What happens when people who completely dominate the conversation have nothing to say?
What happens when the people who talk the most and are listened to the most about our nation’s most serious problems do not have a plausible solution to any of them? What I think happens is the current state of affairs.
Let me explain. Sometime in the mid-1970s, near the end of the Vietnam War, liberalism in America died an intellectual death. Since that time, virtually every new idea — whether good or bad — about how to solve our most important economic problems has come from the right. Virtually nothing has come from the left.
Do you doubt that? Okay, it’s test time. Tell me what the liberal answer is to the problem of our failing public schools. …..tick, tick, tick ….. I’m waiting …. tick, tick, tick …. Give up? What about the liberal solution to the failed War on Poverty? … pause….. pause ….. pause …. No luck there either?
Okay, let’s take what President Obama says is the biggest domestic problem we face. What is the liberal solution to the huge unfunded liabilities in Social Security and Medicare? ….. Can’t think of one? What about solving the problem of unfunded pensions and post-retirement health care benefits for state and local workers? …. Not even a vague suggestion or two? Wow. We seem to be really striking out.
Well, can you tell me what a liberal income tax code would look like? Zip. How about a liberal international economic system? Nada.
Note: I’m not asking if you have a liberal acquaintance who has an opinion or two on these matters. I’m asking if you can produce a solution that would be generally recognized as the liberal solution.
If I asked what are the conservative solutions, you probably wouldn’t hesitate for very long. For education, there is school choice. For a failed welfare system, tough love. For unfunded entitlements, personal accounts so that individuals can save and invest and pay for their own retirement benefits. Instead of the current income tax code, a flat tax. In international affairs, free trade.
Is there anything that is comparable to these solutions on the left of the political spectrum? I believe not. The reason it’s so easy to rattle off the conservative answers is because for the last 30 years or so those are the proposals the nation has been debating. The nation has not been debating liberal ideas because there haven’t been any liberal ideas.
I believe this is also true in health care, by the way, despite ObamaCare. More on that below.