Walter Russell Mead, a lifelong Democrat, and foreign policy expert, has written in the current issue of The American Interest online about the Democratic Party’s destructive servitude to what he calls the “blue social model” of guaranteed lifelong employment and health and retirement benefits to auto workers, university professors, protected civil service workers, licensed professionals, and public school teachers. For a description of the Blue Social Model read here: http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2010/01/28/american-challenges-the-blue-model-breaks-down/
A college education was a ticket into the bubble
world of the “blue social model.” According to Mead, politics became a
bargaining process between labor and management with the customer or the
taxpayer pretty much left out.
The recent rancorous national argument about
health care reform is but a rear guard attempt to expand the “blue social
model” into health care for loss of it in auto manufacturing and
elsewhere. To keep its political
base, Democrats must continue to buy votes by expanding the “blue social
model.” That is what health care reform has been about. Democrats know that if
they don’t expand the “blue model” and other entitlement programs that their
political base will decline.
Mead calls the Blue Social Model the triumph of
Progressivism. But Mead says the
“blue social model” has broken down and we need to accept that we no longer can
afford it. In other words,
Progressivism will lead to nothing but regressivism. As Mead writes:
breakdown of the blue model is the core problem of American society today and
the key to the troubles of the Democratic party. Blue states really are
blue; the ‘progressive imagination’ remains staunchly blue, and blue model
interest groups like public school teachers, government employees, the remnants
of the private union movement and the much healthier labor movement among public
employees shape and mostly fund what Howard Dean famously called ‘the
Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.’
Most Americans would like the blue model to stick around and are nostalgic for the security it once provided, but they understand that the great task of our times isn’t to save the blue model but to move on. The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party believes exactly the opposite: that the blue social model is the only way to go. If our city and state governments are groaning under the dead weight of inflated labor and pension costs, the only solution is to pump federal money into them somehow. If public schools aren’t working, they need more money — but seriously restructuring the system is out of bounds. If college and university tuition is exploding as the costs of education rapidly and continuously outpaces the general level of inflation, the only solution is to pump more money into the system while leaving it to operate much as it does.
Democratic policy is increasingly limited to one goal: feeding the blue beast. The great public-service providing institutions of our society — schools, universities, the health system, and above all government at municipal, state and federal levels — are built blue and think blue. The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party thinks its job is to make them bigger and keep them blue. Bringing the long green to Big Blue: that’s what it’s all about.
Three problems: we can’t afford it, people know that, and we desperately need the things that Big Blue can’t give us.
Mead goes on to write that we must accept lower wages and less security. “Furloughs” and school parcel taxes are a mere temporary postponing of the inevitable. What he indicates we are facing is not an “economic recession” but an economic restructuring. Mead infers that the “real estate bubble” was merely a desperate way by politicians to forestall this inevitability. But the bubble has burst and now we must come to grips with this reality. Mead:
This has turned into a massive political problem for Democrats because more and more people are waking up to the fact that this just doesn’t work. We don’t have the money to keep throwing more and more of it into dysfunctional public schools, overpriced state colleges and government at all levels. In the competitive world we all live in now, our society has no choice but to learn how to do these things much more cheaply. Otherwise the blue sector will drag the whole country down with it. This is part of what drives the Tea Parties: there’s a sense out there that the time for careful, limited reform is past. We need a crowbar, not a scalpel, to fix the blue beast.
Mead is apprehensive about the Tea Party movement, which he sees as wanting to dismantle public schools, universities, social security and you name it. Read Mead:
Yet Democrats are right about one very important thing. We actually do need (most of) the services that the blue beast seeks to provide. We really do need good government at all three levels. We really do need more and better education. We need better health care and better access to it. The Tea Party movement is more about tearing down the blue beast than about building something that can take its place and until and unless Republicans figure this out the country will shift unhappily between two political parties that it dislikes and mistrusts.
I think this is an over reaction to the Tea Party by Mead. I have attended some Tea Party functions out of curiosity and I don’t hear them pursuing any kind of dismantling platform. The Tea Party’ers are antagonistic to the professional class but nowhere do I hear they want to destruct public schools or universities. A target of the Tea Party, however, are the unions.
Tea Party'ers are opposed to a vague notion of
"socialism," which is more accurately defined
here as the
dominance of "the blue social model" to the subservience of the red competitive model. Already here in California the taxpayers are subservient to
the unions and bureaucracies. Blue over red. But this is not economically
viable and will continue the institutional dysfunction we see in California in
education, water, energy and elsewhere.
Tea Party'ers are opposed to a vague notion of "socialism," which is more accurately defined here as the dominance of "the blue social model" to the subservience of the red competitive model. Already here in California the taxpayers are subservient to the unions and bureaucracies. Blue over red. But this is not economically viable and will continue the institutional dysfunction we see in California in education, water, energy and elsewhere.
Both Mead and the Tea Party'ers seem to agree, however, that the "blue social model" applied to public schools, universities, and even auto manufacturing is unreformable under the present-day political system. Hence, the Tea Party.
Health care is a different issue. Many Tea Party’ers want to keep the existing health care public financing system even though it is unsustainable. So some Tea Party’ers may be as unrealistic as those who embrace the “blue social model” if they can’t accept that we no longer have the money for Social Security and Medicare as currently entitled. Socializing health care may be suicide but keeping the existing system is equally so.
Other Tea Party’ers realize that a near-monopoly health care system financed by government or by private insurance will not be able to hold off the inevitable reality of less money. A possible third way, going back to private practice doctors with patient self-pay or subscription plans and perhaps government for catastrophic care only, is the only viable alternative we have.
But this would entail uncoupling from both big drug and insurance corporations as well as big government and unions; an unlikely political prospect by either political party. But this prospect is the only possibility we have to avert an even greater social and financial disaster looming in the future. Mead says that whichever political party can seize this prospect may be able to provide leadership to meet the crisis. Mead doesn't sound too optimistic however that we will avert an even worse disaster soon. Read Mead's whole piece here: http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2010/02/12/feeding-the-blue-beast/