Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Wrong "Road to 60"

Some Republicans are learning the wrong lesson from the filibuster-proof Senate of 2009-10. Grover Norquist is mapping out "The Road to 60" for the next two election cycles.

Social Security reform failed in 2005, on his view, because Republicans only had 55 seats in the US Senate and Democrats absolutely refused to countenance any reform. So Republicans are going to have to get to 60 so that they can ram reform down the Democrats' throats just like the Democrats rammed ObamaCare down Republican throats.

(My recollection was the Republicans couldn't even get Social Security reform out of the House in 2005.)

But this gets it all wrong. There is no point in reforming entitlements unless Republicans can forge a bipartisan majority with moderate Democrats. It would be a terrible mistake to craft a plan and ram it down Democratic throats. That would create a Democratic rejectionist movement and years of rancorous division.

Anyway, Republicans aren't going to need to get to 60 to pass entitlement reform. Back in 2005 Democrats never imagined that we'd be in a situation where states were going bankrupt, public pension plans were underwater, and the federal debt would be heading for 100 percent of GDP. They know, at least in a semi-conscious way, that their programs are in trouble.

When the Republicans start on Rep. Ryan's Roadmap and start to tentatively reform entitlements they will start be able to find Democratic votes. And if they can't find them in 2013 or 2015 they will find them sooner or later.

Republicans must understand that they are moving into a strategic advantage. If these entitlements go belly up it will be Democratic voters that will suffer most. The sooner the Democrats do a deal the better their voters will do out of it. The longer they wait, demagoguing the "cuts," the worse it will be for the "little people."

Democrats don't yet realize that their breakout effort in 2009-10 was a strategic blunder of monumental proportions. They have created issues that Republican candidates will run on for a generation. ObamaCare is going to kill them, because anything that goes wrong in health care will get blamed on ObamaCare and Democrats. And now that Democrats don't have the legislative power they had before the election they are trying to do everything by administrative ukase: instituting "death panels" at the Department of Health and Human Services and pushing carbon dioxide regulation at the Environmental Protection Agency. They couldn't have thought up a better way to creat Republican voters if they had tried.

The centralized administrative state has had an amazing run during the last century. But now it is running up against the reality that it is profoundly undemocratic and profoundly unjust. Democrats have no idea the trouble they are in. Not yet.

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