E. J. Dionne—probably my favorite big-daily columnist—thinks liberals need to make a direct, full-throated defense of government:
If progressives do not speak out plainly on behalf of government, they will be disadvantaged throughout the election-year debate. Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in the Wisconsin recall election owed to many factors, including his overwhelming financial edge. But he was also helped by the continuing power of the conservative anti-government idea in our discourse. An energetic argument on one side will be defeated only by an energetic argument on the other.
Hmm. I share Dionne's frustration with the success of anti-government conservatism in recent years, as well as the positive view he goes on to present of government's singular role in stimulating the economy and creating jobs (the main policy focus of his column). But more generally, I'm not convinced that the answer is to match anti-government attacks with equally fierce pro-government rebuttals.
Like a lot of people, I've been paying less attention this year to the federal budget debates. With a divided government and a presidential election looming, the balance is tilted even more than usual toward budgeting-as-mere-political-posture. Why bother?
Paul Ryan is using the deficit as an excuse to shrink the government via tax
relief for the rich and program cuts that largely target the poor—while
sparing military spending. That isn't courageous; it's simply wrong.
Pundits have been praising Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin
Republican who chairs the House budget committee, for the courage displayed in
his 2012 budget proposal. But their definition of "courage"
must be different from mine.