The Hammer And The Scalpel

Tom Tomorrow disses Ann Coulter
for accusing the Left of elitism
. Now while I don’t always agree with Ann Coulter (for example. one can still be a good American and criticize John Ashcroft), she’s on to something when she says that the Left is far more elitist than the Right of the American political spectrum.

Let’s ignore the issue of what party is richer than the other for the moment and start talking about real issues of public policy. Quite frankly, the pissing match about who is poorer than who ignores the real issue. There’s no reason why someone who makes $1 million a year can’t help out the poor, and there are some people who are down on their luck who would be better CEOs than the people running Enron, Global Crossing, or WorldCom. I don’t care about those things, all I care about is what you do.

The fact remains that liberal public policies put undue strain on those who can least afford it. Any political scientist worth his or her salt will tell you that every public policy produces unintended consequences. No matter how well-intentioned a piece of public policy is, it will screw someone over in some way. That’s why using national legislation to achieve a goal is often like using a clawhammer to perform surgery. It’s just the wrong tool for the job. That’s the whole reason why the Founders put so many strings on the power of the federal government – because the federal government is designed to be a hammer, not a scalpel.

Taxes are one major area where the Left desert most Americans. If you’re a left-leaning movie star, New York Times editor, or Democratic politician, you can probably swollow a tax increase. If you’re living on $50,000 a year and trying to raise a family, a big tax increase is going to hurt. Now someone like that isn’t poor, they’re making ends meet, and maybe they have an SUV or a new DVD player, but they’re not living a life of luxury by any means. They worry about bills, they may have to pull in some extra hours at the shop or office, and they hope that the kids don’t need braces and can get good scholarships. Now you tell me that they need to be taxed more. Even if you have a family of four making $75,000 a year, there are places where that puts them into a category where that isn’t a lot. These people don’t need their taxes raised. They’re not "super-rich" like Tom Daschle would have us all believe. If anything, they’re just average. They’re steelworkers and small business owners, accountants and schoolteachers, people who work hard for what they earn, and they should be able to keep as much of it as possible.

Yet even if you don’t buy that line, there’s more. The cost of government regulation isn’t obvious to us, because that cost is hidden. Yet every time the government puts on its social engineering hat, ordinary Americans pay the price. Al Gore wants to raise the taxes on gasoline to discourage consumption. Who does that hurt? The "soccer mom" every time she takes her kid to a game. The truckers who ensure that the goods we use every day get to us. The salesman who has to drive around town to meet with clients. If we double the price of gas, which many environmentalists think is a good idea, do you think that mom would still drive around to take their kids to practice? Would that trucker not see that extra cost put a bite in his paycheck? Would that saleman not have to pay more out of his already meager salary?

It’s not that the environment isn’t important, it’s that those people are more important. Fifty years from now, we’ll all be driving in cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells anyway. There’s no need to get our collective undergarments in knots over global warming yet. Just over a hundred years ago, horse manure filled every major city in the world with a disease-ridden filth that killed far more than global warming ever will. Compared to that, automobiles are an environmental blessing. Once again, the scapel of progress does a far better job of fixing our problems than the hammer of government.

Finally, let’s look at welfare programs, where the Left tries to show its compassion for the poor while shafting them at the same time. The Left would have us all believe that the war on poverty can be one based on nothing more than government largesse. Unfortunately, they forget that the best welfare program is a steady job. That’s why the past decade of welfare reform must not be repealed – it was the first time that government welfare programs put a job as the end goal. Not allowing the recipients to live off the government, but to give them their own future that doesn’t depend on Uncle Sam. It worked, because it acknowledged that independence, even if it’s a shaky independence at first, is better than living one’s life off of someone else. Letting people waste away as wards of the state isn’t compassion, letting them achieve their own goals is.

The bluster of the Left on how compassionate they are to the poor is just that, bluster. Time and time again, the conservative principles of independence, hard work, and fiscal responsibility have proven to be the right tools for average Americans. While Hollywood movie stars worry about President Bush dismantling a supposed welfare state that they’ll never use and can afford to pay for, the rest of America has to deal with the unintended consequences of those bleeding hearts. As a great thinker once said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions – and the Left is more than glad to provide the paving stones.

3 thoughts on “The Hammer And The Scalpel

  1. Jay

    Obviously I disagree with your interpretation of social policy, but what struck was the fact that I think we read the post in completly different way.

    I think Tom Tommorrow was refering, sarcastically, to people like Coulter’s habit of refering to anyone who disagrees with them on matters of public policy as “unAmerican elites”. I believe his point was that, despite what some would have you believe, liberalism is not the province of some imaginary ivory tower elite, but rather the animating factor in the lives of everyday people from all over the country.
    I did not get that from

  2. I’ll grant the point that liberalism isn’t elitist in the way of being only for the elites – certainly there are liberals of all socio-economic stripes. Still, the important point is in this is that I still maintain that liberalism paradoxically benefits the upper classes more than it benefits the lower classes it claims to care most about. While liberalism isn’t practice solely by the ivory tower elite, I believe that there still is a sense of elitism which is inherent in liberalism, and it shows through in public policy. One can easily and truly believe that they represent the average American and still create policies that harm then. That’s where I think liberalism has gone wrong, and that’s why I think Tom Tomorrow is being inintentionally disingenous.

  3. Both Liberalism and Conservatism can be elitist, and both can be anti-elitist- it merely depends who is doing the talking (and who is doing the interpreting, the realization of which is one thing I’ll give the pomos credit for).

    But at the core, the fundamental difference between Liberals and Conservatives (and this is something that, strangely enough, none of my professors have ever even brought up) is their perspective on causality. Liberals believe in exterior causes- the problem can be blamed on a given institution, practice, or idea- whether the enemy is capitalism, patriarchy, “the man”, etc… is up to the given Liberal to decide. This ties into the rational, materialist and marxist philosophy espoused by most Liberals- you’re just a puppet dangling on the strings of physics. The Conservative, on the other hand, believes in interior causes- everything is the responsibility of the individual. If you’re poor, it’s your fault. If you break the law, you made the decision- no blaming your upbringing or the social mileu you hail from. Again, this ties into the Christian theology in the back of most conservative minds- we are sinful beings with free will… which can be taken to an extreme extent by the wackos who blame AIDS on the “sin” of homosexuality, or believe that 9/11 was payback for the US turning away from God.

    It’s really an ugly duality- and, as I’m finding, a really difficult one to transcend. Libertarians pretend to have “transcended” the duality, and be “off the spectrum”, but in fact are just an atheistic response to conservatism- all libertarians think that everyone is an equal, rational being capable of making rational choices (which, as the evidence from developmental psychology or a quick trip to your nearest university will prove, just ain’t true). Greens, on the other hand, think they’ve spiritualized Liberalism, when all they’re doing is concocting a vile combination of regressive, pre-modern romanticism and Marxism, a concoction so ugly that I don’t even want to think about the consequences.

    Which leaves me, having rejected all of the options so-far presented, hopelessly confused and unable to wipe the smirk off my face at having realized that all politics is nothing but a load of shit. However, being that politics is my major, this leaves me in the position of an atheist studying theology at a bible college.

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