Americans are deeply concerned about the future of our country as we bid farewell to a mostly unloved 2011.
If you are in the mood for mordant humor (and who isn’t after a year like this?), Jed Babbin has just the piece for you over at the American Spectator. Babbin describes 2011 as “the year the wheels fell off.” Babbin notes that the forlorn epoch is noteworthy for, among other transformational innovations, generous, taxpayer-backed loans to green ventures that will be “repaid as soon as hell freezes over.”
Babbin mocks the empty drama of the debt ceiling debate. Congress, Babbin notes, was playing “Russian roulette with an empty pistol”—i.e., Congress boldly set up a brave new system that triggered automatic budget cuts for everything but entitlements, the real root of our fiscal troubles.
But there is a bright spot: Those of us who thought that the country had embarked on the wrong economic path in 2008 are now not alone in believing that we need less government and more private sector job creation.
In a piece entitled "Growth, Not Redistribution," Michael Barone takes note of the shift in the public's attitude. Barone quotes William Galson, one of Washington’s most respected liberal think tank intellectuals:
A 2008 election widely regarded as heralding a shift toward the more government-friendly public sentiment of the New Deal and Great Society eras seems to have yielded just the reverse.
For Galston, that is to be lamented. For me, it is a beacon of hope.
Galston regards the move away from a redistributionist, big government sentiment as an anomaly that needs to be explained, according to Barone. But Barone thinks that the perception of Galston and others who believe that people are likely to turn to big government in hard times is based of a misreading of Franklyn Roosevelt's New Deal of the 1930s.
Barone notes that Roosevelt won big in 1932 and by a slightly bigger margin in 1936. But historians may have misinterpreted these elections:
The New Deal historians attributed these gains to Roosevelt’s economic-redistribution measures: high tax rates on high earners, the pro-union Wagner Act, Social Security.
These laws — the so-called Second New Deal — were passed in 1935. They replaced the different, non-redistributionist policies of the First New Deal that stopped the deflationary downward spiral underway when Roosevelt took office.
The problem with the historians’ claims is that the shifts in the electorate apparent in 1936 also are apparent in the 1934 off-year elections. Democrats won big that year, but compared to 1932, they lost ground in rural areas and small towns and gained much ground in big cities and factory towns.
The 1936 realignment happened in 1934. It could not have been caused by the redistributionist Second New Deal legislation, because that legislation hadn’t been passed before November 1934.
So why should voters be leery of economic redistribution in times of economic distress?
Perhaps because they realize that they stand to gain much more from a vibrantly growing economy than from redistribution of a stagnant economic pie.
A growing economy produces many unanticipated opportunities.
Redistribution edges toward a zero-sum game.
If you want to transfer wealth from one segment of the population to another, you must first produce the wealth.
The creation of wealth is what's been missing in 2011.
So my wishes for you in 2012 are that you’ll be healthy, wealthy, and wise.
The main thing is to never despair.