Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Most Sensible Column You'll Ever Read By A Conservative

James Pinkerton is a dyed-in-the-wool Conservative, meaning he's the kind of conservative a) I grew up around and b) I can actually talk to.

Pox News uses him as balance to the flaming 'rhoids of vengeance, to give you an idea how conservative he is.

So imagine my surprise when he actually came out yesterday in SUPPORT of social programs!
The dollar-cost of war doesn't end when it's over

January 24, 2006

When nations go to war, government spending goes up. First for the fighting, then for the social-welfaring.

So all the fond dreams of reducing the size and cost of government in the years ahead are just that - fond dreams and nothing more. If a country calls its young people to rally to the colors, it had better be prepared to pay for their service, in the short run and also the long run. To do otherwise is to risk disaster, on the homefront as well as the warfront.

Chiseled on the headquarters facade of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington are words from Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address in 1865, in which the 16th president declared a key mission of the soon-to-be-reunited America: "To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."

So, while the federal government shrank back from its engorged wartime maximums, a post-Civil War ratchet effect was evident: Uncle Sam didn't shrink all the way back. Federal spending was $63 million in fiscal year 1861; it ballooned to $1.3 billion four years later. And, after Appomattox, outlays never fell below $242 million - quadruple the prewar level.
So far a nobrainer, right? A warhawk (don't recall if he served or not) coming out in favor of VA programs (which Bush has either slashed or attempted to slash in every budget during his administration). But then he does something surprising: he quotes Bismarck & David Lloyd George:
During the next five decades, the vision of the welfare state was enshrined among most industrial countries. The 19th century statesman Otto von Bismarck stands as the pioneer in arguing that no country could be strong if it didn't have a system of cradle-to-grave protection for its citizenry. The issue, in Bismarck's mind, wasn't handouts; it was assurance that no loyal German would ever be left bereft.

World War I vindicated Bismarck's vision: Countries with weak social safety nets, such as Russia, fought poorly while countries with strong safety nets, such as Germany, fought well. The reason was simple: Men at the front wanted to be assured that the mother country was united behind the war effort - and willing to put its money where its mouth was.

The definitive slogan of the warfare-welfare state was enunciated by British Prime Minister David Lloyd George on Nov. 23, 1918 - less than two weeks after the Armistice that ended World War I: "What is our task? To make Britain a fit country for heroes to live in." Lloyd George was a grateful patriot. But he was mindful, too, of the need to pre-empt Bolshevism - and to fortify a new generation for the next war.
Which got me thinking.

America was at its greatest when we had social programs. Unemployment stipends, social security, government workfare programs were not born in a vacuum. They were forged in the mills of war and the Great Depression. They ensured that anyone who wanted to work, could and if they were temporarily out of work, or too old, or sick or injured to work, they would be taken care of.

Yes. The Mommy State was born in World War II, hardly a time for mothering, if you listen to the punjabs of "personal (but not corporate) responsibility".

Too, Eisenhower assessed post-World War II America, and said we need a highway system the likes that Germany has. We need an education system to make sure we don't fall further behind the Russians. And he warned us against the military-industrial complex, a warning which rings quite true now in the age of Halliburton.

History will not judge us on how we waged war, but on how we pursued peace, domestically as well as internationally. We remember the Romans not so much for their vast conquests but for their mysterious decline.

But we remember the Greeks for their wisdom and intellect. We should always bear that in mind as we select Presidents and Congresscritters. That's up to us as voters, to choose wisely. And to us of the reality-based constituency, it's up to us to persuade and influence our fellow Wrong Wingers to change their ways of seeing things.

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