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Liberal Welfare State in Decline

Posted By Rich Tucker On December 10, 2012 @ 1:06 pm In First Principles,Obamacare | Comments Disabled

Even as the country deals with the crisis of the “fiscal cliff [1],” there’s another crisis waiting in the wings. “The second act will occur early in 2013 when the federal government will exhaust its ability to issue debt legally,” writes Heritage’s J. D. Foster [2].

As computer programmers would say, the seemingly endless series of crises isn’t a bug; it’s a feature, a fundamental debate over the future of the country.

With Obamacare in place, the left has finished building its dream: a liberal welfare state. Yet that dream seems likely to turn into a nightmare. Without massive tax increases on the middle class, the welfare state is simply not affordable. “The foundation is falling out from beneath the building just as they have finished construction,” quips Yuval Levin [3].

That’s why Charles Kesler, editor of the Claremont Review of Books, remains upbeat that the future of the country is conservative.

In a Heritage First Principles essay published before the 2012 election, he wrote [4]:

If the bankruptcy of the entitlement programs were handled just the right way, with world-class cynicism and opportunism, in an emergency demanding quick, painful action lest Grandma descend into an irreversible diabetic coma, then liberalism might succeed in maneuvering America into a Scandinavia-style überwelfare state, fueled by massive and regressive taxes cheerfully accepted by the citizenry.

But all that remains unlikely:

Odds are we stand instead at the twilight of the liberal welfare state. As it sinks, a new, more conservative system will likely rise that will feature some combination of more means-testing of benefits, a switch from defined-benefit to defined-contribution programs, greater devolution of authority to the states and localities, a new budget process that will force welfare expenditures to compete with other national priorities, and the redefinition of the welfare function away from fulfilling socioeconomic “rights” and toward charitably taking care of the truly needy as best the community can afford when private efforts have failed or proved inadequate.

His optimism about the future explains why Kesler’s book I Am the Change is subtitled Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism.

Despite the election results, it’s the left that faces an existential crisis. Conservatives, meanwhile, have detailed plans [5] that can transform entitlement programs, reduce federal spending and debt, and hold the line on taxes. That’s worth remembering—no matter how the fiscal cliff talks end up.


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/12/10/liberal-welfare-state-in-decline/

URLs in this post:

[1] fiscal cliff: http://www.heritage.org/issues/economy/fiscal-cliff

[2] writes Heritage’s J. D. Foster: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/11/six-bipartisan-entitlement-reforms-to-solve-the-real-fiscal-crisis-only-presidential-leadership-is-needed

[3] Yuval Levin: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/334824/bargaining-and-its-limits-yuval-levin

[4] he wrote: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/10/barack-obama-and-the-crisis-of-liberalism

[5] have detailed plans: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/05/saving-the-american-dream-the-heritage-plan-to-fix-the-debt-cut-spending-and-restore-prosperity

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