Obama Wants a War
Conservatives seem to be nonplussed about President Obama sending Treasury Secretary Geithner to Capitol Hill without a proposal for a grand bargain on entitlements. But why? Worrying about debt and default and entitlements is for the responsible people. Responsibility is for the people who believe in the "responsible self," the notion developed a couple of millennia ago during the Axial Age. Responsibility is for the bourgeoisie.
President Obama is above all that. Liberal politics in general is above all that. Their politics is about war, not about nice comfortable entitlements. President Obama's War? He's fighting a war on "inequality." Even the Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb is willing to admit to that.
As Obama did in legislative fights during his first term, he also will be striving to reduce a three-decades-long wave of rising income inequality that has meant that fewer Americans have prospered while more struggle to get by.
There's a certain magnificent elegance to the president's war on inequality. It licenses him and his administration to do anything. More spending on the traditionally marginalized? Whatever it takes. Get the rich to pay a little more? It goes without saying.
In waging this war on inequality, it makes no sense to do a grand bargain on entitlements. What would that solve? It would freeze the status quo in place. But the war on inequality can never rest, can never end. A century from now, liberal scholars will be mining the national income data to find another "wave of rising income inequality" while "more struggle to get by."
How can the president rest in his lifelong struggle, his quest for the Great White Whale of equality, while the tide of inequality continues to rise?
So it makes complete sense that President Obama and his Treasury Secretary Geithner have not proposed a "grand bargain" on entitlements. The president is not interested in doing a deal on entitlements. He just wants more money in taxes to spend on his war on inequality.
Now, conservatives like to point out that the president's policy will lead to debt and default, and that the little people will suffer most when that happens. Too bad -- that's what happens in war. Did FDR call off World War II because he didn't want our boys to get killed? Did Ronald Reagan call off the Cold War? Did President Johnson call off the War on Poverty when it turned out that poverty won?
At least Obama is frank about his war on inequality. Previous Democratic presidents have had the modesty to hide their egalitarian lust behind a decent drapery of moderation.
But who knows? Maybe the liberals are right. Maybe the market economy run by the bourgeoisie, the package that has taken the human race from $3 per day to $120 per day in two centuries, really does produce intolerable inequality that can be corrected only with an authoritarian welfare state.
But here's what really sticks in my craw. President Obama is a guy who runs around the world offering resets and flexibility to the Putins, understanding to the Muslim Brotherhoods, and embraces to the Chávezes. But when it comes to Republicans, who are his fellow citizens, it's no-holds-barred, bare-knuckle politics: you bring a knife to the fight, and the president brings a gun. When it comes to authoritarian foreign leaders, the president leads with an olive branch. But when it comes to the loyal opposition, the president leads with his fist.
OK, Mr. President. So be it; that's your game. But we Republicans, we typical Americans, are playing a different game. It is called Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and for that noble purpose and that purpose only will we sacrifice our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
You see, Mr. President, we typical Americans believe that the American idea of limited government is a good one, the best yet. We believe that the notion of fighting "inequality" is nothing more than a ruling-class conceit, a thinly veiled apology for ruling-class tyranny.
The only reason we conservatives are interested in a grand bargain on entitlements is out of the goodness of our hearts. Our naked self-interest would be to crash the entitlements, and the sooner the better, because we reckon that we, members of the responsible-self cult, will be able to rescue something for ourselves from the crash. After all, we are the makers; the 47 percent are the takers.
But we know that the 47 percent, the folks who depend on the government for their very existence, are the ones going to get hammered when the money runs out. And we feel compassion for them. So we propose to "do something" about it.
But there is a price for that compassion. It is that Democrats take responsibility for their little people, the women and minorities who will be hardest hit when the welfare state goes Greek. It's only fair.
Christopher Chantrill (mailto:email@example.com) is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us. At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.