We’re all losing

Another great column from Jonathan Chait this weekend.  He makes the point that although we tend to think of politics as a zero-sum game (i.e., one side's gains are the other side's losses) that sometimes (i.e., now) eveverybody loses.  Alas, Chait explains that right now, everybody is losing.

When conservatives see this same expansion of government, they see liberalism triumphant.  My colleague, Jonah Goldberg, is a good example. Last fall, in a column
in which he called Bush's domestic spending “lavish” and “spectacular,”
he wrote that, far from being ruled by conservatives, government was in
the hands of “moderates, squishes, apostates, New York Times-pleasing
'mavericks,' centrists and all the others who want to 'get beyond
labels' or get a standing ovation from the Brookings Institution.”

From the liberal or centrist standpoint, this statement is mystifying.  The Bush presidency has been rife with acts of big government, but
nearly all of them have been the sorts of things liberals and centrists
abhor. The Medicare giveaway, the corporate tax bill, the unprecedented
pork, the tariffs ? all were designed for no other purpose than to
maximize the profits of pro-Republican business entities.

The mistake Goldberg and other conservatives make here is in thinking
that because these policies were bad from a conservative point of view,
they must be good from a liberal (or, at least, a moderate) point of
view. In fact, they were awful from any point of view, save that of
their direct financial beneficiaries.

The politics that has
dominated Washington the last half-dozen years is a corrupt brand of
right-wing corporatism
. [emphasis mine]  People who reside in the highest 1% of the
income spectrum or have K Street lobbyists at their command have done
very well. But the philosophical program that most conservatives
advocate ? and by “most” I'm excluding the small minority who value tax
cuts over everything else ? has lost.

Conservatives and liberals both feel beleaguered for a good reason. The fact is, both of them have been losing.

Well, how about that, with the Bush administration, we are all losers (unless of course you are among the richest 1% of Americans, in which case it is extraordinarily unlikely you are reading this). 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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