Saturday, September 29, 2007

Can Open McGovernism Win?

If former South Dakota Democrat senator and 1972 presidential flop George McGovern is known for anything from that campaign besides his rabid, panderingly anti-Vietnam war stance, it is his ludicrous and widely ridiculed scheme to buy the electorate really cheap by simply having the federal government write a $1,000 check to each and every American. He called it the "Demogrant". Evidently the voters called it something else, as they opted for the soon-to-be-disgraced Richard Nixon in a landslide. No Donk presidential aspirant has proposed anything like it since.

Until now. And you'd never guess who:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that every child born in the United States should get a $5,000 "baby bond" from the government to help pay for future costs of college or buying a home.

Clinton, her party's front-runner in the 2008 race, made the suggestion during a forum hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus.

"I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, so that when that young person turns eighteen if they have finished high school they will be able to access it to go to college or maybe they will be able to make that downpayment on their first home," she said.

The New York senator did not offer any estimate of the total cost of such a program or how she would pay for it. Approximately 4 million babies are born each year in the United States.
Well, doing the math, that comes out to twenty billion dollars per year (nearly as much as the budget for the Department of Justice [h/t Phil Klein]) - to start with. As with all entitlements, the price tag would only go exponentially up from there, as both the per-participant dollar amount and the definition of eligibility expanded like the remnants of a supernova. Thus would unrestricted abortion-on-demand come to be looked upon by the federal government as more of a method of "cost-control" than "birth-control" - and don't think Mrs. Clinton hasn't figured that angle out as well.

J-Ger thinks that the cost angle combined with the entitlement mentality makes this 21st century "demogrant" idea a non-starter:
I realized why this program will never become a reality - it has to have a starting date. And then everyone will insist, "What about my child, who was born before the start date? It's not fair!" And eventually the program will turn into providing $5,000 to every American.

300 million Americans x $5,000 = $1,500,000,000,000.

Not gonna happen.
That's one and a half TRILLION dollars - or a little over half of the current annual federal budget. And, of course, no such program with that limitless a scope could or would ever get enacted.

But this is where her scheme differs from George McGovern's. The "demogrant" was a one shot distribution, not an entitlement. And it isn't talking about raining confiscated money on everybody - just "the children". Why else does the Master of the Campaign Spot think no Democrat, "responsible fiscal conservative [snort]" or not, has pointed out the straightforward fiscal logic of the idea? C'mon, folks, "baby bonds" would close any portion of the socialist dragnet that SCHIP and its eventual incarnation, HillaryCare, missed. The cradle would belong to the Democrats as completely as Medicare and Social Security have delivered them the grave.

Sure, eventually every American would get one of these "accounts," and its cost would far exceed the starting $20 billion annual price tag. How that would square on a practical, day-to-day basis with the FIFTY TRILLION smackers we're short on Social Security liabilities, and perhaps even more on Medicare, is anybody's guess, since it doesn't take a green eyeshade to recognize that we can't remotely afford even one of them even if the economy booms like never before for the entire rest of the century.

What would our choices be? Well, it gets rather draconian awfully quickly. Unless mathematicians can come up with an honest-to-goodness 1,000% bracket (to say nothing of social scientists conjuring up a means of mass hypnosis to make it politically palatable), tax increases aren't gonna do it. Any form of benefit cut defeats the purpose of the entitlement, so that's out. What does that leave? How about a "one-child-per-family" law like Red China's? Or mandatory sterilization? And on the other end of the life cycle, is anybody ready for mandatory euthanasia at retirement? Maybe we'll have colonies on Luna and Mars by then, in which case "excess lives" can just be herded off-planet or something. Or perhaps the government will convince everybody that such extraterrestrial colonies exist, and people will be shot off into space never to be seen again.

Wow - Logan's Run and Capricorn One in the same graph. Who says Hillary's candidacy isn't inspiring?

The bigger point is we're not supposed to think ahead where proposed (or existing) entitlements are concerned. Because if we did, their ludicrous unaffordability would become obvious, and they'd never get enacted. That, too, would defeat the purpose of the entitlement. They're all about NOW, not later. That's what makes them so saleable: the pitch is all about what they'll put in your pocket after the next election, not where it's going to come from in the near- and long-term. It's the ultimate scam - and it almost always works.

Now I realize that that hasn't been the case for the past generation. For years the so-called "Great Society" has been what looked like Big Government liberalism's last gasp. For forty years Republicans have dominated the presidency (and eventually, Congress), and the two Donk exceptions were both southern-fried Trojan horses. Dems that ran openly as left-wingers (McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry) have gotten smoked.

Except....the second Trojan [snicker] horse - Bill Clinton - got re-elected. And the latter two didn't lose by much. And the GOP actually added to the entitlement burden with the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit in 2003. That at least suggests that, in terms of domestic politics, the electorate is drifting back towards the left, perhaps enough that a return to open advocacy of Euro-socialism is not just no longer politically suicidal, but might actually be popular. Certainly the rest of the Donk field is doing it, both on domestic policy and on the war; if the Clinton Machine is dropping the mask of "centrism," there must be something to the theory.

As long-time readers of this blog are aware, I've considered a Hillary Clinton presidency to be inevitable ever since her sexually incontinent hubby surprised me by relinquishing the office (Or maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, come to think of it....). And as long-time Clinton-watchers are aware, their modus operandi has been "triangulation," the practice of pretending to be something - non-liberal - that they're not.

And yet, when you look at Mrs. Clinton, you see so many differences from her two-term spouse, and none of them positive for a presidential resume. Bill was a multi-term governor; Hill has spent this decade in the Senate. Bill was seen as "southern"; Hill never was, and is now closely identified with the northeast; Bill is a [*AHEM*] "people person"; Hill is a dragon in private and an iceberg in public, whose caked-on charm is as obviously ersatz as powdered eggs. If you want a candid historical parallel, Hillary Clinton is Dick Nixon in a skirt (or a pink pantsuit).

But Nixon won the presidency, as I recall. Twice, in fact.

However, that was at the beginning of the GOP ascendancy, and came at the expense of the incumbent vice president of the administration that got us mired in Vietnam. Many historians believe that if Bobby Kennedy hadn't been assassinated, he would have crushed Tricky Dick like a bug in 1968.

We won't have Dick Cheney running next year, but we will have a nominee who will (more or less) stand for every right-of-center idea that appears to be reaching or passing its political expiration date - winning the War Against Islamic Fundamentalism, keeping taxes low, reducing federal spending, promoting market economics, reconstitutionalizing the federal judiciary, and transforming the doomed entitlements state into the "ownership society". If the worm is turning, and far-left liberalism is rising from the ashes to its former ascendancy, then it may not matter how much of a shrew Mrs. Clinton is, or whether she's the honest radical or the phony "cautious trimmer".

And HillaryCare and "baby bonds" may just be her ticket, not to political punchline status for the next generation, but to power unlimited and everlasting.