Americans Love Big Government As Much As Europeans

From Mark Steyn:

Previously on The Perils of Pauline:

Last year, our plucky heroine, the wholesome apple-cheeked American republic, was trapped in an express elevator hurtling out of control toward the debt ceiling. Would she crash into it? Or would she make some miraculous escape?

Yes! At the very last minute of her white-knuckle thrill ride to her rendezvous with destiny, she was rescued by Congress’s decision to set up . . . a Super Committee! Those who can, do. Those who can’t, form a committee. Those who really can’t, form a Super Committee — and then put John Kerry on it for good measure. The bipartisan Super Committee of Super Friends was supposed to find $1.2 trillion dollars of deficit reduction by last Thanksgiving, or plucky little America would wind up trussed like a turkey and carved up by “automatic sequestration.”

Sequestration sounds like castration, only more so: It would chop off everything in sight. It would be so savage in its dismemberment of poor helpless America that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that over the course of a decade the sequestration cuts would reduce the federal debt by $153 billion. Sorry, I meant to put on my Dr. Evil voice for that: ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE BILLION DOLLARS!!! Which is about what the United States government currently borrows every month. No sane person could willingly countenance brutally saving a month’s worth of debt over the course of a decade.

So now we have the latest cliffhanger: the Fiscal Cliff, below which lies a bottomless abyss of sequestration, tax-cut-extension expiries, Alternative Minimum Tax adjustments, new Obamacare taxes, the expiry of the deferment of the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, as well as the expiry of the deferment of the implementation of the adjustment of the correction of the extension of the reduction to the proposed increase of the Alternative Minimum Growth Sustainability Reduction Rate. They don’t call it a yawning chasm for nothing.

As America hangs by its fingernails wiggling its toesies over the vertiginous plummet to oblivion, what can save her now? An Even More Super Committee? A bipartisan agreement in which Republicans agree to cave and Democrats agree not to laugh at them too much? That could be just the kind of farsighted reach-across-the-aisle compromise that rescues the nation until next week’s thrill-packed episode when America’s strapped into the driver’s seat of a runaway Chevy Volt careering round the hairpin bends on full charge, or trapped in an abandoned subdivision overrun by foreclosure zombies.

I suppose it’s possible to take this recurring melodrama seriously, but there’s no reason to. The problem facing the United States government is that it spends over a trillion dollars a year that it doesn’t have. If you want to make that number go away, you need either to reduce spending or to increase revenue. With the best will in the world, you can’t interpret the election result as a spectacular victory for less spending. Indeed, if nothing else, the unfortunate events of November 6 should have performed the useful task of disabusing us poor conservatives that America is any kind of “center-right nation.” A few months ago, I dined with a (pardon my English) French intellectual who, apropos Mitt Romney’s stump-speech warnings that we were on a one-way ticket to Continental-sized dependency, chortled to me, “Americans love Big Government as much as Europeans. The only difference is that Americans refuse to admit it.”

My Gallic charmer is on to something. According to the most recent (2009) OECD statistics: government expenditures per person in France, $18,866.00; in the United States, $19,266.00. That’s adjusted for purchasing-power parity, and yes, no comparison is perfect, but did you ever think the difference between America and the cheese-eating surrender monkeys would come down to quibbling over the fine print? In that sense, the federal debt might be better understood as an American Self-Delusion Index, measuring the ever widening gap between the national mythology (a republic of limited government and self-reliant citizens) and the reality (a 21st-century cradle-to-grave nanny state in which, as the Democrats’ convention boasted, “government is the only thing we do together”).

Generally speaking, functioning societies make good-faith efforts to raise what they spend, subject to fluctuations in economic fortune: Government spending in Australia is 33.1 percent of GDP, and tax revenues are 27.1 percent. Likewise, government spending in Norway is 46.4 percent and revenues are 41 percent — a shortfall but in the ballpark. Government spending in the United States is 42.2 percent, but revenues are 24 percent — the widest spending/taxing gulf in any major economy.

So all the agonizing over our annual trillion-plus deficits overlooks the obvious solution: Given that we’re spending like Norwegians, why don’t we just pay Norwegian tax rates?

No danger of that. If (in Milton Himmelfarb’s famous formulation) Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans, Americans are taxed like Puerto Ricans but vote like Scandinavians. We already have a more severely redistributive taxation system than Europe in which the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans pay 70 percent of income tax while the poorest 20 percent shoulder just three-fifths of one percent. By comparison, the Norwegian tax burden is relatively equitably distributed. Yet Obama now wishes “the rich” to pay their “fair share” — presumably 80 or 90 percent. After all, as Warren Buffett pointed out in the New York Times this week, the Forbes 400 richest Americans have a combined wealth of $1.7 trillion. That sounds a lot, and once upon a time it was. But today, if you confiscated every penny the Forbes 400 have, it would be enough to cover just over one year’s federal deficit. And after that you’re back to square one. It’s not that “the rich” aren’t paying their “fair share,” it’s that America isn’t. A majority of the electorate has voted itself a size of government it’s not willing to pay for.

A couple of years back, Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute calculated that, if Washington were to increase every single tax by 30 percent, it would be enough to balance the books — in 25 years. If you were to raise taxes by 50 percent, it would be enough to fund our entitlement liabilities — just our current ones, not our future liabilities, which would require further increases. This is the scale of course correction needed.

If you don’t want that, you need to cut spending — like Harry Reid’s been doing. “Now remember, we’ve already done more than a billion dollars’ worth of cuts,” he bragged the other day. “So we need to get some credit for that.”

Wow! A billion dollars’ worth of cuts! Washington borrows $188 million every hour. So, if Reid took over five hours to negotiate those “cuts,” it was a complete waste of time. So are most of the “plans.” Any “debt-reduction plan” that doesn’t address at least $1.3 trillion a year is, in fact, a debt-increase plan.

So given that the ruling party will not permit spending cuts, what should Republicans do? If I were John Boehner, I’d say: “Clearly there’s no mandate for small government in the election results. So, if you milquetoast pantywaist sad-sack excuses for the sorriest bunch of so-called Americans who ever lived want to vote for Swede-sized statism, it’s time to pony up.”

Okay, he might want to focus-group it first. But that fundamental dishonesty is the heart of the crisis. You cannot simultaneously enjoy American-sized taxes and European-sized government. One or the other has to go.

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Americans Voted for Leftism

Let them pay for it.

From Marc Thiessen:

Republicans should make clear that they are willing to live with the higher, Clinton-era rates. It will be hard for the Democrats to paint such a scenario as an economic disaster, because letting the Bush tax cuts expire simply restores the status quo during the Clinton administration. During the campaign, President Obama repeatedly told us how he wants to “go back to the income tax rates we were paying under Bill Clinton — back when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and plenty of millionaires to boot.” Well if the Clinton tax rates were so great, let’s go back to all of the Clinton rates and relive the booming ’90s.

At least going back to the Clinton rates would put more people on the tax rolls, and give more Americans a stake in constraining government spending. It would also force all Americans — including the middle class — to pay for growing government services, instead of borrowing the money from China and passing the costs on to the next generation.

Americans had a choice this November, and they voted for bigger government. Rather [than] shielding voters from the consequences of their decisions, let them pay for it.

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The Profligacy of Big Labor

From Dave Blount:

Had Big Unions cared enough to do a little math, they would have realized that their parasitical greed would kill the host at Hostess. Via ZeroHedge:

Doug Mansky, a Hostess driver in Detroit and a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, was in the process of moving to a cheaper condominium on Tuesday, after his union had agreed to an 8% pay cut that he said would shave $200 a week from his income. After Judge Drain cleared Hostess to impose the same new labor terms on the bakers union, they went on strike.

If an 8% cut would reduce his income by $200 per week, he was making $2,500 per week, or $130,000, plus who knows what extravagant benefits — to drive Twinkies around in a trunk. No doubt the union contract protected him from actually having to carry the Twinkies into stores.

Imagine how much cheaper food would be if not for unions. Imagine how many people who don’t have jobs would have them if it didn’t cost six figures to hire a deliveryman.

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Close Enough for the Leftist Media

From Mark Steyn:

So today the Palestinian Association of Hamilton (Ontario) held a rally to protest the brutal Israeli violence rained down on the people of Gaza. To promote the event, they used a heartrending picture of an innocent Palestinian baby bloodily injured by the Israeli war machine’s indiscriminate bombing raids on Gaza.

Unfortunately, the innocent Palestinian baby turns out to be an innocent Israeli baby bloodily injured by Palestinian rockets in the Hamas attack on Kiryat Malachi.

Oh, well. Close enough for the western media.

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Twinkies Fall Victim to Big Labor

From IBD:

Union intransigence and unrealistic expectations at Hostess Brands have forced the bakery to shut its doors permanently and throw 18,500 people out of work. So much for Big Labor caring about the little guy.

A down economy and two restructurings in three years left Hostess, maker of Twinkies and Sno Balls, in dire fiscal straits. The company warned its workers, union and nonunion, to make concessions or everyone would go down in a liquidation.

Instead, one union, the AFL-CIO-affiliated Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International (BCTGM), imagined the company was bluffing and went on strike.

The decision contrasted with the majority of the workers who didn’t delude themselves. The Teamsters, hardly pushovers, issued this statement:

“Teamster Hostess members and all Hostess employees should know this is not an empty threat or a negotiating tactic, but the certain outcome if members of the BCTGM continue to strike. This is based on conversations with our financial experts, who, because the Teamsters were involved in the legal process, had access to financial information about the company.”

That didn’t matter to the striking union, whose 5,000 members pull in as much as $22 an hour plus medical benefits, get nine weeks of paid leave and a company pension. It ignored the warning and Nov. 15 deadline and now will take 100% losses on salaries and benefits instead of the 8% requested by management. Some union brotherhood — the bakers’ action took their fellow workers down with them.

Yet the sense of unreality was palpable among the bakers and the union leaders who represent them. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka declared that Hostess’ problems were caused by “Bain-style Wall Street vultures” making “themselves rich by making America poor.” It’s a nice analysis while the barn is burning, but the reality is workers losing their jobs and living on blame is even poorer sustenance than living on Twinkies.

When are unions going to start caring about real jobs and real workers?

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19,605 to 0?

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

In 59 Philadelphia voting divisions, Mitt Romney got zero votes

It’s one thing for a Democratic presidential candidate to dominate a Democratic city like Philadelphia, but check out this head-spinning figure: In 59 voting divisions in the city, Mitt Romney received not one vote. Zero. Zilch.

These are the kind of numbers that send Republicans into paroxysms of voter-fraud angst, but such results may not be so startling after all.

“We have always had these dense urban corridors that are extremely Democratic,” said Jonathan Rodden, a political science professor at Stanford University. “It’s kind of an urban fact, and you are looking at the extreme end of it in Philadelphia.”

Most big cities are politically homogeneous, with 75 percent to 80 percent of voters identifying as Democrats.

Cities are not only bursting with Democrats: They are easier to organize than rural areas where people live far apart from one another, said Sasha Issenberg, author of The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.

“One reason Democrats can maximize votes in Philadelphia is that it’s very easy to knock on every door,” Issenberg said.

Still, was there not one contrarian voter in those 59 divisions, where unofficial vote tallies have President Obama outscoring Romney by a combined 19,605 to 0?

The unanimous support for Obama in these Philadelphia neighborhoods – clustered in almost exclusively black sections of West and North Philadelphia – fertilizes fears of fraud, despite little hard evidence.

Upon hearing the numbers, Steve Miskin, a spokesman for Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, brought up his party’s voter-identification initiative – which was held off for this election – and said, “We believe we need to continue ensuring the integrity of the ballot.”

The absence of a voter-ID law, however, would not stop anyone from voting for a Republican candidate.

Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia who has studied African American precincts, said he had occasionally seen 100 percent of the vote go for the Democratic candidate. Chicago and Atlanta each had precincts that registered no votes for Republican Sen. John McCain in 2008.

“I’d be surprised if there weren’t a handful of precincts that didn’t cast a vote for Romney,” he said. But the number of zero precincts in Philadelphia deserves examination, Sabato added.

“Not a single vote for Romney or even an error? That’s worth looking into,” he said.

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Why I Despair

From Charles C.W. Cooke:

An apocryphal tale tells of an American who claimed to own George Washington’s axe. “Three times,” he exclaims, the axe has “had its handle replaced, and twice had its head replaced!”

This is a joke that has been rendered in more serious form by philosophers throughout the ages — perhaps most famously in Plutarch’s Life of Theseus — and it may be time now to consider it in relation to the United States. People and countries change, as they must. But, as with Washington’s axe, to change too much is to invite the possibility not merely of alteration, but of replacement. Predicated, as it is, on an established set of principles — rather than merely on geographical or racial fact — America could presumably reach a point at which it could no longer usefully be called America. How close to that point are we?

I was born in England in 1984, two days before Ronald Reagan was elected to a second term. As a small child, I watched the Space Shuttle take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. I had an Apollo 11 lunchbox. With varying levels of awareness, I saw the United States defeat Communism, come to Kuwait’s aid in 1991, and rise to hyperpower status. During the 1990s, I watched in awe as Silicon Valley revolutionized the world. Once, my father told me that the difference between the average Briton and the average American was that a Briton looks at a man driving a Ferrari and thinks, “What a b*****d,” while an American thinks, “I’ll be him one day.” This my father considered a great virtue — as do I. By the time that I was ten years old, I didn’t just think that America was the world’s great hope, I knew it.

On frequent visits across the pond, I saw little to disabuse me of these notions. America was just different: There was no crushing class system, and it had a genuine and unique scope for immigrants to integrate fully, and the virtue of living under the protection of the greatest constitution in the history of the world. There was opportunity, too. Christopher Hitchens, by no means short of talent, once wrote that he had been compelled to move to America because “life in Britain had seemed like one long antechamber to a room that had too many barriers to entry.” Britain treated me well in a great many ways, but I understand what Hitchens meant: America is mercifully lacking in gatekeepers.

Inevitably, this translates into politics. British elections are mean-spirited and meretricious affairs that reveal what the country has become in its post-imperial form. In them, the focus flits between mercenary discussion of what the government is going to give the people and petty bickering over inconsequential details such as which schools the candidates went to and how much money they have. Few principles are at stake because classical liberalism is largely dead, so debates ultimately boil down to the question of who is going to run the welfare system more efficiently. The candidates’ arguments are full of nebulous, slippery words, such as “fairness” and “investment” — and the never-ending substitution of the word “community” for “government.” You would never hear Kennedy’s famous “Ask not what your country can do for you” line in a British political context because nobody would understand what he was talking about. Only in America. Anyone can make it there!

But, consider this: A president of the United States just ran a reelection campaign based on the promise of government largess, exploitation of class division, the demonization of success, the glorification of identity politics, and the presumption that women are a helpless interest group; and he did so while steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the looming — potentially fatal — crisis that the country faces. And it worked.

Worse, as David Harsanyi has observed, “the president’s central case rests on the idea that individuals should view government as society’s moral center, the engine of prosperity and the arbiter of fairness.” This stunted and tawdry vision of American life was best summed up in his campaign’s contemptible Life of Julia cartoon, which portrayed the American Dream as being impossible without heavy cradle-to-grave government, and in which the civic society that Tocqueville correctly saw as the hallmark of the republic was wholly ignored — if not disdained outright. “Government is the only thing we all belong to,” declared a video at the opening of the Democratic National Convention. In another age, this contention would have been met with incredulity and confusion; in ours, it was cheered.

So, too, were the two central achievements of Obama’s first term: the spending of an unprecedented amount of borrowed money on the president’s political allies, and the turning of the health-care system over to the bureaucracy in a “reform” that, inter alia, stipulates that to be alive is to owe something to Washington. The latter move involves a claim on the people that no free government should ever make, and that no American government has ever made before. For these grave missteps, the president suffered an epic loss in Congress in 2010. The revolt looked promising, but then — for whatever reasons — he was reelected. Now, Obama has the chance to remake the Supreme Court and remake America’s Constitution, too. Who doubts he will take it?

If we are to lose America as it has been, could we not ask that it be lost to something better than this? Our president, a Narcissus masquerading as a Demosthenes, makes big speeches packed full of little ideas, and he is applauded wildly for it. His, says Marco Rubio, “are tired and old big-government ideas. Ideas that people come to America to get away from. Ideas that threaten to make America more like the rest of the world, instead of helping the world become more like America.” I will vouch for the verity of these words. I have watched how these sorry ideas play out in the real world, and it is not pretty: They make people’s lives worse, and yet simultaneously convince them that any reform will kill them — a fatal combination. Americans should avoid this path sedulously, for that way lies decline.

Rubio is correct in another assessment. How small Barack Obama’s politics are! How deficient and outmoded are his ideas; how limited his understanding of America’s value; how dull his magniloquence. The president has an ample library of ideas from which to choose, and yet he raids the Old World. Compare Barack Obama’s entire oeuvre to a single line from Thomas Jefferson or Emma Lazarus or Frederick Douglass — or even Ronald Reagan. Does it stand up? Only in a society that has lost touch with the ancient and is reflexively in love with the new could such a man be considered to be an inspiration.

And yet, he has now won twice. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to elect such a man once may be regarded as a misfortune, but to elect him twice looks like carelessness. (Or, rather, criminal negligence.) This year, certainly, was not the perfect storm of 2008. Then, novelty and redemption played a role; this time, an insipid bore ran on an openly statist platform and won the day in a country that is supposed to be “center right.” Maybe it no longer is. In 1980, when faced with a set of policies that demonstrably hadn’t worked and a president who wanted to take America leftward, America chose a different path; in 2012, it doubled down. That says a lot about a people. The central problem, then, is not that Obama will be president for the next few years, but that the American people — knowing him — chose to reelect him. Even if this is put down to a failure of Romney’s turnout operation or Hurricane Sandy or Obama’s brilliant targeting, it does not say much for their commitment to classical liberalism that a significant group of Americans stayed away from the fight because they didn’t like Mitt Romney. That this was not a clear-cut repudiation of the president should sound the alarm.

Many had hoped that Tuesday would be 1980 revisited. It was not. Instead, in its effects at least, it was more like 1945 in Britain, in which year the Labour party was elected and began to put into place the foundations of a government-owned and -run health-care system that would quickly displace the established church as Britain’s national religion. (If you question the believers’ zeal, take a look at the frenzied NHS worship at the Olympic opening ceremony.) As Mark Steyn has correctly observed, in Britain as elsewhere, the National Health Service paved the way for a “permanent left-of-center political culture” that obtains regardless of who wins office. Obamacare will now go into effect, and Americans will soon feel entitled to its fruits. Those who doubt that this will have a deleterious effect on American republicanism have clearly never been bribed with their own health care. Almost certainly, Obamacare will fail. And then, as always, it will be replaced by something even further left. For the model, see Obama’s record on student loans.

Economic gravity will prevail, as it always does, and it will eventually yield another conservative president. Indeed, the nature of the two-party system all but guarantees it. But this won’t do much good in and of itself. The growth of the state is a one-way ratchet, and its size and intrusion are almost never retrenched. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1788 that “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” “A government bureau,” added Ronald Reagan, “is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”

How true these words are. Mrs. Thatcher, fittingly lionized by those on the right, certainly achieved a lot. But she could do nothing about Britain’s creaking welfare system or its antediluvian National Health Service. Nobody can. Nobody would even try. (Consider what an Augean task it is even to get people seriously to discuss Medicare’s disquieting trajectory.) Mrs. Thatcher’s party is well named: They are, quite literally, the “Conservatives,” and their role now is simply to run the government better than the socialists. Britain once had an Empire that stretched across one quarter of the globe; it provided the world with a common language, many of its institutions, global trade, and cricket; we did Great Things at home and abroad. Now, we wrangle over whether state spending should be 39 or 40 percent of GDP, and we hold the prime minister personally responsible for hospital conditions hundreds of miles from London. It’s debilitating.

Once upon a time, when civic society flourished in Britain, it was uncontroversial to observe that to demur at government involvement in the achievement of an end was not necessarily to consider that end undesirable. Under Leviathan, such distinctions draw blank stares. In 2010, on the BBC’s Question Time — a British current-affairs show on which the guests trip over one other to display the appropriate degree of fealty to whichever orthodoxy is in the news that week whilst the audience tries to be as clever as one can be without doing any reading — the question of impending government spending cuts was raised. One audience member stood up and, waving her hands around, asked who would mow her elderly mother’s lawn if the government no longer did it. The audience clapped. The host looked serious. Not a single person on the panel said, “You!” Neither of the putatively Conservative guests even raised an eyebrow. A particularly oleaginous MP proceeded to tell her that it was a “good question.” I threw a coffee cup at my television.

“In August 1914,” wrote the historian A. J. P. Taylor, “a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card.” A century later, he does not even expect to have to tend to his own family’s garden. That’s some shift in the Overton window.

I quite earnestly believe in all of the stuff that I’m not supposed to. I believe that America is exceptional; that it is an objectively better nation than any other that has ever existed; and that it is, as it was explicitly designed always to be, the last, best hope for mankind. As Winthrop’s sermon poetically put it, America is the “Shining City upon a Hill,” there so that men without liberty have somewhere to turn and a light that they might follow. I followed that light — 3,500 miles from my friends and my family — because I believed that my life would be better here, because I wanted to be free, and because I felt that under American liberty I would be able to be myself more honestly and more fully. There is nowhere else I could have gone.

Alas, there is nothing written in the stars that says that America will always be America. “Rome,” as Joseph Heller brutally reminded us, “was destroyed, Greece was destroyed, Persia was destroyed, Spain was destroyed. All great countries are destroyed. Why not yours? How much longer do you really think your own country will last? Forever? Keep in mind that the earth itself is destined to be destroyed by the sun in 25 million years or so.” There will be little virtue in America if it becomes a larger version of Britain, but with free speech and the right to bear arms.

On Tuesday, America took another giant leap away both from its revolutionary mission and from the classical liberalism that it has successfully incubated for so long. This is a rotten thing for America, and also — though it might not realize it — for the world; for, like Anthony Blanche, Evelyn Waugh’s “aesthete par excellence,” should the United States descend into the mire, it will “take something away with it.” If America ceases to be America, it will “[lock] a door and hang the key on a chain.” And then? “All [its] friends, among whom [it] had always been a stranger,” will realize they need it. I know I do.

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They Agree With Him

From Mark Steyn:

While we’re at it, on the brink of another four years, the key point about Barack Obama is not that he’s a secret Muslim Kenyan Commie or whatever. Whether he was born in Honolulu or Mombasa or Stockholm or up on Planet Zongo, what matters (as I write in my book) is that in his general worldview he is entirely typical and perfectly representative of tens upon tens of millions of Americans. Tuesday’s majority confirmed that. They don’t need a “conspiracy”: They agree with him. That’s the problem.

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The Edge of the Abyss

From Mark Steyn:

Amid the ruin and rubble of the grey morning after, it may seem in poor taste to do anything so vulgar as plug the new and stunningly topical paperback edition of my book, After America — or, as Dennis Miller retitled it on the radio the other day, Wednesday. But the business of America is business, as Calvin Coolidge said long ago in an alternative universe, and I certainly could use a little. So I’m going to be vulgar and plug away. The central question of Wednesday — I mean, After America — is whether the Brokest Nation in History is capable of meaningful course correction. On Tuesday, the American people answered that question. The rest of the world will make its dispositions accordingly.

In the weeks ahead, Democrats and Republicans will reach a triumphant “bipartisan” deal to avert the fiscal cliff through some artful bookkeeping mechanism that postpones Taxmageddon for another year, or six months, or three, when they can reach yet another triumphant deal to postpone it yet again. Harry Reid has already announced that he wants to raise the debt ceiling — or, more accurately, lower the debt abyss — by $2.4 trillion before the end of the year, and no doubt we can look forward to a spectacular “bipartisan” agreement on that, too. It took the government of the United States two centuries to rack up its first trillion dollars in debt. Now Washington piles on another trillion every nine months. Forward!

If you add up the total debt — state, local, the works — every man, woman, and child in this country owes 200 grand (which is rather more than the average Greek does). Every American family owes about three-quarters of a million bucks, or about the budget deficit of Liechtenstein, which has the highest GDP per capita in the world. Which means that HRH Prince Hans-Adam II can afford it rather more easily than Bud and Cindy at 27b Elm Street. In 2009, the Democrats became the first government in the history of the planet to establish annual trillion-dollar deficits as a permanent feature of life. Before the end of Obama’s second term, the federal debt alone will hit $20 trillion. That ought to have been the central fact of this election — that Americans are the brokest brokey-broke losers who ever lived, and it’s time to do something about it.

My Hillsdale College comrade Paul Rahe, while accepting much of my thesis, thought that, as an effete milquetoast pantywaist sissified foreigner, I had missed a vital distinction. As he saw it, you can take the boy out of Canada but you can’t take the Canada out of the boy. I had failed to appreciate that Americans were not Euro-Canadians, and would not go gently into the statist night. But, as I note in my book, “a determined state can change the character of a people in the space of a generation or two.” Tuesday’s results demonstrate that, as a whole, the American electorate is trending very Euro-Canadian. True, you still have butch T-shirts — “Don’t Tread On Me,” “These Colors Don’t Run” . . . In my own state, where the Democrats ran the board on election night, the “Live Free or Die” license plates look very nice when you see them all lined up in the parking lot of the Social Security office. But, in their view of the state and its largesse, there’s nothing very exceptional about Americans, except that they’re the last to get with the program. Barack Obama ran well to the left of Bill Clinton and John Kerry, and has been rewarded for it both by his party’s victory and by the reflex urgings of the usual GOP experts that the Republican party needs to “moderate” its brand.

I have no interest in the traditional straw clutching — oh, it was the weak candidate . . . hard to knock off an incumbent . . . next time we’ll have a better GOTV operation in Colorado . . . I’m always struck, if one chances to be with a GOP insider when a new poll rolls off the wire, that their first reaction is to query whether it’s of “likely” voters or merely “registered” voters. As the consultant class knows, registered voters skew more Democrat than likely voters, and polls of “all adults” skew more Democrat still. Hence the preoccupation with turnout models. In other words, if America had compulsory voting as Australia does, the Republicans would lose every time. In Oz, there’s no turnout model, because everyone turns out. The turnout-model obsession is an implicit acknowledgment of an awkward truth — that, outside the voting booth, the default setting of American society is ever more liberal and statist.

The short version of electoral cycles is as follows: The low-turnout midterms are fought in political terms, and thus Republicans do well and sometimes spectacularly well (1994, 2010); the higher-turnout presidential elections are fought in broader cultural terms, and Republicans do poorly, because they’ve ceded most of the cultural space to the other side. What’s more likely to determine the course of your nation’s destiny? A narrow focus on robocalls in selected Florida and New Hampshire counties every other fall? Or determining how all the great questions are framed from the classroom to the iPod to the movie screen in the 729 days between elections?

The good news is that reality (to use a quaint expression) doesn’t need to swing a couple of thousand soccer moms in northern Virginia. Reality doesn’t need to crack 270 in the Electoral College. Reality can get 1.3 percent of the popular vote and still trump everything else. In the course of his first term, Obama increased the federal debt by just shy of $6 trillion and in return grew the economy by $905 billion. So, as Lance Roberts at Street Talk Live pointed out, in order to generate every dollar of economic growth the United States had to borrow about five dollars and 60 cents. There’s no one out there on the planet — whether it’s “the rich” or the Chinese — who can afford to carry on bankrolling that rate of return. According to one CBO analysis, U.S.-government spending is sustainable as long as the rest of the world is prepared to sink 19 percent of its GDP into U.S. Treasury debt. We already know the answer to that: In order to avoid the public humiliation of a failed bond auction, the U.S. Treasury sells 70 percent of the debt it issues to the Federal Reserve — which is to say the left hand of the U.S. government is borrowing money from the right hand of the U.S. government. It’s government as a Nigerian e-mail scam, with Ben Bernanke playing the role of the dictator’s widow with $4 trillion under her bed that she’s willing to wire to Timmy Geithner as soon as he sends her his bank-account details.

If that’s all a bit too technical, here’s the gist: There’s nothing holding the joint up.

So Washington cannot be saved from itself. For the moment, tend to your state, and county, town and school district, and demonstrate the virtues of responsible self-government at the local level. Americans as a whole have joined the rest of the Western world in voting themselves a lifestyle they are not willing to earn. The longer any course correction is postponed the more convulsive it will be. Alas, on Tuesday, the electorate opted to defer it for another four years. I doubt they’ll get that long.

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