, concerned about taxing and spending. Oh, and debt. I read someone this week who reminded me that ordinary Americans have had a terrible personal lesson on debt in the last couple of years. Naturally, they are concerned that the government hasn't learned the lessons they learned.

Personally, I think that the Creep image is unfair (but then, probably so is the Nut image.) The reason we had so much spending in the last decade was that, after the budget got balanced in 1998, American voters felt it was time for a little party. That's why Candidate Bush ran as a compassionate conservative in 2000. Green-eyeshade conservatism wasn't going to sell.

But the truth is that there is no such thing as a compassionate government. There is just taxing and spending. The core functions of government, as articulated by Britain's Norman Tebbit, are simple and have nothing to do with compassion.

It must provide not only external but internal security, allowing its citizens to go about their lawful businees freely, and criminal and civil justice systems as well as a currency and the regulatory and legislative infrastructure needed for agriculture, industry and trade.

But that is it. Everything else, from health care to education to infrastructure, is not a Must-have; it is a Nice-to-have.

In the Twenty Teens it is going to be back to basics: Cut taxes, cut spending, cut, cut, and cut again.

And over everything else will be this overarching question. Why do government employees earn 30, 40, even 50 percent more than comparable workers in the private sector?

When you ask that question, the political struggle ceases to be a question of the Nuts vs. the Creeps. It becomes the Makers vs. the Takers. That's a book, by the way, by Peter Schweizer: Makers and Takers: Why conservatives work harder, feel happier, have closer families, take fewer drugs, give more generously, value honesty more, are less materialistic and... Well, you get the picture.

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