It’s been a tough week. I really want to write about something else, but the election has me tied up. A quiet week in Lake Wobegon looks pretty good about now. I confess to having avoided reading or listening to the news, except for snippets here and there. I’ll get back to something more like normal next week. In the meantime, I picked up a snippet about Speaker Ryan explaining how his plan to dismantle Obamacare would help prolong the financial stability of Medicare. Knowledgable people were driven up the wall rebutting his math, noting that his plans would do just the opposite. Knowledgable people did not get it.
Look, Ryan may not be able to add, but he’s no dummy. This is not about protecting Medicare, it’s not about balancing the budget, it’s not about paying down on the debt. He knows that. It’s about dismembering the federal government, and putting it back together again as a new and smaller creature. Think of it as taking a fully loaded Lincoln and rebuilding it as a Yugo (if you don’t remember the Yugo, look it up). What do you do with the left over parts? Toss them out. A Yugo doesn’t need them. The idea is that our modern “welfare state” is a wasteful bureaucracy encouraging slothful dependency among people who should be out there working hard and taking care of themselves. It stifles the American entrepreneurial spirit, and discourages investment in new jobs by big business. On top of that, America is surrounded by well armed enemies and must rebuild its weakened military. And, oh yes, let us not forget the infrastructure. Whatever it is, it needs to be rebuilt.
In the new America people will regain their native work ethic, live simple lives of contented, but competitive, enjoyment of all that an honest day’s work can provide. New small businesses will sprout everywhere. Industries will invest again. The factories will return. The ladder to middle class success be restored to it’s rightful place. The poor will work their way out of it. The destitute will be cared for through private charity. It may be hard on some, but a little tough love to break the habit of dependency will turn out to be the best thing for everyone, especially those on the bottom rung. Some may not do well, and let that be a lesson to the youth. It is God, not the government, who helps those who help themselves. It is not the government’s role to make life easy for those who wont work.
You can come back with all the rebuttal data you want, it means nothing because it’s not about the data. It’s about wanting a different kind of federal government than the one we have. It doesn’t matter that we have had the longest span of uninterrupted, albeit slow, growth in our history. It doesn’t matter that the deficit has been going down. It doesn’t matter than unemployment is low. It doesn’t matter that tens of thousands have health insurance for the first time. It doesn’t matter that Ryan’s budgets make no fiscal sense. It is all about creating a smaller federal government with only four basic jobs: defense, foreign relations, minimal regulation of interstate commerce, and maintenance of the (privately owned where possible) interstate transportation system. None of this social welfare stuff. Leave that to states, localities, and charity. What about all the other things the federal government does? Let the private sector do it. Let someone else do it. Let it go.
Are there holes in this utopian vision of a simpler America? Like Swiss cheese, there are. You can probably name many of them. It doesn’t matter. The ardent believers are still ardent believers. What gives them hope is that there are real problems with the way our federal government has evolved. It is a rat’s nest of undecipherable rules and procedures. Highly competent staffers don’t know that they are in the business of customer service. The corporate tax structure invites squirreling away retained earnings both here and overseas. Unrestrained flows of cash into campaigns and lobbying distorts elections and the legislative process. And let’s face it, the Constitution crafted the distribution of power between branches of the national government, and among quasi-independent states, each with its own way of doing things, so that competition, conflict, and confusion was inevitable. Some fixing is in order. Many of us would like to see it fixed. They don’t want it fixed. They want it replaced.
My own guess? If Ryan, and Trump, are able to have their way, the nation will plummet into depression, not recession but depression, from which recovery would be very difficult. Ryanists and Trumpeters don’t believe it. What does Trump believe? He believes he will help himself. All three are sure it would lead to prosperity. Only one might be right.