Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Thursday, March 16, 2017


I'm siting upstairs at my parent's house, listening to my dad's physical therapist talk about the basic issue with social programs: the perception of free riders.

All it takes is for people to know one "welfare cheat" to discredit an entire philosophy of government.  If you know that Cleetus down the road is able but taking a gubmint check he doesn't deserve, it's hard to support social welfare program.

Of course, this is a flaw that leads to poor and working class whites to vote for a party that pretty much only gives a shit about tax cuts for the rich.  Trump's budget is a statement of GOP priorities that stretch back to Reagan and his more fervent acolytes.  It basically ends social programs across the board, including as much regulatory protection as is possible.

It's a Gilded Age document for a man who never found anything he couldn't throw a coat of gold paint on.

The debate of health care is essentially the debate over the role of government, but it that debate made real for millions of people who believe Cleetus down the road invalidates the idea of social spending.  The problem the GOP has run into time and time again is that social spending is pretty damned popular with the people who benefit from it.  Social Security, Medicare, ACA/Medicaid, public schools, public health...people like this stuff.  They made loath Cleetus down the road, but they still want what THEY get out of it.

This is currently a fundamental problem for the GOP as they try and gut Obamacare.  There are too many people who benefit from ACA that voted for Trump.  Shit, Trump basically admitted as much in his interview with Tucker Carlson.  If - with full control of government - they pass their preferred policies, they will hurt people - physically as well as fiscally - in order to lavish tax cuts on the rich.  My guess is that will leave to a Democratic wave in 2018 or 2020.

But as soon as you have a Democratic government, you are going to face this same, fundamental Cleetus down the road problem.  How do you sell an agenda of greater economic equality that doesn't somehow reward Cleetus down the road?  Because as soon as the perception is that Cleetus down the road is benefiting in ways that I'm've lost a ton of support.

This is one powerful argument with universals social programs, be it health care, public education or Social Security.  Social Security is popular because it's universal.  ACA is unpopular because it's not.  Preserving ACA is important, because it creates a baseline for President Gillibrand to move closer to universal single payer in 2021.  Whether or not America can embrace a universal basic income is a real question, because it would seem to hold promise for addressing so much of the rampant inequality that has created our fracture polity.

You don't get Trump without 2008.  You don't get 2008 without Bush's deregulation craze.  You also don't get Obama without 2008.  The GOP benefits from the perception that government is broken and doesn't work for anyone but Cleetus down the road.

Democrats have to fix that before they get their hands on power again.

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