Sullivan’s Conservative Fantasyland

27Feb09

Let me preface this by saying I definitely respect the man, and he’s become one of the people I read the most. However, it’s sentiments like these that make me really wonder if he fully grasps what is going on here:

“Change is not running up even bigger deficits that George Bush did,” – Rep. Gene Taylor (D).

Agreed, but look: you don’t expect a Democrat to act like a Republican, especially after the Republican, on spending, acted like a liberal Democrat. And I didn’t expect the Obama administration to be the Ron Paul administration. I did expect more than what now looks like deceptive rhetoric on fiscal sanity in the long run. If the president thinks fiscal conservatives will be satisfied by hiking Medicare premiums for the very rich and a proposal to end ag subsidies that may be dead on arrival in Congress, he’s mistaken.

But it’s the Democrats’ government now. And I think I see why Judd Gregg couldn’t handle this. I couldn’t either. There’s a difference between patriotically supporting a new president inheriting some goddawful problems and betraying every fiscal principle you ever had.

Let’s get one thing straight first: Judd Gregg did not drop out of the running for Commerce Secretary because of some sort of fiscal principle. He did because he was afraid that the White House would count too many brown people (even though it would be under his purview) in the census, thus hurting Republicans in future elections. His withdrawal was also due to Congressional Republican pressure. Sullivan even had a lengthy chat with Marc Ambinder on this topic that curiously cannot be found on the Atlantic politics channel.  So right off the bat, Sullivan is hypocritical; all of a sudden when he cares about fiscal conservatism again, Judd Gregg is a hero.

Sullivan is clearly an intelligent man, and honestly, I do share his desire to one day see a balanced budget, believe it or not. However, I know that day won’t be today or anywhere near today. I also doubt that he would agree with me that the way to do that is to increase taxes across the board and invest dramatically in education, both k-12 and higher. (He’s previously expressed his desire for a flat tax; one of the least economically and socially informed ideas of all time) Arguments for less government at this point are borderline disturbing. Aside from today it seems,  Sullivan has properly joined the crowd that has been panning the Republicans newly-discovered fiscal conservatism in the face of economic crisis.

Sullivan has started a feature on his blog called “View from your Recession;” apparently he was unaware that it still kinda sucked to live in America before this recession. 20% of America has no health insurance. Many have inadequate insurance, many have Medicaid, and seniors by and large have to rely on Medicare, which Sullivan has panned as overly expansive, and a drag on the budget. It would seem the only alternative would be to allow seniors to shop the free market for health insurance. The market is far too pricey, and excludes those with pre-existing conditions, which is uh, almost every senior.

In addition to that sad reality, many seniors most valuable asset, their home, has most likely dropped in value incredibly steeply, so even the concept of selling one’s home to move into a nursing home doesn’t seem that appetizing.

Sullivan also frames this as if Obama is acting the wrong way to fix the mistakes of George W. Bush. That’s only partially true; yes, Obama’s Iraq withdrawal certainly corrects a Bush mistake, and his increase of troops in Afghanistan does as well, although both will likely be a drain on the budget for years to come. Don’t blame Obama for having to deal with that. However, we are literally looking at decades of mistakes, made by primarily Republican presidents in our failure to maintain our infrastructure, our education system, our health care system, our fuel sources, etc.

Obama is making strides towards repairing those mistakes. Someone has to foot the bill, and the longer we wait, the harder that becomes. We will continue to lose billions per year if someone doesn’t step up and end the madness of fossil fuel. Americans will continue to waste billions per year paying private health insurance companies that don’t fulfill their promise to pay for expensive medical treatments.

It is very politically convenient for Sullivan to be a conservative, because his roots are in the Tory party in Britain. Britain never failed to deliver on health care, they don’t face the same pressure from automakers, and they don’t live the same extravagant lifestyle as Americans in general. Perhaps most importantly, conservatives don’t have to ally themselves with the same religious nutjobs we have here.

There very well could be a case to make for conservatism in some sort of Tabula Rasa environment. Maybe somehow we’ll get out of this crisis with a boom in alternative energy that drags us out of our debt. Then let’s have that argument. However, to rediscover fiscal conservatism now is a mistake that could actually bring us into deeper trouble. I am tempted to say it could be the end of America, but then I’d get a Malkin award, and I wouldn’t want that.

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