The great disparity in these plans, as well as Representative Paul Ryan’s highlights that this matter is not about spending cuts per say but is really a philosophical argument about the nature of government. On the left is a more activist government that is seen as a key player in people’s everyday lives, stepping in to solve problems and provide solutions. On the right is a small government, one that does as Regan used to say “only what it has to” and nothing more. A government that is NOT looked to as a solver of problems (more likely seen as a causation of problems), The right sees a government that needs to get out of the way and allow the American people the room to innovate and succeed – take responsibility for their own destiny.
But let’s first be clear, for politicians of both stripes the good of the general public on both sides of this great philosophical debate run second to their serving their various corporate masters. Republican are VERY interested in personal responsibility, not so much on corporate responsibility as they will vehemently oppose even basic environmental & consumer protection regulations. Democrats are VERY concerned about all Americans having health care as long as the various industries can continue to make profits and there are no cost controls in the system, and neither side is slightly interested in how everything is going to get paid for, which is the reason we are at the crossroads today!
Philosophically both sides are “correct” and that is the problem, how do you define what government “only has to do?”
For example, on the right the free market is a great “self-regulator” and government only fucks up this great natural mechanism when it steps in. This is, of course, absolutely true – government regulation can easily throw the free markets off kilter with ill-designed regulations and market manipulations. Yet the government has a very important and powerful role in regulating financial institutions (for instance) in matters of fraud, safety and the protection of the public. That is a (maybe the) critical government role, protecting the public welfare, but these regulations need to be simple and as minimal as possible to provide these protections against capitalist excess and do nothing more than that (this is part of the “only what it has to” axiom). What did we get on reform of Wall Street, the Dodd-Frank behemoth that was written by the very industry that it was supposed to regulate with provisions designed to the wishes of the highest bidder.
We have seen plenty of examples over the past few years of lax regulations and regulators such as in the oil industry where the regulators were (literally) in bed with the industry. When American has a major nuclear disaster like Japan (and we will) we will see once again how the marriage made in hell between (in this case) the nuclear industry and government has sacrificed the public safety and good.
I think the main problem that the right does not address in its thinking is that the government interventions and regulations that it hates so much are often written (literally) by the industries themselves. Unless we get a level playing field were our public servants are really public servants and not shills for big donors, corporations and special interests then I do not know if there is any hope for us.
We are heading into rough waters, a new American public austerity (austerity which many citizens have already embraced in their personal life). This will include cuts in federal and state services (and not just services needed by folks other then ourselves!), cuts in entitlement spending, defense, tax increases (and not just the other guys taxes, but everybody’s!). I am not sure how this consensus is going to be reached in an environment where corporate masters are serviced first and the public second.
The issue of corporate influence in American public life is one that should easily unite both the left, right and everyone in between – it might be the most important and completely non-partisan issue in American public life.