Wednesday, February 02, 2005

State of the Union and Incrementalism

It's over. A lot could be said about the speech. I could talk about how moving it was to see the mother of a slain soldier hug an Iraqi woman who just voted for the first time. I could laugh about the President tweaking the nose of Congressional Democrats over the 4 year period without the successful passage of his energy bill. On Monday morning I was tearful over the images of people who grasped for freedom with both arms outstretched. But I'm emotionally drained now. I know Hugh Hewitt and other fine bloggers will talk about it and I'll read them in the morning when I'm more refreshed.

Instead, I want to talk about a more subdued topic: Social Security.

The President presented the clear mathematics that make a solution necessary. If I'm lucky, I may end up with $0.26 for my retirement; but only if I pay a lot more now. That is reason enough to support a change. But more important to me is the moral reason: why should the government take my own money away to ensure that I don't die destitute, and then have the unmitigated gall to deny me the choice of a better way of investing it? When I hear Democrats opposing this plan, I am personally offended. The new Dukes and Earls and Lords are here to tell the lowly worthless commoners how to live. What do we call those arrogant controlling people? Democrats.

Of course, some Conservatives still bristle at the fact that we have Social Security at all and deride the President every chance they get. He's only a pseudo-Conservative, they say. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Michael Savage.) They need to correctly answer one question: why did the Democrats boo at the announcement of the collapse of Social Security?

Oh. Well. Obviously it was because they don't believe there's a problem. Right? Wrong. They know darned well there's a problem.

OK, well maybe they are afraid that Bush will get credit for fixing it. Yes, they are. But they wouldn't boo over something like that. It's already too late for boos once the President has said it. And the fact that Bush will get credit doesn't anger them enough for boos because any credit he gets will be years down the road.

Hmm. Well, it's possible that they know it will work? Yes, it will work. And you're getting warmer.

They are angry because they see the President using the same strategy that got us where we are now: incrementalism. We didn't wake up one morning in 1791 to find socialism and a nanny state. We didn't wake up one morning in 1930 to find socialism and a nanny state. We didn't really even wake up one morning in 1964 to find socialism and a nanny state.

It is certainly true that socialism has moved forward with thrusts in public policy. It is also true that those thrusts were many in number and small in scope. President Bush knows that it is impossible to stride to the podium and strike out 80 years of unconstitutional social spending. It will scare people, it will end up putting Republicans out of office, and it would be disaster for society.

But partial privatization is just the kind of step we need. It is small enough that it will probably go through (with a lot of effort). But it is like the parabolic mustard seed: it starts off small and sprouts into a very large tree. Once Americans begin to see the benefits of well-managed independence, they will start applying that knowledge to other areas of life.

It's very much like the President's plan in the Middle East. Once men and women see an attractive alternative that really gets results, they will throw away unpleasant alternatives that do not get results.

If Conservatives consistently take a well-planned incrementalist approach, victory is ours. If Conservatives foolishly demand complete and instant gratification, I swear to you, misery is ours.