July 5, 2011

Quagmires various...

Walter Russell Mead:

President Lyndon Johnson and the "best and the brightest" who staffed his administration led this country into three quagmires. By far the most famous, but perhaps not the most expensive and dangerous resulted from LBJ's escalation of the Vietnam War. More than 50,000 Americans and many more Vietnamese died as a result of that policy; our country was bitterly divided in ways that still weaken us today, and the economic cost of the war was immense. It contributed to the wave of inflation that shook the country in the 1970s and in addition to the interest on the debt from this ill-starred venture we are still paying (as we certainly should) pensions and medical costs for the vets and their spouses.

The Second Great Johnson Quagmire now destroying the nation is the Medicare/Medicaid complex. These entitlement programs are the biggest single financial problem we face. They dwarf all the Bush-Obama wars; they make TARP look like small change. They not only cost money we don't have — and are scheduled to cost inexorably more until they literally ruin the nation — they have distorted our entire health system into the world's most bloated and expensive monstrosity. Thanks to these programs, we have a health system that marries the greed of the private sector to the ineptitude of government, and unless we can somehow tame these beasts America and everything it stands for could be lost. (Note, please, that by comparison Social Security can be relatively easily reformed to be solvent for the next 75 years. The New Deal, whatever its shortcomings, was almost infinitely more realistic and sustainable than the Great Society.)

But that is a subject for another day. The third Johnson Quagmire is the War on Poverty, and specifically the attempt to treat inner city poverty primarily as a racial problem. After the Medicare/Medicaid catastrophe the single greatest policy failure of modern America is urban policy. ...

In the Seventy-Year Cycle theory of American politics something like this was to be expected. The first generation of the cycle was raised in the previous cycle, and is grounded and limited by it. (In this case the New Dealers.) The second generation was raised amidst the successes of the first generation, and imagine that the sky's the limit. Johnson and his cohorts were youths during the Roosevelt era, and became drunk on the possibilities they saw...

Posted by John Weidner at July 5, 2011 9:20 PM
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