Americans have voted for limited government, but they've never actually gotten it, and a growing number of people have figured out why:
I think the more significant cause, however, is the general one--a growing conviction that America is governed by a political class that has its own agenda, involving its own enrichment as well as the endless expansion of its own power, and that this political class is contemptuous of the opinions of ordinary Americans and is determined to impose its will regardless of how Americans vote. I think this perception is in fact true.
It remains to be seen whether the American people can finally break the grip of a political class that remains determined to run their lives and misappropriate trillions of dollars of their wealth. It will be, I think, a close-run thing. In the meantime, there is no mystery as to why most Americans do not regard the federal government as legitimate in Jeffersonian terms.
I'm beginning to believe it won't be "a close-run thing" at all. The current level of debt cannot be sustained without new taxes and large infusions of taxpayer dollars, and the political class has no interest whatsoever in reducing spending.
I was struck by a Washington Post editorial reprinted in The Jouranl Gazette this morning in which the GOP was lambasted for disapproving of an extension of unemployment benefits "because it would cost $35 billion" but being untroubled by "digging the hole $678 billion deeper by extending President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans." It would be hard to find a more cliched rendition of the effete class-envy justification for the progressives' redistribution-of-wealth agenda. The Post then trots out Republican Jon Kyl as the whipping boy for "Republican incoherence."
Mr. Wallace persisted: "But, sir, . . .how are you going to pay the $678 billion?" -- at which point Mr. Kyl descended into nonsense. "You should never raise taxes in order to cut taxes," he declared.
Huh? No one's talking about cutting taxes on the wealthy to stimulate the economy. The issue is whether the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be extended, adding another $678 billion to the deficit over the next decade.
Mr. Kyl does sound a little incoherent there, but it's easy to make someone soound that way if you don't agree with his agenda or just don't understand it, both of which are likely true in the Post's case. It's true that raising taxes in order to cut taxes is bad policy, but the unstated corollary is that cutting spending in order to cut taxes is the good policy.
That's what unites the two cases, in fact: Extending the uneployment benefits without offsetting budget cuts elsewhere adds to the deficit (and goes against the paygo system calling for such offsets, a program Congress started violating as soon as it approved it). And reducing your income (even income from those evil rich) without cutting spending also adds to the deficits. It's all about spending: Approve the unemployment benefits and offsett with cuts. Keep the tax breaks and offset with cuts. The Republicans seem to be having trouble making that message clear, perhaps in part because they have not always been such anti-spending purists, and no doubt largely because so many "watchdogs" in the press are just cheerleaders for the political class.
UPDATE: A good read from Victor Davis Hanson:
I think most of our problems transcend politics, which is increasingly a reflection of an elite, insider culture that is completely at odds with the majority of the country that it oversees.