Here it seems to me is the core problem: the big winners under the American fiscal system are the elderly, the rural, and the affluent—Republican constituencies. It’s not easy to balance the budget or shrink government spending to any significant degree in ways that don’t pinch Republican voters much harder than they pinch Democratic voters.
To escape that reality, some conservative thought leaders have constructed an alternative reality.
- In this alternative reality, “welfare” not Medicare is the number one social spending cost.
- In this alternative reality, government employment has not fallen by more than 500,000 since 2008.
- In this alternative reality, half the country is deemed not to pay any tax—because this alternative reality refuses to count payroll taxes, excise taxes, and state and local taxes as taxes.
- In this alternative reality, Medicare is counted as a program that is “paid for” by its beneficiaries contributions while unemployment insurance is not—even though the latter statement would be much closer to true.
- In this alternative reality, we are in imminent danger of losing our freedom—even though, as a matter of daily experience, more Americans of all races and both sexes face fewer legal constraints upon their ability to live as they please than ever before in the nation’s history.
- Inside this alternative reality, conservative thought leaders have substituted culture war for normal politics. They have succeeded only in isolating themselves from the country in which they live. Conservative politics and the Republican Party are on the wrong track. The particular traditions so learnedly detailed by Geoffrey Kabaservice are dead for good. But the spirit of empiricism, prudence, and inclusion that animated them is the only spirit that can revive limited-government politics for the 21st century.