Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Hypocrite? Having slagged Dutch so heavily, what do I do? Read Peg Noonan's When Character Was King. She's not exactly an unbiased source, is she? Nevertheless, she was there as the history was made, which counts for something. She's not exactly a movement conservative, either; I've always seen her as a archtypical Reagan Democrat -- Irish Catholic, working class, New Yorker. And she draws some interesting parallels to Dubya. It's well known that Young Bush admires Reagan greatly, but Bush lacks the commitment to principle that Reagan had. Reagan thought he was right, and he dragged the country -- sometimes kicking and screaming -- along with him. Bush plays toward the center a lot more. He's an odd hybrid: the tough talk and cowboy persona of Reagan, but wedded to the big-government Republicanism of his father.

Reagan was always thought of as the consummation of the Goldwater movement -- even the elder Bush called supply-side economics "voodoo." The idea was that Reagan had profoundly changed the GOP, but I think we're seeing that to be false. Dubya has no real calling to get government out of our life. In fact, his philosophy seems to be, basically, that he doesn't mind seeing the government grow, as long as the economy grows fast enough to pay for it with lower taxes. A good example is the latest Medicare change, giving the geezers a pharmaceutical handout. Why not means test? This will be the last time we can means test, after all, since the "greatest" generation would at least bow to the idea of not sacrificing the income of its grandchildren to give rich pensioners drug coverage. (The baby boomers, in general, will shiv their grandchildren for free Viagra in a New York minute.) Bush seems happy to go along with a new entitlement, explicitly without the reforms to Medicare that he indicated would drive his participation on this issue. Not particularly Reaganesque.

More: Robert Samuelson, an honest smart boomer, backs me up:

We baby boomers (I am 57) are involved -- through our silence, selfishness or ignorance -- in a conspiracy against our children. The right way to do a drug benefit would have been to use it as a lever to force a broader review of retirement policies: drug coverage in exchange for long-overdue revisions of Social Security and Medicare (gradual increases in eligibility ages, trimmed benefits for wealthier retirees). By this bargain, the burden on our children of rising retirement costs might have been tempered, though not reduced.

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