The myth of the center-right
JOHN REINIERS, More Than WordsTo the reader: The first part of this column was written the day before the election. My position has always been that it would end badly; that the election results would not trump cultural change no matter who was elected.
Published: November 11, 2012
Published: November 11, 2012
We are deluding ourselves if we do not recognize that our political system is slowly but surely becoming more responsive to the ideas of the progressive left. This shouldn't come as any surprise given our changing demographics.
Vladimir Lenin was quite the progressive when he established the first constitutional socialist state on the planet – The Soviet Union of Socialist Republics – a huge cultural change as the Bolsheviks took over. (The U.S. is a constitutional republic too, but not of socialist states.) In one of his selected works published in 1913 Lenin pronounced, "The economic system is the foundation on which the political superstructure is erected." That is absolutely correct.
We need to recognize that only 53 percent of Americans believe capitalism is better than socialism; 27 percent aren't even sure. Then 52 percent of liberal progressives prefer socialism.
According to recent research by Harvard Business School, 92 percent of Americans would prefer less income disparity; but even though they are discomforted with the gap between the ideal and actual wealth distributions, they do not "advocate for policies that would narrow this gap." But this study was in 2005. Cultural change has accelerated because of demographic changes since then, coupled with job losses, pessimism about the future and President Obama's clever use of class envy as a campaign tactic.
The time-honored American tradition, which attracted immigrants, was that good grades in school, learning a skill, and hard work, coupled with sensible life-style choices, translated into a decent job. This path to economic success has been replaced by dependence on government assistance and endless programs as an absolute necessity for survival, much less social mobility.
Noted macroeconomist Edward J. Nell famously said, "Politics very often is simply economics pursued by other means," which more or less validates Lenin's philosophy – strange as it seems.
Nell's major contribution to economics was his theory of (shades of Obama) transformational growth. This theory holds that the way an economy functions is not static, but changes over time – that any economic theory must accommodate these changes in order to provide a realistic explanation of an economic system. Nell believes "The principles of economics are likely to be different in different eras." He has written twenty books, one of his titles being "Economic Development and Cultural Change."
I would argue that this is where we are now – cultural change has ushered in a new era.
President Obama has finally put to rest the myth of America being center-right. He has tapped into the anger and passion of those minority groups in his following that have largely failed in educational achievement or in the workplace; coupled with those whose social values have become the new beginning.
His main theme is that his people cannot achieve success without being redistributed their fair shares of some other American's money – turning the now-discarded American value system on its head.
His people are now the new majority.
Obama has simply punctuated with very transparent candor what has been decades long in the making since the New Deal: A redistributional government as the answer to our economic woes, not the private sector. Free market capitalists must be controlled by government. He has embraced state capitalism as the arbiter of which industries are to be favored, and which ones are to fail.
He fears both the States and the Constitution with its troubling tenth amendment which "reserves to the States…or the people the powers not delegated to the United States."
The tenth amendment is anathema to any big government statist, since it is their article of faith that the solution to all problems lies with the federal government – not the people or the states.
There is no question that President Obama wants to take us much further left. He has just begun to transform America. The only question is how far to the left will the older generation of ensconced white liberals be willing to go? (Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Pat Leahy et al.)
There is hope. Two thoughts come to mind: First, even far left government leaders are forced to compromise. Vladimir Putin is cutting back on social spending to the chagrin to his supporters. Among other fiscal challenges, Russia's "Social Security" system is going broke also, so funding will be decreased and retirement ages raised.
In France the joke is that socialist President Francois Hollande is now supporting the very same spending cuts he opposed when he ran against, and defeated Nicholas Sarkozy. The socialist faithful are furious.
Obama dodged that bullet to get re-elected, but reality will get in the way. The well is dry. Compromise on spending and entitlements is a necessity.
Secondly, education is our only long term solution. The upcoming generation of minority students – particularly Latinos – may graduate with just enough success stories – students with marketable skills – to be tax-paying role models (future Republicans.) Nothing breeds success like success.
Governors are leading in education reform. Even liberal N.Y. Governor Andrew Como has blasted teachers unions and is demanding a new rating system for N.Y. teachers.
Obama may be owned by the unions, but even a socialist president needs a world class educational system producing graduates – not for government jobs – but to compete in a global economy with advanced technological skills (China comes to mind.) These will be the kind of people who could resuscitate the moribund American dream of hard work for individual success, rather than a government directed economy.
Jurist Benjamin Cardozo is a favorite of law students. Sounding very much like Edward Nell, Cardozo observed "Nothing is stable. Nothing is absolute. All is fluid and changeable. There is an endless "becoming."
It took generations for Democrats to build up their big house of government cards. Disturb just one card and it all collapses in a heartbeat. Even Center-left governments are faced with spending constraints to avoid "becoming" one of the "endless" numbers of teetering Greek-like socialist states.
John Reiniers, a regular columnist for Hernando Today, lives in Spring Hill.