Monday, April 19

In The Land Of The Blind

I HAVE one rule in dealing with a Douthat column, but it's a two parter: if I doze off during the first paragraph, or five times in the next ten, I look for something else to irritate me.

Here's his opener. You decide:
American conservatives don’t think terribly highly of the British Tories — if, that is, they think of them at all. With the exception of the sainted Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s Conservatives have acquired a reputation among their more populist American cousins for being aristocratic squishes: part Bertie Wooster and part Arlen Specter.

Now, apart from the warm, cheery glow the American Right's love affair with Thatcherism (Version 2.0 now shipping! as Douthat was born the same year Maggie became PM ) has given me over the years, this sounded like nothing so much as a brief experiment where the Times hires a slightly stupider guy to explain David Brooks' columns to a non-existent demographic. Not that he doesn't usually sound that way.

And this follows Douthat squeezing in a column about how CNN could improve its ratings, itself sandwiched like mashed potato on white, extra mayo, between Catholic Church Sex Scandal ruminations (spoiler alert: the 70s did it).

As usual, our interest in this sort of thing is sociological and meager, to use a redundancy, and mostly consists of Douthat unintentionally demonstrating what the Graphic Novel must have been like before someone invented graphics:
Nobody would mistake the Cameron Tories for Tea Partiers. By the statist standards of British politics, though, their manifesto’s emphasis on localism and limited government is quite daring. The Tories may sit to the left of American conservatives on a host of issues, but Cameron is offering a more detailed and specific vision of what conservative reform might mean than almost any English-speaking politician since the Reagan-Thatcher era.

Of course, if you're old enough, and especially if you're Midwestern enough, you've been listening to this cartoon version of Poly Sci 101 for four decades now, and haply have at hand that same four decades worth of contrary evidence detailing what happens when people who insist they're for Limited Government actually get control of one.

It's curious, really, that one of the things that happens is that the supposed party of supposed smaller government embiggens government, and not always just for the purchase of cooler warplanes and bigger aircraft carriers with, like, Presidential parking lanes; y'know, the stuff Smaller Government advocates like. And this gives rise to members of the same party deciding--after they're voted out--that the reason they failed was Insufficient Purity. This, in turn, is responded to as though it had never happened before, and thus must be a genuine, populist, grassroots uprising which means every word it says. In 1964. In 1980. 1984. 2000. Now.

Another is that the clacking magpies of Reaganthatcherism are given protected nesting spots from which to caw their one-sided arguments. "Conservatives" want smaller government, though none has ever produced one; this, they jabber, is not the reverse of the party which wants government to accomplish things, but one which wants to expand government until it reaches 100% and we all earn our living taking in each other's washing. "Conservatives" want Tax Cuts; their opponents don't favor responsible spending, or equitable payment for needed government services, but seizing your personal property until there's none left. Of course, not only is there no such party, but the actual opposition party is so timid, conflicted, and corrupted that it can't even enact the actual ideas it has with actual majorities. And the Timesmen imagine we benighted folk in the hinterland are hungry for them to serve up a series of Harvard boys and U. of Chicago Torontoites to explain to us that's how we think.

Let us respond with the case of Indianapolis, Indiana, the Circle City, Naptown, U.S.A.: two-and-a-half years ago it elected a halfwit Marine Lt. Colonel--but I repeat myself!--in the First Ever in History Teabagging Revolution of the Current Cycle. And at this point we've gotten someone who 1) has refused to publicly uncover any of the $70 million in "fluff" he claimed he would excise from the city budget, let begin the actual defluffing process; 2) retained the County Option Tax which, when Democrats enacted it to deal with a police and fire pension problem bordering on the catastrophic, he called TaxandSpendism run amok; 3) wondered aloud why we need city parks and greenspaces; and 4) now seeks to hand the Pacers $15 million, gratis, off their contract to operate the Fieldhouse we built them the last time they threatened to move, lest they move, while simultaneously closing six library branches, including the most popular one in the system.

The Pacer thing is downright galling, since the $15 million in maintenance they pay justifies their profit-sharing in other events held at the Fieldhouse, but the rumor is that negotiators aren't demanding that money back; because outside legal opinion has held that the vaunted "right to renegotiate the contract after ten years" doesn't actually exist in the contract, jurisprudence generally, nor anywhere other than the profit takers' heads; and since the Simon organization is now entering the umpteenth consecutive year of refusing to observe state law requiring they open their books. And the whole scheme is being run by the Capital Improvement Board, the Skull and Bones of Indianapolis, and the first goddam thing any serious tax revolt should have kicked to the curb.

We'd need twice as much space to begin to deal with what the Daniels administration is now trying to do to public education to entice Presidential donors streamline its destruction, and we'll take it, sometime soon. We're going to leave to praeteritio the fact that Clarian Health, freed of any job-killing risk it might have to provide affordable health care in the future, plans on spending $150 million to add 175-200 beds to Methodist Hospital. In the meantime, y'know, just maybe we could start acting like incontinent tax cutting is not the one issue in the history of Western Civilization, dating all the way back to the year of Ross Douthat's birth, which has only one side.


heydave said...

our interest in this sort of thing is sociological and meager...

My own interest in the perpetual edification of reaganthatcherism is solely scatological, to see how much shit said proponents can pile up.

charles pierce said...

Doghouse --
Did you notice that young Ross mentions Mitch, as well as Randoid loon Paul (Thanks, Dad) Ryan from Wisconsin, as Important American Conservative Thinkers?

Keifus said...

I've found that whenever I feel the need to graft any honest meaning onto the phrase "small government," I think that they must mean it in terms of representation. It's small in terms of the community it serves and which it's comprised of. Obviously it has nothing whatsoever to do with budget or scope.

Small enough to drown in a bathtub? Sure, but not small enough for you to drown it.

Jay B. said...

Doghouse, you make me almost want to know about Indiana politics.

Having fully digested and marinated in the local/regional/state/federal scene in Massachusetts and Texas -- I admit to letting the distant solons of New York and California rob me blind because I'm so fucking baffled as to what they do and how they do it -- it's good to read smart, jaundiced "citizen journalism" about something I knew nothing about that still holds my interest.

Now I want a piece of that fucker Daniels too. Grr.

desertscope said...

Giving money directly to the rich with no strings attached? That is unprecedented corruption. Or extremely common and legal. I forget which.