Uncle Jerry: Liberalism Only Fails Because We Don't do it Enough

My longtime liberal activist uncle is a remarkable man - well into his nineties, he remains intellectually vibrant and engaged, and he continues to advocate, with vigor, for the failed liberal vision. Here's a blogpost he put up yesterday - including a gartuitous attack on the Tea Party (those scary people who advocate for smaller government and following the constitution) - and a quick response I sent off to my mother, who seems to have been taken in by Jerry's arguments.

Living Outside the American Dream

By Jerome Grossman
The Tea Party doesn't have a national headquarters or unofficial governing body. Nor is there a reliable count of its members, because there is no formal way for adherents to sign up. It is a collection of unrelated local groups: six people gathered in the living room to talk and complain over whiskey and soda.

Indiana has 72 such affiliates, many named after Johnny Appleseed. Name variations often include the phrase “small government”. The local groups buy Tea Party golf balls, Tea Party cigars and children's coloring books.

Loosely bound for serious political combat, this unimpressive group has 60 members in the US House of Representatives  where they exercise their leverage in the Republican Party to change the focus of the nation from the crisis of widespread unemployment to cutting taxes and balancing the federal budget

Only a few months ago, the consensus in Washington, in the media, in the Democratic Party and in the White House located the American crisis and in the vast and  growing need to create jobs for the millions of Americans living outside the American dream. This humanitarian goal has been replaced by the bankers’ issues: balancing the federal yearly budget and reducing the long-term federal deficit. A serious jobs program would put funds in the hands of the poorest. The current national dialogue does not include a serious jobs program to increase production and put funds in the hands of the unemployed. An effective program for deficit reduction would cut the military budget, increase taxes on the wealthiest and limit US military adventures around the world

The Tea Party agenda fits the ideology of the Reagan Republican Party supporting military intervention abroad and opposing social intervention for the unemployed at home. The masses of American workers are disappointed in the motivation of the Democrats that moves them to switch priorities from Social Security to deficit reductions, from a massive jobs program similar to the Roosevelt New Deal to a banker support program

What happened to Obama? In this moral and economic crisis, the media cry out in virtual unison, expecting the president to rescue his constituency as headlines scream, “As corporate profits rise, workers income declines.” As unemployment staggers the nation and social programs are cut, there is no FDR in this administration, so stop looking for one.

Did you notice that Jerry called the Tea Party an unimpressive group just before he mentioned that the 3 year old movement controls 60 seats in the house? That's some pretty impressive unimpressiveness!

Here's what I sent to my mother - if you'd like to add anything, you can send it to me at todd@toddtalk.com.

When FDR entered the White House there were no broad based social programs run by the federal government. Now, more than half the country is on one, and more than 20% of personal income consists of a government check - including unemployment benefits that last so long economists worry that they will take people out of the job market permanently because their skills will fall so far behind.

 
When FDR was elected, federal spending as a percentage of GDP was 2.5%, when he left it was over 15%. It is now at 25%. In 1929, only 3% of GDP was redistributed through social programs - in 2004 that number had grown to 44% of GDP.
 
In 2010, households received $2.3 trillion dollars in government income! That's more than we paid in!
 
The U.S. just received a credit downgrade because we overspend without conscience, and because we're being crushed by the financial burden of social programs that chew up half of our budget and which must be changed to make it possible to honor the obligations they contain in years to come.
 
Jerry's lament sounds like that of a liberal wind up doll from two generations ago that speaks with no awareness of what's transpired since it was built. 
 
It is the classes that liberalism has supposedly been protecting with all these trillions of dollars who are suffering in this economy. Unemployment for those with a college education is 4.4%, for those with no college it's 9.5%, and it's over 13% for those who don't finish high school.

In Boston, one third of the kids drop out of school and one third of those who graduate are, according to the city, not well enough prepared academically to continue their education or get an entry level job - a total of 55%. That means more than half of the poor and minorities which liberalism claims to be looking out for have no shot at the American dream.

What has changed in our society is that you can't survive without education - even a manufacturing job today requires higher ed. Yet 30% of kids nationally drop out, leaving the poor and minorities behind, despite the fact that we've doubled spending on education in the past 30 years.  

Jerry's had his way for the last 80 years, and what he's built is a system that spends so much money "helping" people that we're creating a disenfranchised underclass so massive that it threatens to destroy our social structure. His answer is that we need to do more of what we've been doing wrong.
 
These arguments have become so laughable from a public policy perspective that they can only be viewed as political - that the cry for more deficit spending in the face of downgrades is designed to serve a political party whose business model is built on a premise of giveaways in exchange for votes.
 
In Europe, the role model region for Jerry's brand of liberalism, we can see the results of doing more of what Jerry wants. Reckless deficit spending, an overblown social safety net, low economic growth and dangerous social unrest are all threatening to dismantle the European Union, and that's the agenda Jerry's arguing in favor of us pursuing.