Saturday, June 01, 2013

Another conservative bedrock principle crumbles (or maybe melts)

Under the hot weight of reality.

One major principle of Barack Obama's presidency that his foes love to hate — that government, when it works right, can be best-equipped to aid and protect Americans — is finding fresh currency among some Republicans.

Their doctrine that smaller government is better government is being tested by pressing needs in storm-battered states, security threats that play up the need for a robust defense apparatus and offers for federal funds that are tough to turn down.


...(U)nmet needs are forcing Republicans to concede more publicly than usual that minimalist government isn't necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution.

To be certain there are legitimate concerns about the overreach of the executive and judicial branches that are serious, troubling, and in dire need of being checked and balanced by the legislative branch. But whatever the incessant wailing about Obamacare, the IRS, bailouts, stimulus spending, etc. blahblahblah may have accomplished outside of the conservative bubble, the argument for austerity collapses with every tornado in Oklahoma, and every hurricane on the Gulf -- or Atlantic -- coast.

Obama walked side by side this week along the Jersey Shore with Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a fiscal conservative who has shown no patience for massive government spending — except when it comes to billions in federal aid for his state after Superstorm Sandy. In fact, it was Christie and other Northeast Republicans who criticized members of their own party for insisting that Federal Emergency Management Agency aid be offset by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.


Two days earlier, in a tornado-razed community in Oklahoma, it was Mary Fallin, another Republican governor with a stated distaste for over-the-top government spending, who welcomed Obama and the aid his administration brought to her state. She praised FEMA and Obama, reprising a scene that's played out in other disaster areas when the federal government and its considerable resources have been in high demand.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, GOP Gov. Jan Brewer is going to the mat to force lawmakers in her conservative-leaning state to embrace a dramatic expansion of Medicaid made possible by an infusion of federal dollars under Obama's health care law.

Although she joined other Republican governors in suing the Obama administration over the constitutionality of the president's health care law, she's now told the Republican-controlled Legislature she'll veto every bill they send her until they approve the expansion. She nixed five bills last week — a move that led the state Senate president to accuse her of extortion.

Texas -- much by its own hand -- remains extremely vulnerable to an imminent vagary of the weather. That's obviously different than Rick Perry believing he is immune to electoral fallout from the response to an offer of federal Medicaid funds with a raspberry (and forcing his fellow travelers in the Lege to join him in the buzzing chorus of flapping lips). But when wildfires devastated Texas a couple of years ago, and more recently when the West fertilizer plant blew up, he crammed his snout right into the federal trough. Our governor proves to us again that he doesn't even have the stones of a Tom Coburn or a James Inhofe.

Forget about having as much compassion as Jan Brewer (!!!).

But the macro point is that it becomes increasingly difficult, even ridiculous, to defend the premise of austerity when all around the world there are not just indications but examples of how badly it is failing. It is of course failing the US also; the sequester demonstrates once more the rank hypocrisy of those in Congress who make exceptions for the elite even as regular people suffer.

The administration estimates that the elderly will get 4 million fewer Meals on Wheels this year. The Head Start program has been hurt, with critics saying 70,000 children will be excluded, and one center in Georgia recently shut down. HUD will hand out 125,000 fewer rental assistance vouchers, advocates say.

I don't expect elected Republicans to get it until the people voting for them start to wake up and realize they've been had. And I don't know how long that's going to take. But it's going to happen, incrementally at first and then there will be a sudden shift, like a glacier calving an iceberg. And then a few dozen more, until the entire ice shelf fractures and melts like the cubes in a highball glass.

And a whole bunch of folks will be left with a serious hangover.

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