By Chuck Rogér
Reactions to my article, “Conservatism that Assures the Unthinkable: the Reelection of Barack Obama,” continue to roll in. I received an email from a woman asking me to consider the “high costs of liberal social ideology” as a key element in any plan to right the American economy. The woman directed me to an article titled “It’s the Demographics, Not the Deficit” by Robert W. Patterson, editor of The Family in America: A Journal of Public Policy.
After reading Patterson’s essay, it has become even clearer that there are conservatives unprepared to budge from their insistence on always making elections about moral purity even at the cost of installing Barack Obama in the White House for four more years.
I found Patterson’s hard-line arguments to be full of sweeping, hand-waving points put forth without evidence.
Specifically, in writing that Paul Ryan “is painting Republicans into a corner if he thinks exploding federal outlays can be reduced without addressing underlying family demographics,” Patterson makes a ridiculous assertion. For it is eminently possible to reduce federal spending without getting into issues surrounding the American family. There is no sound basis for Patterson’s assertion. Yet, certain conservatives relentlessly foist up similar justifications for using the big government that said conservatives allegedly detest to push social agendas when simple fiscal sanity is called for.
Patterson also writes: “One might think that such ‘progress’ and ‘economic growth’ would have translated into lower levels of government dependency and less federal spending to guarantee well-being, ‘fairness’ and income security.” This illustrates a time-honored debating technique—make a claim for which there is no evidence as though the claim were quite simply true, and then base an argument on the unsupported claim. It’s similar to the classic “straw man” technique, and ideologues of all stripes use the tactic when real-world evidence and logic go against their positions.
Patterson writes: “The unacknowledged reality that drives this insatiable demand for government is family breakdown all across America — in ‘blue states’ as well as ‘red states,’ within both parties, and among adherents to our key faith traditions.” That’s impressive-sounding, but where is Patterson’s proof that family breakdown drives the welfare state? In fact, isn’t precisely the opposite relationship supported by the evidence—that the welfare state drives family breakdown?
We could continue, point for point through Patterson’s essay. The piece is full of logical errors and unsupported claims with follow-on arguments built on those faulty claims. Making a big push for big government to drive yet more moral agendas, this time from the right, would be a fatal mistake in Campaign 2012. American needs to be righted economically. Then we can set about more rationally conducting the social battles.
Election 2012 must be about economics and fiscal policy. The process know as “budgeting” occurs at all levels of society, from the family, to the small biz, to the mega-corporation, to government. But at only one of these levels is budgeting bastardized into something other than the practice of basing spending on income. That outlier is government. Patterson’s “demographics” have nothing to do with what makes government unaccountable. Government is unaccountable mainly because in order to buy votes needed to stay in power, politicians succumb to the irresistible urge to spend other people’s money—which those politicians assume they will always be able to obtain.
It is encouraging that positive reaction to my “Conservatism that Assures the Unthinkable…” article far outweighs negative reaction — by a ratio of perhaps 10:1. Two specific GOP candidates must “get” the message about focusing on economics and laying off the divisive social issues, otherwise we could see dwindling chances for an Obama defeat in 2012.