It’s Been 49 Years…ColumnsFeaturedPolicyPolitics

For those of us who have lived long enough to see the big picture, and the events of most of our lives written in the history books, America appears to be on an unprecedented course.

We have not been this far to the left in 49 years. Or perhaps ever.

Sure, we have had Democratic presidents and congresses since 1964, but never have so many hard-left policies been enacted or seriously considered since the year Lyndon Baines Johnson was elected president.

For a thousand days since his election in 1960, John F. Kennedy had defined liberalism with his clarion call to land a man on the moon, export the best of America through the peace corps, reduce astronomical tax rates and engage the world with a foreign policy that viewed communism and the Soviet threat in realistic terms. That liberalism died in Dallas on November 22, 1963, to be replaced by a statist vision that has stolen the heart of the Democratic party.

Heading toward a landslide victory fueled by a wave of sympathy following JFK’s assassination, LBJ used his considerable political skill and capital to translate JFK’s new frontier into the great society, engineering passage of the Civil Rights Act and other new legislation that would double down on FDR’s new deal with massive new government programs with the expressed purpose of eliminating poverty. Foremost among these was Medicare, a program now burdened with tens of trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities in a nation saddled with an almost inconceivable level of debt and poverty rates that continue to climb.

LBJ destroyed his presidency in Vietnam, where 50 thousand Americans died in a war fought not to lose, rather than win. We lost. South Vietnam was seized by the communist north. LBJ decided not to run again, and we then elected Richard Nixon twice.

While the Watergate scandal, climaxed by Nixon’s resignation, certainly laid the GOP low for several years, and led to the election of Jimmy Carter, little of long-term consequence occurred during that time, and Carter’s presidency was such a disaster that he was wiped out in his re-election bid by Ronald Reagan, America’s first truly conservative president in more than half a century who won a second landslide four years later. George H.W, Bush served, in effect, Reagan’s third term, and then gave way to Bill Clinton, who won twice running as a centrist Democrat before George W. Bush was elected to two terms.

It was during the second half of the second term of George W. Bush that the current leftward trend began. If you fell into a coma in 2007 and woke up now, you would hardly recognize the political state of this country.

Government-controlled health care, a gleam in the eye of statists for a century or more, has now become law. Gay marriage, which would never have even been conceived by FDR, JFK, LBJ or mentioned even by Clinton, was not only broached but endorsed by President Obama in the midst of his re-election campaign. As many as 12 million illegal immigrants may well be granted de facto amnesty. The business sector has been demonized and regulated more than ever. The coal industry has been effectively shuttered through federal regulation. And the call for higher taxes in particular and undiluted class warfare in general succeeded in re-electing the most leftist president in American history.

For Barack Obama to be elected is one thing – he was the spectacularly fortunate beneficiary of the political holy trinity of an unpopular president of the other party, a weak opponent and a financial meltdown.

But for him to be re-elected after a first-term marked by a sour economy, high unemployment, metastasizing debt and a supposedly unpopular transformation of our health care system, seems to signal something deeper than simply a cyclical change of course and/or an isolated attempt to exorcise our past by electing our first black president.

Perhaps the most tangible evidence of an almost seismic shift in the electorate is revealed by demographer Nick Eberstadt: contrary to the left’s attempts to explain away our sharply rising dependence as a temporary bi-product of high unemployment, dependence on government handouts continues to increase despite declining unemployment rates.

Indeed, you need know little more than this: the estimated number of Americans obtaining government benefits has increased by more than five million over the low point of the recent unemployment problem.

Add to all of this a dispirited, disorganized and philosophically confused Republican party clinging to the crumbs offered by the likes of Joe the Plumber and, most recently, Ben Carson, and many believe that we have passed the point of no return. That once Americans falling into Mitt Romney’s infamous 47% are locked into government dependency, there is no turning back. We need only look at the disastrous economic condition of Europe to see where this leads, but that canary in the coal mine has essentially been ignored.

Indeed, for this growing government dependency to defy what history has taught us and reverse course will require a shift in the American electorate almost as unprecedented as the one that landed us in today’s hard-left reality.

  • http://twitter.com/icanhasbailout Alexis Rose Bank

    GWB wasn’t all that different than LBJ. Got us into a land war in Asia that he never had a plan to finish (that we’re still in); and enacted Medicare Part D, which LBJ would have envied.

    Obama really isn’t much more than 3rd and 4th terms of GWB; all the same policies, taken to their logical next steps. They even both nominated their own lawyers to the Supreme Court.

    • George from Cleveland

      Afghanistan, perhaps, but Iraq, no, by a rational defintion, we won. The terrorists did not cause sectarian civil war, did not overthrow the government, and oil production is the highest since 1979, and is going even higher. Just a guess, but I think that will provide enough cash to ease the tensions for the time being.

      • http://twitter.com/icanhasbailout Alexis Rose Bank

        What exactly did we win?

        We spent $2 trillion (of borrowed money, on which we are still paying perpetual interest), and the benefits we got in exchange are what, exactly?

        We’re not getting a cut of Iraq’s oil revenues to offset that cost.

        The price of oil didn’t go down – it went up, by a lot, and has stayed up due to the instability we have brought to the region with our military intervention.

        That’s just the financial side. We lost several thousand soldiers’ lives, tens of thousands wounded.

        We created innumerable new enemies from being the bringers of destruction and death.

        Our word on the international stage will not be taken as good for a generation or more, after the deliberate, premeditated lies about WMD. (A Nov 2001 document from Rumsfeld explicitly plotting how to start a war against Iraq just came out to cement the case for deception.)

        And after all that, the people of Iraq don’t even like us.

        Only so many “wins” like that we can take before total ruin.

        • George from Cleveland

          We won a government that can’t cause trouble in the region.

          Iraq isn’t a colony, so we can’t demand a cut of the oil revenue.

          Oil has been around the same price. Presuming that the war never happened, sanctions would have continued until Saddam was probably overthrown in a CIA backed coup by a few bought generals, not sure why we didn’t choose this option.

          Oil is up because of these two countries: China and India, Iraq didn’t lead to any supply disruptions of major signifcance like in the 70s. It actually has reduced the shock of the Iran sanctions.

          Bashar Assad has killed 70,000 and counting, total US deaths in Iraq, much lower

          This country has always been hated, except for the brief period when the USSR was no more. The hatred against us goes back further than Iraq, and has not ceased since the end of the war. Simply put, as long as we stand for the sole state in the Middle East with free elections and basic human rights, we will be hated.

          The UN is not a solution to our problems. Trusting Russian and Chinese dictatorships is not either.

          • http://twitter.com/icanhasbailout Alexis Rose Bank

            “Oil has been around the same price” ?????

            Do you bother to do the most basic due diligence before you make an assertion? Oil was trading under $30 at the time, spiked over $100, now trading consistently over $90.

            Do you not drive a vehicle? Are you completely insensitive to what you pay to fill a gas tank?

          • George from Cleveland

            I was referring to after the end of the Iraq war, not before it.

          • http://twitter.com/icanhasbailout Alexis Rose Bank

            And you’d still be just as wrong. Try looking up the history of the price of oil.

          • George from Cleveland
          • http://twitter.com/icanhasbailout Alexis Rose Bank

            George, the data from that site contradicts your argument. As any person can plainly see, the price of oil was below $30 between 1997 and 2003, then came the Iraq war, and the price of oil went up to $100 while that war was ongoing, and even now sits at $90, just like I told you before.

            Please stop wasting my time or I will start ignoring you.

  • MD Russ

    Great column, as always Tim. You nailed it on the point of “…a dispirited, disorganized and philosophically confused Republican party…”

    I first voted Republican as a Reagan Democrat. Reagan had a vision and, as the Great Communicator, clearly articulated that vision to all Americans. Some didn’t like it but most Americans embraced it. Today, that vision has been perverted by the likes of isolationist Libertarians, American Taliban evangelicals, and anarchist Tea Partiers. (Did I miss the opportunity to offend any of the extremists?) Kathleen Parker’s column in the Washington Post today nicely dovetails with your thoughts: until the Republican Party returns to being the party of Reagan and not a rag-tag collection of various absolutist, one-issue factions, it will be branded in the eyes of a majority of voters as the crackpot uncle who lives in the attic.

    Okay, commence the flaming, Eric, Turbo, Craig, et al.

    • George from Cleveland

      “isolationist, Taliban, Anarchist”

      Charming….

      The GOP is doomed because
      -Wall Street
      -Wars
      -Whites

      When the country wants more government, and its fastest growing demographics (Latin and Asian immigrants) desire a more active role for government, and the right is demonized by the media as being “Anti-Minority” even though it has more minorities in statewide offices, there is little that can be done.

      The GOP can only win in this environment, not by being the party of Reagan, but of Nixon (before the corruption, he was the most popular Republican president). Center-left econmics, and vague references to social conservatism while doing nothing on it. Much like Stephen Harper in Canada.

      Now, that sucks, but “Reagan” is not palatable.

  • DJRippert

    Great column. Liberals will say that the number of people receiving benefits is being swelled by the Baby Boomers retiring and receiving Social Security and Medicare. While there has been some long predicted growth there, it is far from the whole story. As Eberstadt clearly explains in the article you linked means tested benefits that have nothing to do with old age insurance are swelling.

    So, how can the number of households receiving means tested benefits grow as the unemployment rate falls? One would think that the falling unemployment rate would cause more people to fail the means test and, therefore, leave the dole. The sad answer is that the rules are being actively and consciously changed to allow people to continue to get benefits despite improving means. Why? Two reasons. First, I believe that Obama and his ilk honestly believe that wealth should be forcibly redistributed in the United States. Joe the Plumber may have been something of an odd duck but he was completely right about Obama as a redistributor. Second, the Democrats want to create an entitlement society that will keep them in power for years to come.

    The problem is that we seem to have reached a tipping point where so many people are now dependent that the Democrats may remain in power for another 20 years (or, until the money runs out, whichever comes first).

    What happens from here? Are we doomed to run down the Grecian path until we fall into the fiscal abyss as Greece has done? Is there a way to reverse the trend toward the entitlement getters perpetually voting the entitlement givers? Have any other countries pulled out of this type of death spiral without going through a crisis?

    Finally, is there any chance we can “grow our way out”? Could a rebounding American economy provide such economic momentum that the entitlements can continue to be paid without bankrupting the country?

  • Wally Erb

    “Ronald Reagan, America’s first truly conservative president in more than half a century”

    As a fiscal conservative and social moderate, I am bewildered why today’s ill-informed conservatives consider President Reagan as the patron Saint of Conservatism, when by today’s standards he should be classified a “Rino”.

    A review Reagan’s eight year term reveals the following:

    * Institution of the a payroll tax on Social Security and Medicare hospital insurance
    * Tax Reform Act of 1986, which raised taxes on lower and middle incomes, eliminating many deductions, and reduce tax rates on the wealthy.
    * U.S. borrowing both domestically and abroad to cover the Federal budget deficits, raising the national debt from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion. This led to the U.S. moving from the world’s largest international creditor to the world’s largest debtor nation.
    * Reagan failed to reduce the size of government. Annual spending averaged 22.4% of GDP, which is above today’s 40-year average of 20.7%, and above the 20.8% average under President Carter whom he replaced.

    I suggest today’s supposed Conservations find a new legitimate icon and remove the egg off their face.

    • jerseygirl

      Hey Wally,
      Read “Conscience of a Conservative” by Barry Goldwater. Being a fiscal conservative and a social moderate is a paradox. Try looking in the mirror before you start calling other people names.