Monday, June 10, 2013

Cut Any Program Ever?

Columnist Jeff Jacoby at the Boston Herald thought he'd have a bit of fun with the two candidates running for John Kerry's seat in the US Senate, Democrat Ed Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez.  He asked them if there was anything that the government shouldn't do: "Can you name a troubling social concern that does not require government action?"

You can guess the answer.  Both candidates ducked. "[N]either candidate identified a single issue that it is not government's place to solve."

I know, it's the First Commandment of Politics.  Don't say anything to make anyone mad.  Ever.

But it explains the difficulty of ever cutting any government program, ever.  Right now in Britland the Labour Party, the party of big government, is trying to do a dance over spending.  They are trying to sell the idea that they would be prudent with the people's money, while accusing the Tories of being mean spirited.

They are, of course, right to be careful.  The Canadian Liberal Party got scared in the mid 1990s and cut spending.  Look what happened to them.  The Conservatives got into power and the second biggest party is now the social-democratic NDP.

Really, a center-left political party cannot afford to do spending cuts.  Not now, not ever.  Because any big-government party that cuts spending is in danger of encouraging its replacement with another party that is more true to its social-democratic principles.

So if I were a Democrat I would refuse to cut spending.  Let the Republicans do the heavy lifting on that.  Let them cut spending, scoot grandma over a cliff, end Medicare as we know it.

You can say, if you like, that Democrats betray their "little people" by driving the government finances into the ditch.  But I don't agree.  From a political point of view, all Democrats ever have to do is "fight for the people against the powerful."  Anything that goes wrong, they can blame it on the Republicans, and their partisans will believe them, from the haut-liberal elite reading The New York Times to the union public schoolteacher to the homeboys in the 'hood.

But what about Republicans?  Should they cut?  Well, Ronald Reagan cut domestic spending in 2001 and lived to tell the tale.  And the Gingrich Congress, after being bested by President Clinton in the government shutdown of 1995, successfully implemented a stealth program of holding down increases in spending.

But, of course, we are coming to a moment when all the biggies are going to break: health care, Social Security, K-12 education, welfare.   In that bonfire, all kinds of things will get vaporized, including perhaps the "fifth party system" that has endured since the the 1932 presidential election.

As I like to say, it will be the "little people" served by the Democratic Party that will get hurt, with women and minorities hardest hit.

But they will still keep voting for those benefits.

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