The Bolsheviks, according to historians, robbed banks before they rose to power in Russia. That foreshadowed their economic policies. The Marxism they implemented once in power was just an extension of their armed robbery.
Today’s redistributionists in America don’t have bank robbery in their pasts but they do accept organized theft as the norm of politics. They see all wealth belonging to the state automatically, which is why they count all tax cuts as “government spending” and why they feel entitled to hike up taxes whenever a self-inflicted “crisis” appears.
Taxpayers didn’t cause the “fiscal cliff” emergency; derelict pols did. But the taxpayers, not the pols, will pay for it. To pay off their debts, pols will first rob the rich and then move on to the middle class, where much greater potential tax revenue resides.
The difference between bank robbery and politics is one of degree, not kind. But if you control the media, education, and culture, as the redistributionists in America largely do, politics as organized theft can be presented as good government. The “extremists,” according to this understanding of politics, are the ones who refuse to participate in the fleecing.
The whole fiscal cliff debate revolves around redistributionist hectoring that casts collusion in organized theft as compromise. Under the patronage of the media, the politicians most responsible for the debt get to dictate the terms of compromise to the ones least responsible for it. Fiscal hawks receive regular media scolding for not agreeing to tax increases while the most prodigal members of Congress feel no such scrutiny and remain in control of the debate.
The preservation of federal government spending is so sacred that the establishment implicitly compares it to the abolition of slavery. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post thinks President Obama should hold regular screenings of the movie Lincoln for members of Congress, such is the movie’s relevance to the fiscal cliff debate. A spate of articles, celebrating the glories of compromise on behalf of progressive goals, has appeared praising Honest Abe for his dishonesty as the movie depicts it.
Why pols would need encouragement to be dishonest in order to keep spending other people’s money isn’t clear. They are already very good at it. They don’t need to watch Lincoln to hone their skills. But the scene that Marcus proposes would capture the phoniness of Washington nicely: dishonest pols riveted to a semi-fabricated tale (one of the consultants on the movie has acknowledged that it is riddled with historical inaccuracies) based upon the work of an author known for her plagiarism. The burgeoning cult of Dishonest Abe befits this age in which pols like to see their vices projected as virtues on screen.
Bring back “earmarks,” burbled Joe Klein on ABC’s This Week during a discussion of the movie. Al Hunt recounts approvingly the corruption of LBJ. To get legislation passed, he would offer wavering politicians comically direct bribes from the budget: “A Model Cities bill intended to benefit large urban areas was resisted by Maine Democratic Senator Edmund Muskie. Johnson directed [Joseph] Califano to include a city from Maine, even though the state didn’t have any large metropolitan areas. ‘What city?’ the aide asked. ‘Any goddamn city he wants,’ LBJ replied.”
Hunt sees this style of politics as a cure to the fiscal cliff rather than a cause of it. If only Obama had the freedom to bribe Republicans with bridges to nowhere, America could move forward off more fiscal cliffs in the future.
But in the midst of their renewed enthusiasm about horse trading and grimy practical politics, reporters reserve the right to sniff at such “lobbyists” as Grover Norquist. Bribes are fine, but his tax reform group’s pledge, they say, has corrupted our politics.
Reporters are fond of the phrase “Republican orthodoxy,” though the very fact that conservatives like Norquist ask waffling Republicans to make pledges against tax hikes indicates that it doesn’t really exist. There is no Democratic equivalent to Grover Norquist asking Democrats to pledge never to cut taxes, because no Democrat would ever dare support such a policy. The orthodoxy of the Democratic Party is so tight that pledges are unnecessary.
Washington suffers from too little principle, not too little compromise. A party of bribes and broken pledges is the media’s idea of a revitalized party of Lincoln, but that would only hasten its collapse. As the debt crisis mounts, the Democrats will move from the rich to the middle class, justifying its emergency raids for revenue on Willie Sutton-like grounds — “because that’s where the money is.” When that day comes, the credibility of the GOP will turn upon whether or not it joined in the theft.