We are once again in the silly season when small-Government proponents strive desperately to move to Washington and incumbents pretend to be outsiders. Anti-Washington sentiment is waxing as we build to the mid-term elections, with everyone promising to tilt at the windmills of federal spending, and no-one suggesting how any substantial cuts might be effected.

We love to blame Washington and its politicians, but our hatred of D.C. is really only a projected form of self-loathing. Washington is simultaneously the locus of our fears and our expectations: we want to be left alone, but we want to be taken care of. We want government out of our lives, but we want it to solve our problems. We insist on more local solutions, but grow immediately impatient when solutions are not immediate. We look with fear and longing on our President – no matter whom – as the one we despise and the one we adulate.

Consider a few sentences from this Sunday’s Washington Post, reflecting on some of the most recent polling data (giving rise to conclusions that sound like an old, familiar song):

Americans have a more negative view of government today than they did a decade ago, or even a few years ago. Most say it focuses on the wrong things and lack confidence that it can solve big domestic problems; this general anti-Washington sentiment is helping to fuel a potential Republican takeover of Congress next month.

Cue the Tea Party. At least until we consider some particulars:

But ask people what they expect the government to do for themselves and their families, and a more complicated picture emerges.

A new study by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University shows that most Americans who say they want more limited government also call Social Security and Medicare “very important.” They want Washington to be involved in schools and to help reduce poverty. Nearly half want the government to maintain a role in regulating health care.

In other words, we want government to be out of our lives – and that it solve most of the problems we face as a society. We lack trust in its ability to do so, but have plenty of umbrage to display when we perceive any lack of government efforts on our behalves. Networks switch instantaneously between segments on “The Fleecing of America” and sanctimonious tut-tutting when a fallen swallow lacks a government program.

So, we now careen between the two parties, the one promising to solve our problems, the other promising to get Government out of our lives. We love and hate them both: two years ago we longed for a savior to deliver us from Bush’s incompetence and put the nation back on the footing of hope and change; today we fear socialism and long for morning in America.

Our hatred of Washington is a hatred of ourselves, above all for our contradictory longings that we refuse to face. We pine for a time of accountability and responsibility, but fear the burdens of sacrifice and self-government. We ache for a government that can make America great again, and suspect that any effort in that direction will further impoverish subsequent generations. We long to be self-sufficient, but fear a world without safety nets.

Anti-Washington fever will rise to dizzying heights in coming days. The chattering classes will conclude that Americans have a firm idea of their destiny, choosing one party over another in coming days. Few will understand that the source of our loathing will be the division within ourselves. The divided government we will embrace is the division in our souls: two versions of democracy. In the one version, democracy is rugged individualism. In the other, democracy is a gentler concern that no one should be left behind. Both are fantasies born of bad modern anthropology. Our country oscillates between two fantasies of democracy – a downward spiral that is self-perpetuating and mutually reinforcing. The election is no more than a radar blip in the erosion of self-government. The more deeply we hate ourselves, the louder our denunciation of Washington will resound. The din of self-loathing will soon be deafening.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Who is this “we” you speak of?

    I know quite a few people who would see large segments of the government shut down, not replaced with anything and the people’s money returned to them. I think this group of people numbers more than people are willing to give credit for. I think that it is the Deep State more than anything else that prevents any kind of meaningful change to the state of affairs we are in.

  2. I agree with Russell. This is a great essay–a timely one, as well. I’m not sure how we get out of the spiral, but I think that perhaps the principle of subsidiarity would allow us draw some useful distinctions.

    I am not so sure about the first Steve K’s point. I do know some true libertarian types who, at least theoretically, would like to see huge chunks of the government shut down. But I think those people are greatly unnumbered by pseudo-libertarian conservatives of the Fox News school who rail against big goverment but really don’t want to see social security scrapped or, gasp, the military drastically downsized.

  3. Is this a case of self-loathing, or a far more problematic case of Public Choice Economics?

    That is, most of the small-government types I know have a decent degree of internal consistency. Sure, they overestimate how much we pay for food stamps and foreign aid, but they can name programs they would ax. Sometimes the choices are self-serving, of course: young couples who would cut social security and medicare, old couples who would ax school funding. But it’s not always so cut an dried.

    At any rate, the problem with “democracy” is that costs are often diffuse, but benefits acute. And sometimes vice versa. Which means that although something like agricultural subsidies are widely seen as inefficient, especially as structured, hardly anybody makes axing them their life’s work. But there are groups whose entire livelihoods and cultures depend on these subsidies, so when someone proposes meddling with them a very orchestrated political resistance swings into action.

    So it’s not necessarily that people simultaneously hold that they want government to do nothing and do everything. Rather, they want government to do a very specific set of things and Washington is set up in such a way as to make sure nobody screams bloody murder.

    Meaning, I think, that people might actually have a very good case to make when they rail against Washington. Sadly, they typically lash out with a “throw the bums out” mentality, when the fact of the matter isn’t the bums. The bums are actually acting quite rationally. The problem is “the system.” I know it’s a cliche, but I think it might be true.

  4. Steve K. writes:

    “I know quite a few people who would see large segments of the government shut down, not replaced with anything and the people’s money returned to them. I think this group of people numbers more than people are willing to give credit for.”

    Not really. Libertarians and true small government advocates are a loud presence on the internet and in the occasional public forum, but are pretty few in number.

  5. I hope it would be clear that by “we” I am speaking broadly of the American electorate. Obviously not the average FPR reader.

    On a barely related note, readers should take a look at today’s column by David Brooks. It is broadly a critique of public unions, but also captures an aspect of the phenomenon I try to describe here – in the effort to have government provide for us, we are now providing for the government.

  6. Speak for yourself. There is a small segment of the population, quite capable, and willing to embrace the race, which is life. Willing to dance this dance, and not simple suck the mother teat until death. Infact, sucking on this teat robs them of challenge and joy. But having your pockets robbed by “the man” can be very discouraging. So I pay my taxes and hope they choke on it. Again, it is a very small population. But I for one do not lick the hand feeding the populous, and would prefer my head not be forced down to snivel at said hand.

    Get out.

    please don’t count me as one of your “we”.

    -Junker

  7. It’s amazing how many thin-skinned people there are “out there” who object to the necessary use of the pronoun “we” in an analytical essay. But if there are any more of you dingbats out there with itchy fingers longing to type a response informing us all of how you are superior to the faceless masses, spare us.

    We get it, you understand nothing about how to write a constructive, non-inflammatory article for a thoughtful journal such as Front Porch Republic.

  8. The first Steve K, please name two “large segments” that you hear “quite a few people” want to get rid of.

  9. I predict FPR’s new Facebook presence will result in more frequent posts of Junker’s sort.

    Prof. Deneen’s article brings to mind the “immense tutelary power” that Tocqueville described. The process of losing our free will is unsettling, for sure. That we cooperated in this process should provide no comfort. Perhaps self-loathing is an appropriate response.

  10. The first Steve K.? Didn’t realize that there were two in this thread.

    So when was the last time anybody went to the polls and voted against a checklist of government programs they wanted or did not want and how much money ought to be applied to them? What mechanism does the voter turn to in deciding questions on what the proper scope and size of government is? Exactly.

    The political process is an insider’s game which the people have very little idea of, let alone actual participation in. In a very real sense, there is no “we” in American politics. The big money consuming machine, the Deep State, inside the Beltway churns on, no matter who comes in or out. It is not something that is going to be fixed by an election. Reform-minded politicians, those who are not co-opted outright, are fended off by the bureaucracy, the courts and so on. Whether we should have big programs spending huge sums of money aren’t on any ballot, and elected representatives who are of a mind to do something about it are really rather powerless. None of us peons really chose this, and none of us really can choose an alternative, at least through electoral politics. You are holding the American people responsible for an agency that haven’t had for a long, long time.

    Perhaps watching episodes of “Yes, Minister” are in order here?

  11. There is too great a tendency (as seen in some of the comments here) to rail against Big Government without admitting that its growth has coincided with the development of global corporate capitalism. While we may have idealistic notions about the desirability of smaller, leaner, more local government it is difficult to see how a move in that direction would make our lives better unless it were matched (and preferably preceded) by similar moves to ensure smaller, leaner, more local private enterprise.

    Absent shrinking the scale of the corporate private sector, in this era of giant corporatism the practical result of reducing the government would be giving up whatever modest semblance of oversight, transparency and control we have as citizens for the near total lack of oversight, transparency and control we have as consumers. I would go so far as to suggest that until and unless we move away from the model of global corporate capitalism functioning on an ever larger scale we will continue to see government grow without being at all happy about the results.

  12. Hah, I guess there are two Steve K’s in this thread… someone didn’t notice his post until now. Hi there!

    PS Other Steve K – I understand the remarks about conservatives who would love to cut SS, Medicare, etc. but will brook no downsizing of the military; a good case can be made that the Federal government should exist to secure the borders, conduct diplomacy and ensure interstate trade, and nothing else and therefore the whole social welfare state should go to the chopping block before the military. I tend to agree with this, however I do think the military can be greatly trimmed from where it is now. However, this is a waste of time if this is not accompanied by a serious roles and missions review. This is not the place for the details I guess, but my role model is Switzerland. There is a country that limits itself to the Landesverteidigung and undertakes no imperial overseas wars, yet maintains a robust and credible military (defense of the homeland is taken seriously there, unlike most western European states).

  13. Which means that although something like agricultural subsidies are widely seen as inefficient, especially as structured, hardly anybody makes axing them their life’s work. But there are groups whose entire livelihoods and cultures depend on these subsidies, so when someone proposes meddling with them a very orchestrated political resistance swings into action. So it’s not necessarily that people simultaneously hold that they want government to do nothing and do everything. Rather, they want government to do a very specific set of things and Washington is set up in such a way as to make sure nobody screams bloody murder.

    Sam M’s comment is the wisest thing that has been said in this thread (aside from Patrick’s original post, that is). It’s one of the reasons I continue to believe a more parliamentary-style democracy would better handle, through providing greater party unity, discipline, and responsiveness, the power of entrenched interests. Our constitutional system is premised upon many admirable principles, but it provides far too many “veto points” (sorry; a political science term there) that can be captured and defended to the death by campaign-contribution-dependent representatives to allow much serious, comprehensive reform.

  14. These arguments all seem to be how to express choice but whether individuals want to do this through low or high pyramid association with each other cannot be determined without a willingness to experiment and the self-interest of politicians and the wealthy being high pyramiders does not incline them to take this route.

  15. I think that the use of “we” is problematic, because this idea that “we” have (has?) particular desires is the source for much of the supposed self-contradiction described in the essay.

    “We” contradict “ourseveles” as a group, not as individuals. One faction wants one thing, and another faction wants a different thing. Of course they contradict each other.

    The only way that “we” have an opinion, is through some convoluted process of averaging the opinions of the members of the group. Even for the swing voters who do shift back and forth between the two parties, they don’t necessarily buy into the rhetoric of the parties. In fact, I am certain that most of them do not buy into the rhetoric–they are simply responding to the choice that they are presented with (and are not thrilled with either option).

  16. Russell,

    There are many things I could say in this thread, some in response to fine comments, some in response to those that are not so fine.

    But your plug for parliamentary democracy is curious. Can you name an example of a parliamentary democracy that is not even more tentacled and entrenched than America’s? The earlier recommendation of “Yes, Minister” ought to be seconded here. It may be that the causal factors creating the consummate bureaucratic states in, say, Canada and Britain are extrinsic and unrelated to the mechanisms of parliamentary democracy, but that proposition will require some defense.

    For my part, I am reminded of de Jouvenal’s dictum that the power of the bureaucracy (and of the state generally) has grown exactly in proportion as mass democracy itself has grown.

  17. Clarify: Can you name an example of a parliamentary democracy whose bureaucratic apparatus* is not as entrenched as America’s? etc.

  18. I would also recommend Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister to everyone here. It really is a brilliant sociology of bureaucracy–but one you can laugh at, at least before you realize how depressing bureaucracy is.

    As for Prof. Fox’s comment that parliamentary democracy is a system that could bring us “serious, comprehensive reform”: I always thought one of the points of agreement on this site was that we need “comprehensive reform,” but not coming from Washington. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes, and all that…

  19. First Steve K., with two followups you still haven’t listed two large segments of government you hear quite a few people want to get rid of. I’d even settle for two that _you_ want to get rid of :-). You mentioned you’d like to shrink, but not get rid of, the military, so that doesn’t even count, but I suppose we could allow it 1/2 point. What’s the other 1.5? This is rubber-on-road time…otherwise the author’s premise stands (and I throw my own “wonderfully written essay” compliment in here).

  20. Rob,

    You refer to Great Britain and Canada as “consummate bureaucratic states.” Is that, in fact, what they are? How would one measure that, I wonder? I don’t know about the relative size of the bureaucracies of Britain and the U.S. in regards to the countries’ size or population or GDP, but surely number of employees alone is the sole, or even the most important, measure of bureaucratization, is it? I would think that the state more capable of responding to democratic pressure, more capable of significant alterations of policy or structure in response to popular demands, would be the less calcified, less entangled, less “bureaucratic” one. And if that is the case, then I urge you not to take the trenchant and wonderful satire of Yes Minister as a statement of comparative politics. Look at how thoroughly Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives were able to transform and reduce the size of Britain’s national government in the early 1980s–they were far more successful than Reagan ever was here. Moreover, look at how extensively Tony Blair and the Labor Party was able to extend and redistribute powers in Great Britain to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Island–once again, a far more successful example of decentralization than anything the U.S. ever seen. In neither of those case was the central bureaucracy capable of stopping the electoral will of the majority party. Yet in the United States, the bureaucracy is far more resistant, and the organized opposition to the party in power far more empowered, to stop democratic action than is the case in a parliamentary government. No, unless you can provide me with a counter definition of what “bureaucratization” means, I’m going to stick with believing democratic or participatory or parliamentary-type arrangements are much more likely to be responsive to populist and localist demands than the sort of bureaucracy which our national government has managed to create.

  21. Prof. Fox,

    Perhaps. But then again, “our” system wasn’t designed to be efficient, responsive, and flexible. Except that it has now been encrusted by an ossified bureaucracy, I quite like it that way. I don’t want a government that is particularly capable of “doing things.” But my maintenance of that sentiment only makes sense if I also demand a devolution of powers from the federal level to lower levels where bureaucracy is neither so necessary, or at least not so big. And it require a better citizenry.

    Without explaining what “bureaucratization” actually is (because that would be a long, complex discussion requiring tiresome references to Weber et al.), is it not fair to say that Thatcher was successful at reducing Britian’s mammoth governmental apparatus essentially on account of the fact that Britain’s parliamentary democracy is a one-party state after an election? What the prime minister demands the prime minister gets (insofar as Parliament is capable of getting anything from its “permanent ministers”–which I’m not sure is all that much, really). While I’m inclined to argue that Britain’s Parliament–or at least its individual MPs–is largely meaningless (they don’t do the real governing), the opposition party is even more meaningless. They might as well not say anything at all. But this, you see, is a double-edged sword, for Tony Blair’s one-party state was just as successful at reinvigorating the bureaucracy, desiccating the House of Lords, invading Iraq, and accomplishing numerous other unsavory tasks which no one could meaningfully oppose.

    And here is the rub: it is a fact of human nature that humans organize into political communities to get things, tangible or otherwise. Government always “responds” to those to whom it is answerable, whether it be a single man (a tyrant), a few nobles, the wealthy, or the entire demos. In a democracy, everyone theoretically possesses the ability to have some say in the operations of government and the constituting of its structure such that it provides what is needed and/or wanted. This may be a dubious construction. At the very least, in mass democracy, the government can and must respond to certain vague notions of what the masses want. As it happens, the masses–most of whom are poor–want lots of stuff, material stuff. And the provision of that material stuff requires a rather large, efficient, mechanized, impersonal bureaucratic apparatus. This is an embarrassingly crude and vague formulation, but that, in essence, is where modern bureaucracy comes from: the people want things, and a bureaucracy evolves to provide them. The bureaucracy won’t go away until either a) democracy goes away or b) the demos learns a little something about virtue. This is a truism that has been repeated since the origins of political philosophy.

    The point is that your “responsive” parliamentary bureaucracy is intrinsically salutary–more salutary than the American system–towards the bureaucratization of government. Because a single party can instantiate its programs untrammeled (after a merely token vote, without those bothersome displays of meaningful debate, considerations of minority interests, etc.), the bureaucracy can expand more quickly than FDR himself could have imagined. Of course, if you have the “correct” leaders, the majority could hypothetically reduce the bureaucracy in short order as well.

    But, for all our protestations and whining, can you think of a democratic people who honestly want to reduce or eliminate their oppressive bureaucracies? Even the Tea Partiers want the government to keep its hands off their Medicare.

    Wasn’t this part of Prof. Deneen’s point?

  22. And by the way, the notion that parliamentary democracy is more responsive to local concerns is simply absurd. America’s democracy (insofar as it is democratic) is, in comparison with other Western democracies, extraordinarily responsive to localized concerns as a direct function of our representative electoral system: congressmen and senators actually represent (to some degree) the regions from which they originate. Hence the concept of “pork-barrel spending” and “earmarks.” This tempers a Democrat’s obligation or inclination to serve the Democratic party above all others.

    Quite the contrary in a proportionally-elected parliamentary system, where MPs only nominally represent geographic locales. Service to the party is key. The position of “whip” has real, if not literal, meaning in the British party system. Voting against the party is punished. Meanwhile, British politicians have almost no incentive even to pretend to attend to local or regional interests and needs.

  23. Rob,

    Thank you for the thoughtful comments. I take your point, but it also seems to me that, besides seeing things somewhat differently, we are talking about somewhat different things. My original comment was a response to the flow of this thread, which saw some commenters taking issue with Patrick’s post, insisting that “we” aren’t divided in our desires–on the contrary, “we” want a radically smaller government, but “they” won’t let us have what “we” are asking for. (Steven K’s comment sums this attitude up: “You [meaning Patrick] are holding the American people responsible for an agency that haven’t had for a long, long time.”) This is why I highlighted and built upon Sam M’s contribution: there is a sense in which this complaint is correct, but if it is to be taken seriously, one needs to elaborate upon who the “they” are, and how “they” become who “they” are. Agriculture subsidies are a good case in point: anybody who is at all informed know such monies go mostly to the wrong (that is, corporate) farmers, with mostly bad consequences, but they are too well insulated by our “system,” as Sam put it, for “we” to do anything about it. Hence suggestion that a more responsive democratic government was in order.

    In our exchange, this turned into an argument about bureaucracies. You read my support of parliamentary-style reforms as ignorant of those processes which arguably contribute to the development of “consummate bureaucratic states”; I dissented from that, and provided evidence that I thought relevant. I pretty much entirely agree with your account of the sources of that evidence–you’re right that in a parliamentary democracy, one with strong party unity (which isn’t always the case), the opposition and the civil service have little political power to thwart new political programs, or to protect old ones, because all the levers of power, legislative and executive, are placed in the hands of the majority party. That’s what the British call “responsible government”: politicians make promises, if elected they are actually given the power to accomplish them, and therefore can be held accountable by voters at the next election. I don’t imagine, or want, our Constitution to change overnight to a parliamentary democracy, but when you look at the mechanisms which existed in early state governments that the Anti-Federalists defended, or the reforms which the Populists demanded, you see systems of participation and accountability that our current arrangement would benefit from.

    I also concur with your phenomenology of bureaucracy: “the people want things, and a bureaucracy evolves to provide them. The bureaucracy won’t go away until either a) democracy goes away or b) the demos learns a little something about virtue.” Now for my part, I don’t want A; I suppose some FPRers would perhaps disagree with me there. As for B, that’s vitally important. I’m not sure I follow you, however, in thinking that a virtuous people would somehow also be a fundamentally unbureaucratic people. Are charities and churches unbureaucratic? (Is the Vatican?) I personally find the study of bureaucracies and organizations boring, and heaven knows they are a pain in the ass, but I don’t necessarily find them structurally opposed to the creation or the preservation of an virtuous people…unless, that is, they become (as Yes Minister proves the regularly do!) so unresponsive as to be essentially controlling of what people want. Caleb’s rightly infuriating story about numbskulled flunkies signing off on an idea of what “health” means leading to family farms being shut down is a case in point. But I’ve known too many decent and thoughtful social workers who themselves struggle with “the system” from the inside to think that’s the whole story.

  24. All I know is that we are the cusp of true greatness here in the Land of Steady Habits. Nutmeggers, if all goes well, will soon send in the Hijinks Corporate Mistress of the World Wrestling Entertainment Corporation to fill the Senate Seat vacated by Mr. Dodd. This kind of alignment of dark planets deserves note. The Congress is, in essence, a very expensive fake wrestling extravaganza. She will bring serious production values to the fore. Finally we might get spandex uniforms with corporate donor tattoos on our so-called “elected representatives”.

    I seen a lot of loathing at them there Wrestling matches but it aint been self-loathing, its been that other kind of loathing, the healthy kind, like a troop of apes pant-hooting over discovering something to attack, kill and dismember. All, of course, for a good nights entertainment….what the candidate calls a “Sports soap opera”, as though the real sports aint soap opera enough for us.

    Now, we shall be able to compare wether or not the Soap Opera of the current U.S.A. will outlast the glorious run of “Days of our Lives”.

    One cannot loathe such a preposterous farce with a clean conscious.

  25. “They are turned alternatively into they playthings of the soveregin and into his masters, being either greater than kings or less than men.”
    -Tocqueville

  26. Two recent conversations I had illustrate the problem. One with a “tea partier” on social security, who opposed socialized medicine but supports medicare, and the other with a young campus organizer for some conservative organization, who opposes all gov’t subsidies, except the one he received when he went to a state school. Individual tea partiers may have a list of programs they want cut, but it always turns out to be somebody else’s programs. For their own programs, they are always convinced that the cost is too high and the benefits too small, and the combination fills them with resentment.

    Of course, the primary program they support is the program of warfare, and this they resent paying for. Of course, they all support the troops, they just don’t support being taxed to pay them. This has been our politics for 30 years; Reagan promised to cut the budget by eliminating “waste, fraud, and abuse.” IOW, no actual programs would be cut, no actual constituency embarrased. Not suprisingly, Reagan’s program resulted in the unprecedented tripling of the National Debt in peacetime. This promise of painless cuts has been the stuff of our politics since then, and is repeated the the Republican parties “Pledge to America,” which should be called the program to bankrupt America.

    I will take the tea party seriously when they demand that their own services be cut as a preliminary to cutting their taxes. But until that time, it is just another expression of the politics of ingratitude.

  27. Sometimes I think arguing against inclusion is in fact an attempt to evade responsibility. Sorry, not trying to be a jerk – retracing my own steps. If democracy is going to work, at some point we’ve got to show up.

  28. A welfare pimp is not unlike a street-corner pimp. When one of his girls gets the idea that she’d like to get out of the cycle of abuse and dependency and make something of her life, he is not going to be the one to provide support and encouragement. He is going to remind her who she is and what she has been. Instead of trying to build up her self-esteem, he is going to remind her how she hates herself for what she is and how she is helpless to do any differently. He probably doesn’t need to bitch-slap her or rape her to make his point. A few comments in Front Porch Republic will be sufficient in most cases.

  29. John Medaille: I can’t listen to the Tea Party without thinking of Major Major’s father in Catch-22.

    “Major Major’s father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a good joke was to lie about his age. He was a longlimbed farmer, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping socialism. He advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down. His specialty was alfalfa, and he made a good thing out of not growing any. The government paid him well for every bushel of alfalfa he did not grow. The more alfalfa he did not grow, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new land to increase the amount of alfalfa he did not produce. Major Major’s father worked without rest at not growing alfalfa. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in land wisely and soon was not growing more alfalfa than any other man in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise.”

  30. Sounds like Major Major’s father could be my hero. I advocate that people get as many govt subsidies as they can get their hands on, and then use the money or the resources created by their new leisure time to unelect the politicians who build up the welfare-police state. Lefters hate that. They think the money was intended to buy peoples’ political views. They hate it when people who have been bought and paid for don’t stay bought.

  31. I usually like Mr. Deneen’s work, which I think is very thoughtful, but not this column. To me it is exactly the kind of thing you normally get from the chattering classes–too clever by half. I think the nation is ready for an adult conversation. I know I am. I am also ready to sacrifice for the good of the nation. My husband and I have paid into social security like everyone else, for example, and are within 15 years of retirement. It is not in our best interest and we are by no means rich, but I think SS needs to be means tested. Americans are ready for common sense and this whole self-loathing business is nothing of the sort.

  32. The Washington Post relies on Social Security and Medicare to make its point. But Social Security and Medicare are special cases. If you buy a private annuity or insurance policy, and pay into it over the course of your entire life, you expect the contractor to uphold his part of the bargain when you become eligible for benefits. Accordingly, seniors and those approaching retirement age should be grandfathered in. However, it would be better to gradually wean young people off the government plan.

    As for the rest of these government spending programs, I find that in past two years we have traveled well beyond the stage of mere “safety nets” and “solving our problems” and “no one left behind.” Yes, we are far beyond that stage now.

  33. Anyone who doesn’t have a certain amount of loathing for their government is an idiot.

    But I have no loathing for myself, nor for my fellow Americans. It’s an entirely healthy thing to throw the bums out sooner or later, in this case sooner.

    • So you have no loathing for your fellow Americans, yet many of your fellow Americans voted for the bums. Do you mean then that you dislike their choice but you do not loath them? The bums didn’t show up magically. They won elections voted in by your fellow Americans.

      Or are you like some of my family that hate the current politicians, yet totally disconnects their arrival by being elected by a good number of their fellow Americans, some of their neighbors, or even some of their own family from those very people? That is some how the bums showed up because of the ‘other’.

      Or are you one of the increasingly rare (unfortunately) people that can honestly disagree with a person yet still respect their personhood and choices? I hope it is the last.

  34. […] Lemann sees the the Reid-Angle contest as a thoroughly national one; a referendum on the Obama administration. George Will says the same thing about the West Virginia senate race; E.J. Dionne says the same about House races in Ohio. It’s the same all over. No doubt some people are terribly excited about what will happen in voting booths all across the country in twelve days, but I don’t think there’s much basis for that excitement. Patrick Deneen said it well: […]

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