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Conservatism in the US April 18, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Good piece here from Slate.com’s resident conservative, Reihan Salam, on the fractures within the conservative movement over healthcare.

Unlike ideological liberals, ideological conservatives aren’t interested in empowering the federal government to solve the problems of this or that constituency. Rather, their ultimate goal is to get the federal government out of the problem-solving business, on the grounds that problems are best solved by individuals; families; communities; and, in a pinch, state and local governments, with at most an occasional assist from the federal leviathan. This is, of course, a far cry from the status quo. The federal government is vast, and its tentacles extend into every nook and cranny of American life, whether through direct expenditures or regulations and targeted tax breaks. For ideological conservatives, the challenge is to reconcile a government-shrinking agenda with the inescapable fact that most voters are profoundly risk-averse and thus reluctant to shrink government programs that might benefit them or, for that matter, anyone who could be seen in a sympathetic light.

To me that line about the problems being ‘best solved by individuals; families; communities’ is hugely telling. Of course that’s alright if one has the funds to do that. But the reality is that most people don’t have the funds, don’t have the time. For those problems are massive problems. Think of most healthcare issues and try to map them onto individuals; families and communities. It doesn’t even make sense. The reality is that such care cannot be provided much of the time by amateurs or by part-time carers. It’s a lie, a deceit, and it has to be shown up for that. Societies cannot function as societies if that is thrown back on them to bear. And Salam correctly notes that if anything the problems are going to get worse as the population ages…

The truth, however, is that welfare reform substituted one set of government social programs (cash transfers to poor households) with a different set of government social programs (refundable tax credits designed to make work pay and expanded access to subsidized medical care, among other things). For the next 20 years or so, the prospects for shrinking government will be even less auspicious, as an aging population all but guarantees that federal expenditures on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—three of the most popular programs in America, all of which have long enjoyed bipartisan support—will soar. Tyler Cowen has provocatively argued that slowing down the expansion of government is the best those of a libertarian bent can do. In the medium term, at least, it’s hard to disagree with that assessment.

One can feel that the article is completely deluded in respect to its adherence to a further for the Republicans as a ‘workers party’ albeit one that would move away from conservatism as was towards a more populist line. But weirdly that is marginally, fractionally, more realistic than the current impasse. And quite an impasse it is. The Republicans appear entirely enmeshed in the confusion that their attempted appeals to both conservatism and populism are tangling them up in. Salam points to this with his point as to what Paul Ryan should have said as against what he said. The problem is Paul Ryan in this universe could never say that which might give him traction because he is, fundamentally, a conservative.

It’s going to be depressing, but fascinating, to see how matters proceed from here on the issue of healthcare in the US. One cannot help but feel that those who will lose out will be those least well positioned to do so.


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