There’s an old saying that “only Nixon could go to China.”
The notion was that only someone with the strong anti-Communist record that Nixon had amassed could open relations with China. Because Nixon had spent much of his political career attacking Communism, particularly in the US (he was associated with Congressional investigations of Communists in America when he first went to Congress and then the Senate), many presumed that he would never make a deal that sold out the United States. If Nixon the Anti-Communist said it was okay to deal with Red China, then maybe it was okay to deal with Red China.
A more contemporary version of this adage is that “only a Democrat could end welfare.” Democrats, after all, had made the creation of the social welfare state a central tenet of their platform since at least the New Deal. Republicans had largely resisted it and worked to undermine it. Thus, if the public at large were to trust someone to fundamentally reform the modern welfare state, it would have to be Democrats: Democrats could be trusted to reform welfare to make it work, while Republicans would likely only kill it.
Thus it was Bill Clinton who ended “welfare as we know it” in 1996.
This time, it’s Keynesian economics. The notion that government should run deficits in order to stimulate growth in bad economic times has been the heart of Democratic economic policy-making since Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency. It has worked well and badly in turn ever since, but it was the consistent heart of Democratic party economic thought.
Until Barack Obama agreed to the debt deal this weekend. Now, in a weak economic time, a Democratic president has decided to end stimulus-based economics in favor of the mystical hope that, despite 30 years’ evidence to the contrary, rich people will spend us to prosperity as a favor for low taxes.
Now, we’re not all Americans. Now, we are all supply-siders. God help us, everyone.
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