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Reactionary Democrats

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
What goes around seems to come around, such as an accusation Democrats are perennially thrilled to hurl at Republicans -- those fogies and Neanderthals, those reactionaries, those cave dwellers. What must we do with these change-hating fossils? is the recurring Democratic 'plaint. Drag 'em into modern times, kicking and screaming?

Oh, boy, does it ever come around! The shrieks and protests that fill American air space at the moment, the splutterings about change and whatever was good for Grandpa being good enough for me -- where do you hear it, on the right? Not for a minute. You hear it all on the left of the political spectrum -- the reactionary, status-quo-loving left.

Hands off everything! -- is the theme of the Barack Obama campaign and its intellectual enablers, whether based at the White House, Capitol Hill or in the press gallery. The Democrats like things as they are. Don't want none of them fancy boys from the Republican side meddling with Medicare, with Social Security, with the budget and/or with foreign policy. If it ain't broke, etc., etc.

The Republican emergence in 2012 as the party of reform and change -- arrayed against Democratic stale bread and stagnation -- has some precedent. In 1980, a year of economic wheel spinning, presided over by Jimmy Carter, a Democrat -- Ronald Reagan emerged as the candidate of change and innovation.

Mitt Romney's choice of reformer Paul Ryan for his running mate once again reverses stereotypes. The Democratic defenders of 8-percent-plus unemployment and accelerated decay in social programs seem to think they have a winning issue in "Stop! Take your filthy hands off!" By contrast, the Romney-Ryan ticket wants change.

What kind of change? That would be obvious, wouldn't it? They would change Washington, D.C.'s, bias in favor of government as the driver of growth and opportunity and the doer of all good deeds. They would pay overdue attention to the currently neglected virtues of the free market.

Many matters on this front need attention. I mention just two:

The tax system is out of whack. A near majority of Americans pay no net federal taxes, if indeed they pay any at all. America's corporate tax rate is the world's highest: a job-creation killer. The tax code is a crazy quilt of exemptions and loopholes, less noted for producing necessary revenue than for encouraging the wide employment of strategies whose purpose is the minimization of taxes. The Alternative Minimum Tax, AMT, designed to nick the rich, already hits the merely prosperous.

Never mind. Any good Democratic campaign spokesman will assure you all the Republicans mean by reform is cutting taxes for "millionaires and billionaires." No way.

No way, either, in Democratic terms, for overhaul of "Medicare as we know it." It's a nice stick-in-the-mud turn of phrase, don't you think? Just because there soon won't be enough money to finance "Medicare as we know it" doesn't mean reformers are, in essence, any more than troublemakers and Bolsheviks. The Democrats know good and well Ryan wants to voucherize Medicare, which he doesn't -- but so what; it sounds awful -- and jack up medical bills for seniors, like his 78-year-old mother.

It's wild stuff, but cave dwellers can get fairly wild when informed of the urgent need to clean up their domiciles and purge their diets of impurities.

That liberal Democrats, in the event Republican reforms actually work might vanish like the Brontosaurus, is from the liberal standpoint a truly appalling prospect. It would mean the labors of many decades led not to the promised land but to Okefenokee. That would be a horrible admission.

A truth about the reformers, themselves, needs recounting. If actually handed power, they wouldn't achieve half of what the cave dwellers fear most. Life and politics are too complex for that. Nevertheless, the present tone of the Democratic campaign -- eek! Make those bad people leave us alone! -- reminds us that dynamism is built into the human condition, and that those who get set in their ways get upset, at last, in ways hurtful to everybody.

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