Thursday, January 15, 2009

Welfare vs. Entitlement

Attended a D.C. phenomona last night - a panel discussion - only in D.C. would people go to these on a regular basis and call them "fun." I'm one of those people, of course the alcohol helps.

The speakers were Megan McArdle and Ross Douthat (The Atlantic Monthly), Jon Henke (Republican Communications Office--U.S. Senate), and Kristin Soltsis (Director of Policy Research at the Winston Group). The topic? The future of the conservative and libertarian movements.

Before you laugh, I think there is hope. Whether or not party leadership acts on these reasonable ideas however is a whole 'nother can of worms. n this post, I'll focus on what I think was the best idea of the night.

The Republican Party should coopt welfare from the left. Instead of railing against the evils of welfare, we should should advocate for generous welfare benefits, retraining programs, relocation programs - things that would make the economy more flexible. As the laws are written, we can ensure that they are thoroughly means-tested programs with clear limitations on time, income, and circumstances. Instead of being the party of NO, we could be the party to offer a hand in a tough time. We can still stay true to our limited government principles by making sure we clearly define these programs so they aren't an ever-expanding dole. Railing against evil unwed welfare mothers is so last century.

Next, we focus on entitlements. I think Meghan was the one to say we should lobby for everyone to have an invioable right to their social security. Take the entitlement program litterally. The left would be forced to admit that that wouldn't work which expose the unfortunate hilarity of the program's structure. When they admit that, the right could then provide a path for opting out or privitizing the whole kit and caboodle. Social Security starts drawing down in 2012 and Medicare THIS year. These can finally be urgent issues that might provide us with some political traction

1 comment:

Timothy said...

Hmmmmm... I have to disagree. Here's why...

On coopting welfare: it is, first of all, infeasible to do this, since so many of the policy-makers and important folks are on record as being against, both with their votes and their quotes. They will not want to look dumb or worse: a flip-flopper. And there's no "new evidence" that can provide political cover to make such an about-face on that. Second, I disagree on moral principle: you should get what you earn and earn what you get. But you know this... Third, not only is in infeasible and morally repugnant, but I think it's a poor strategy. I think Republicans would actually LOSE a ton of votes if they tried to cater to the left on this. Who would switch their vote from Dem to Repub if the Repubs changed their stance on welfare? Zero. Would former Repubs be more open to vote for another candidate if they moved in that direction? Yes. They may not switch in the end, but a think quite a few could be enticed to if the Repubs moved FURTHER away from the classic moral platform that has guided them for years. No one will EVER buy the Repubs being the party to offer a hand in a tough time-- that will always be the Dems. The Repubs must hammer home their moral platform (and then actually adhere to it in practice), and they will win elections.

On entitlements: I could buy into everyone having a right to the money they've invested in Social Security. I've actually been keeping my eyes open to someone that did a study on how much it would cost to give everyone back their lifelong Social Security contributions (with or without interest) and shut down the program. No one has done one that I've seen, but I think that number would be a good starting point for discussing shutting down this poorly-structured program. But of course, any action cannot be implemented now for political reasons-- it must take effect years and years down the road. There will be now turning off the switch-- it will have to be tapered off over a long period of time. All the more reason that it's important to start now...