Wednesday, March 04, 2009
A New Conservatism?
From Whence Come the Ideas and Fervor?
I have seen the call for new ideas and new directions for conservatism being made by many spokespersons. What I have seen very little of are presentations of well-thought-out ideas that have both the punch and the basis in conservatism required to capture the imagination of the public.
It is still true in my mind that a tax cut is the bread and butter issue for now, paralleled, obviously, by significant spending cuts somewhere.
But where are the really new ideas that would replace or complement these staid and sound ideas of the past? Tax cuts are an easy sell, normally. Spending cuts are going to be a very hard sell when the opposition is using a snow shovel to toss money into the economy, to save jobs, and mortgages, and cars.
But it is precisely spending that must be brought under control, and if it is attacked by us in the next election cycle, many of our citizens will believe that they will suffer for it (probably rightly) and will opt for shovel-loads of taxpayer money yet again
The old saw of shooting for greater government efficiency to save taxpayer dollars has been used over and over, I would say with very limited success, among many reasons, because government growth overwhelms the savings, the system itself mitigates against contraction of services for needs, the protection by Congress of fiefdoms, the incessant and effective lobbying for this or that program continuation, and what I will term “poor utilization of human resources” in government, just to get around lots of sensitive pieces of the problem.
Entitlements are yet another area that must be handled, including SS and Medicare. They are the largest spending sector, and they have large constituencies as well. The opposition is going to offer low cost or even some free medical care, subsidized by the government. That tends to trump rational suggestions that promise to put these programs on a healthy financial basis over time, but must have many subscribers to pay fees in the meanwhile.
If we look into Education, or Energy, or Defense, or (God help us!) Climate Change, for new ideas, we hit the shovel approach again head first from the opposition, right in the middle of the depression/recession/stagflation or what have you? in 2010.
What I return to is the crying need to identify a significant list of line-item targets for spending reductions and the rationales for them that sell the public practically on the face of what they are now. The magnetic rail line in Nevada comes to mind, and bridges to nowhere that keep cropping up, or saving a rodent or bug in the desert or forest are examples. The identified savings would have to amount to many billions of dollars, while not doing more harm than good.
So, I am hoping for some brilliant men and women to put the new ideas and their justifications up for review real soon now. The complexity of it all is daunting. I envy no President his job, but I do reserve the right to object to what is proposed, particularly in the case of the Obama/Reid/Pelosi Triumvirate.