I have been saying it for a while, but the McCain's presidential campaign has really sunk this idea deep into my gut. His campaign has been so idea-barren its almost startling. Just want kind of president would McCain be? Really, I have no idea.
One of my most favorite columnists of any political persuasion happens also to be conservative. In today's column, here, Brooks really lays the case that McCain was a fantastic Senator and could have been a great president, but was never able to define himself.
In the article, Brooks describes the political center (a region I like to think I reside), that's " is for using limited but energetic government to enhance social mobility." He describes this group as "progressive conservatives". That phrase really rings home for me. Personally, I really wish there was a place for progressive conservatives.
And there's been a long history of presidents who fit that description, none of them recent:
" This tendency began with Alexander Hamilton, who created a vibrant national economy so more people could rise and succeed. It matured with Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War Republicans, who created the Land Grant College Act and the Homestead Act to give people the tools to pursue their ambitions. It continued with Theodore Roosevelt, who busted the trusts to give more Americans a square deal."
You could really see a half-hearted attempt from McCain in the conventions to market himself as a Teddy Roosevelt Republican, but it never stuck, and Sarah Palin basically sunk that attempt like the lead balloon she has become.
And I agree with Brooks, that McCain "never escaped the straitjacket of a party that is ailing and a conservatism that is behind the times. And that’s what makes the final weeks of this campaign so unspeakably sad." Its really the Republican party that ruined McCain.
Which leads me to another really excellent article that really describes the problem with modern day conservatism. It's here that talks about the great Consumption Compromise that really was the crux of conservatism's success.
The past 20 or 30 years, you can see a startling and rising gap between the rich and the poor, and you would have think the Republican party would have taken a hit because of it, because it is that party more than the Democrats who continuously promote policies that propagate the economic disparities.
But it hasn't sunk because another effect of Republican economic policies is that they tend to keep goods cheap. Free trade increases competition and allows economies to take advantage of cheap labor throughout the world. Tax policy that provides all kinds of tax breaks for the investment class, and just an overall policy that promotes capitalism and free markets has a tendency of concentrating wealth. You wouldn't think so, but it does.
Free markets tend to reward the winners much more than those who are second or third best. There is only one ebay in the online acutions market. Really only one Amazon. One Google, One (or two or three) Walmarts. One a company scales they have the money and market power to drive out competition. It takes an activist government to put some breaks on this.
Not to mention cheap and easy credit which has also had the effect of
But as a population we've allowed this because while the rich have gotten richer, the poor have at least been able to afford tv's, cell phones, video game systems, fast food, and entertainment.
While they continue to struggle, their quality of life has in many ways improved.
But this consumption compromise is having struggles. The price of everything from energy, to food, to health care, to education has sky-rotted putting enormous pressure on millions of Americans.
And large economic disparities do have political consequences. With so much wealth concentrated in the hands of so few, these people have the resources to influence legislation in their favor. This is why that although we have the second highest tax on corporations in the developed world, many US companies pay little to no taxes.
That although we have a tax code that's progressive, many of our wealthiest have all sorts of ways to circumvent the tax code altogether.
And its why that Obama's tax policies don't bother me. In fact, I support them. In world with massive deficits and massive institutional and infrastructural break down, you have to tax those with all of the money to the benefit of all.
It's why I support Obama's idea to provide tax cuts to the middle class and poor even if it means a tax rebate to many people who already pay little or no taxes. I support this not permanently but in the short term to help people who are getting squeezed.
Republicans like to say that the rich worked hard and earned all the money they've gotten. That is not necessarily true. The game is rigged as it always is. We all have the potential to do well, to be successful, to become rich in this great country of ours. Some just have far fewer barriers to do so than others.