Thursday, June 30, 2011

WHETHER YOU WANT IT OR NOT. At the New York Post, Michael Walsh on Greek dissension over their austerity plan:
A zero-sum mentality regarding capital and labor has brought Europe to its present pass -- and Americans should be worried. Because what's happening in the cradle of democracy could be coming here.

Not the rioting -- Americans rarely take to the streets in violent protest. But Greece ought to be a wake-up call. With the national debt standing at more than $14 trillion -- and as much as 10 times that in unfunded liabilities and other obligations -- America's on a path every bit as unsustainable as the Greeks'.
Mind you, just before this he was explaining that Americans and Europeans were different species -- "Europeans lack the American tradition of self-reliance. They expect somebody -- the king, the chancellor, the Eurocrat -- to protect them from life's vicissitudes." Yet Walsh still warns us of the bad times to come as we enter "the beginning of the end of the welfare state." The Post editors get the message, and run the photo at right with Walsh's column. Later Walsh amplifies at The Corner:
The culture of entitlement will not go quietly or easily, but go it must — and go it will, one way or the other.
There's only one reason for him to exhibit such nervousness: despite all Republican assurances to the contrary, he knows the American people don't want the welfare state, such as it is here, to end.

I wonder how long Walsh's faith in the self-reliance of Americans can endure. Our citizens seem not to like the Republican plan to turn Medicare into Coupons for Codgers, and though they sense a connection between the national debt and the fate of Social Security, they are mistrustful of the ideas politicians offer to maintain solvency.

And no wonder: the citizens are willing to hike taxes to sustain Social Security. But everyone in Washington knows raising taxes to save the safety net -- let alone, perish the thought, raising them on the rich for that purpose -- is a non-starter; taxes are bad; Reagan said so. Slashed services are what the authorities are selling, hard.

In other words, what our leaders seek is austerity by other means, even though the people don't want it. Their attempts to sell it aren't going over, so I expect they'll make an effort for a while, then just lower the boom. After all, what are we going to do? Go on strike? Like so many other things, that's only for the rich anymore. We could riot, but then we'd get the stick, like that fellow up top.

The only alternative will be to sit around, wait for bootstrap magic to happen, and then, to protect ourselves from a maddening awareness that it never will, revise our expectations to conform with our reduced circumstances. You know, like we've been doing for decades.

UPDATE. Luke Feszard's essay on the long-lived Republican plan to shred the net is well worth reading. It's funny, those guys are always talking about the left's alleged march through the institutions, Saul Alinsky, etc, but they're the real champs at the long game.


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