Only in wartime -- think red points, gasoline rationing and like appurtenances of the 1942-45 era -- do democratic governments get away with demanding (and enforcing) sacrifice. During peacetime, government sees its role not as taking but giving. Human nature, meaning the nature of voters, rewards a cheerful giver, showering benefits from above. This very natural state of mind makes it hard for government to resist, in the first place, demands for more or, in the second place, stem the flow of goodies.
Democratic politics succeeds best by the process called pampering. Pamper us; we love it. Those who do it are the ones we reward. On the other hand, take away the rewards and we grow surly, even when present or future economic problems can be attributed to a superfluity of rewards, e.g., unpaid for promises of benefits down the line. No wonder reform of Medicare and Medicaid -- both systems dependent on no-longer-functional promises -- never gets implemented.
The democratic reformer, for the sake of credibility, has to say, whoa, we can't afford all this. The moment he does, his political opponents rise in righteous wrath. Lies, lies! They insist. In the cotton candy skies of democratic America, no clouds approach, provided the Stand Pat Party (known locally as the Democrats) keeps power and the Evil Radicals (known as Republicans) are assigned to perdition.
Ye shall know the truth, the Good Book promises. But not (so the Obamacrats fire back) when the truth makes you feel bad and might -- heaven help! -- inspire a vote for the Romney ticket. Which isn't to say a stagnant job market and rising dismay over Washington, D.C.'s, ever-more-incredible economic promises will fail to give reform a crucial boost. It's to say -- sigh -- look at the French; look at the Greeks, and their capacity for fear and self-delusion; look; take it all in, and then batten down the hatches.
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