People are beginning to recognize that there really will be some lost causes and unqualified losers in the great shakeout to come over the next five, 10, perhaps 15 years.
The failures of many of America’s least well-off make a mockery of the government’s corrupt, inept and inefficient efforts to blunt them.
The reduction of every economic class to a satrapy of one set of lobbyists and pork-artists or another gives individuals with a residue of personal and civic pride reason to think that we hardly deserve a middle class if we cannot sustain it without massive, perpetual federal aid.
Yet with policy in Washington set again and again by the rule against letting elites fail and the rule against giving less to the poor, the crush being felt by the middle class is, to lift a formula from the president, more a matter of math than class warfare. Take away the ideology of redistribution, and the machine grinding down America’s independent small producers still grinds on.
Why? For the same reason that law and order is poised to sweep away all other issues this election year. For even the bravest of policymakers, the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.
Libertarians hope to convince our pessimistic populists that we can scrap the drug war, reform the prisons and slash entitlements without unleashing a tide of miserable failures on our freer neighborhoods and cities.
Conservatives hope to persuade them that the federal government should be trusted to dole out tax cuts, incentives and other subsidies in order to prevent the collapse of middle-class standards of living and the bourgeois dream of upward mobility — while insisting that, at home, the federal government should be trusted with nothing else, for no other reason.
Respectable liberals, meanwhile, gape in shock at the popularity and the logic of pessimistic populism — at once too rube-like, too freakish and too Nietzschean.
But the law-and-order preoccupations of our pessimistic populists have been sown for decades by the largesse and willful ignorance of our self-styled progressives. Now, the reaper has come around.
It’s going to be a long election year, and it won’t be pretty. Jobs? Spending? The cost of health care? These are but warts on the ghastly face of our troubles.
Heads will roll. Teeth will gnash. Children will weep. There will be blood.
James Poulos is the host of The Bottom Line and Reform School on PJTV. A doctoral candidate in Government at Georgetown University, he holds degrees from Duke and USC Law. His writing has appeared in The American Conservative, The Boston Globe, Cato Unbound, The National Interest, and The Weekly Standard, among others, and is featured in the collection Proud to Be Right, edited by Jonah Goldberg. He has been an editor at Ricochet.com and a fellow of the Claremont Institute. He lives in Los Angeles. His Twitter handle is @jamespoulos.