Brooks' Hamiltonian something for everyone
Republican politicians don't design policies to meet specific needs, or even to help their own working-class voters. They use policies as signaling devices -- as ways to reassure the base that they are 100 percent orthodox and rigidly loyal. Republicans have taken a pragmatic policy proposal from 1980 and sanctified it as their core purity test for 2012.
As for the Democrats, they offer practically nothing. They acknowledge huge problems like wage stagnation and then offer... light rail! Solar panels! It was telling that the Democrats offered no budget this year, even though they are supposedly running the country. That's because they too are trapped in a bygone era.
Mentally, they are living in the era of affluence, but, actually, they are living in the era of austerity. They still have these grand spending ideas, but there is no longer any money to pay for them and there won't be for decades. Democrats dream New Deal dreams, propose nothing and try to win elections by making sure nobody ever touches Medicare.
If there were a Hamiltonian Party, it would be offering a multifaceted reinvigoration agenda. It would grab growth ideas from all spots on the political spectrum and blend them together. Its program would be based on the essential political logic: If you want to get anything passed, you have to offer an intertwined package that smashes the Big Government vs. Small Government orthodoxies and gives everybody something they want.
This reinvigoration package would have four baskets. There would be an entitlement reform package designed to redistribute money from health care and the elderly toward innovation and the young. Unless we get health care inflation under control by replacing the perverse fee-for-service incentive structure, there will be no money for anything else.
There would be a targeted working-class basket: early childhood education, technical education, community colleges, an infrastructure bank, asset distribution to help people start businesses, a new wave industrial policy if need be -- anything that might give the working class a leg up.
There would be a political corruption basket. The Tea Parties are right about the unholy alliance between business and government that is polluting the country. It's time to drain the swamp by simplifying the tax code and streamlining the regulations businesses use to squash their smaller competitors.
There would also be a pro-business basket: lower corporate rates, a sane visa policy for skilled immigrants, a sane patent and permitting system, more money for research.
The Hamiltonian agenda would be pro-market, in its place, and pro-government, in its place.
Pundit Under Protest
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: June 13, 2011
A homeless Hamiltonian lashes out against an unusually inadequate election contest.