Liberalism Is Alive and Well—America May Be Doomed

A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 3 2013 11:23 AM

Liberalism Is Alive and Well—America May Be Doomed

Ross Douthat says that President Obama's inability to persuade Republicans to agree to a larger tax increase shows that liberalism is doomed since clearly the political will just isn't there to raise the tax revenues necessary to fund the welfare state.

The trouble I have with this case is that it didn’t really test tax hikes versus spending. What Democrats found is that, when the question is raising taxes to reduce the deficit versus not raising taxes to reduce the deficit, the political going is tougher than liberals would like. But that tells us very little about sustaining Social Security and Medicare.
Advertisement

I actually think we learned a lot about sustaining Social Security and Medicare here. A an awful lot of post hoc analysis of the fiscal cliff deal is acting as if the issue was that the White House wanted tax revenue to shore up retirement programs and Republicans didn't want to give in. What actually happened was that the White House wanted a big tax hike paired with big spending cuts in order to achieve major deficit reduction and Republicans didn't want to do any of those things.

In deference to GOP wishes, we didn't cut retirement programs at all, we only raised taxes a little, and the basic fiscal picture didn't change very much.

What we learned, in other words, is that even with a Democratic President in the White House who's eager to cut spending on retirement programs they still don't get cut. That's how robust the welfare state is. Recall that the last time we had a Republican President in the White House what he did was make Medicare benefits significantly more generous. Recall also that Mitt Romney ran on a pledge to increase Medicare benefits for ten years and then offset that by cutting benefits for younger people in the future. That's how robust the welfare state is. Concern trolling about Democratic senators' willingness to blink on taxes is neat, but all we're seeing again and again is confirmation of Paul Pierson's thesis from Dismantling the Welfare State?, namely that dismantling the welfare state is incredibly difficult.

If you want to worry about something, worry about the United States of America. What we've seen time and again for the past five years is a breakdown of responsible party government in the United States. Nobody gets their way legislatively, so nobody has to take the fall when things work out poorly.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 6:23 PM Bryan Cranston Reenacts Baseball’s Best Moments to Promote the Upcoming Postseason
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.