Walter Russell Meade captures something about the current moment that can be overlooked to easily. Ron Paul and Barack Obama are forces for Americas that don’t and can’t exist anymore. The America where 90% of the people farm is not coming back.
But less acknowledged is that the post-war America that dominated manufacturing, could spend on social programs and where most people trusted the Government and large institutions to solve problems, and had many more young people than old, is not coming back either.
President Obama tried to stir up a little Teddy Roosevelt in Kansas (not Texas as he apparently thought) but when Teddy Roosevelt gave his speech Government spending was about 8% of GDP, now its about 40%. It’s as if he called on Roosevelt’s ghost to warn about the growing power of Czarist Russia.
The world has moved on and the Federal Government’s main contact with Americans is not the post office as it was in Roosevelt’s day. There was no income tax in 1910. There was no social security. No medicare. The peacetime military was tiny. Thus 75% of the budget items we now have barely existed then. And we were a young country. Demographically there were many workers for every “retiree” (a concept that barely existed then). The Federal deficit in 1910 was eleven million dollars and the next year would be a surplus larger than that.
It is one thing to call for more federal spending and power when there is virtually none and another to call for it when it is choking off American prosperity. I don’t think Hamilton would be a Hamiltonian now. The Republicans are not for spending more than we have forever. The Democrats are. The Senate has not produced a budget in two years. President Obama produced one that projected deficits forever and was voted down practically unanimously.
I don’t think Mitt Romney is going to address this problem in any concrete way and I don’t think Newt Gingrich has the steadfastness to do so even if he were to be elected. Whatever is going to be done-if anything is before disaster strikes as it is striking Europe-must come from Congress. That is not a prospect that cheers.