Douthat on the defensive conservatism of progressives in power
On the one hand, its public policy agenda is essentially a defense of existing arrangements no matter their effectiveness or sustainability, apparently premised on the assumption that American women can't make cost-benefit calculations or indeed do basic math. In addition to ignoring the taxes that will be required of its businesswoman heroine across her working life, "The Life of Julia" hails a program (Head Start) that may not work at all, touts education spending that hasn't done much for high school test scores or cut college costs, and never mentions that on the Obama administration's own budget trajectory, neither Medicare nor Social Security will be able to make good on its promises once today's 20-something Julias retire.
At the same time, the slide show's vision of the individual's relationship to the state seems designed to vindicate every conservative critique of the Obama-era Democratic Party. The liberalism of "the Life of Julia" doesn't envision government spending the way an older liberalism did -- as a backstop for otherwise self-sufficient working families, providing insurance against job loss, decrepitude and catastrophic illness. It offers a more sweeping vision of government's place in society, in which the individual depends on the state at every stage of life, and no decision -- personal, educational, entrepreneurial, sexual -- can be contemplated without the promise that it will be somehow subsidized by Washington.
-- Ross Douthat