Sunday, December 19, 2010

No Labels Will Go Nowhere

As a centrist I want to like No Labels, an attempt to create a common ground political movement. They offer that they are Democrats, Republicans, and independents marching under the slogan "Not left. Not right. Forward."

Alas, I think they will get nowhere. We have never been a non-partisan country - that version of "no labels" is a non-starter. The centrist path has always depended on bipartisanship. Bipartisanship depends on there being two parties with a plan for governing. Right now the civil war within the Republican Party has left them torn among the social conservatives, the libertarians, and the remaining lower-taxes-on-the-country-club Establishment. The only thing they agree on is preventing Democrats from governing. I think that until the tea party revolt runs its course, the GOP will have no positive plan of what it is for.

When we return to the normal American condition of two parties each in favor of government and governing, then we can have bipartisanship and a centrist way forward again.

1 comment:

Whit said...

Well, I suppose that since the moderate Dems got wiped out in the last election, all that'll be left of the party in Congress is the far left Pelosi types with nobody in the party to fight with. And they are certainly in favor of bigger, more intrusive government.

The usual description of conservatives is that they are split among social conservatives, economic conservatives and defense Hawks. Most conservatives and Republicans share all three. In the current and upcoming Congresses the GOP is pretty much united over smaller government and lower taxes (economic conservatism). They are all, so far, pretty strong on defense. The differences on New START are ones of tactics but not goals. There are differencees on social issues (there are probably half a dozen social moderates in the Senate), but they will not be the central issues in the next few years. A civil war might develop if the Congressional Republicans backslide on spending, but I don't see that happening much.

The only people paying much in income taxes these days are higher income people. And they are the same people who will create any new jobs. So if you believe that making more room for private enterprise depends largely on making government smaller, the only place to cut taxes are on higher income people. Yes, all workers pay social security and medicare taxes, but they are in exchange for social security and medicare payments - and those taxes are already progressive, i.e. lower income people get more back than they pay in, while higher income people get less.

And the great experiment of "stimulus" amounting to almost $1,000,000,000,000 was a resounding failure. For the same reason that giving someone a one-time tax rebate or "stimulus" check does little because the money is usually saved or used to pay off debt, short term increases in demand, however generated, do little to increase investment or employment. What business person would invest in new plant and equipment, or hire large numbers of permanent employees, if his increased sales were seen as the result of temporary stimulus? Rather, he'd pay overtime, add shifts, use temporary workers, etc. to meet a temporary demand surge, and drop back again when the stimulus ended.

And God help us if "normal" conditions are to have two parties of big government. Conservatives want effective government, but in a limited sphere. Effective government is always difficult, but it is more difficult the larger and more complex it gets. The Constitution vested the federal government with a few functions including national defense, foreign relations, facilitating and encouraging commerce among the states and with foreign nations, insuring the rule of law and preventing insurrection domestically, and a few others. We conservatives would be happy to see these done well and efficiently while leaving the rest to the States and the people themselves.

Someone made the comment that we needed a more effective national leadership to "run the country". The response was that we expected the national political leadership to run the government while the country, for the most part, ran itself.

But I agree with you that "no labels" is a dead end. It assumes that we all agree on what is good, and just, and fair, and right, and that all we have to do is find a bunch of well-meaning, very smart, people, schooled in economics or sociology or whatever, who will decide what is good for people and then use state coercion to make it happen.