One of my favorite liberal columnists, E. J. Dionne, Jr., wrote several months ago, “It took conservatives a lot of hard and steady work to push the media rightward. It dishonors that work to presume that—except for a few liberal columnists—there is any such thing as the big liberal media.” Aside from the fact that he conveniently ignores the three major television networks, almost every major daily newspaper, and most of the very large foundations that support leftist causes, he is correct that the right has made significant media inroads in recent years.
It has happened mainly because people in the so-called “red” electoral regions, or “flyover country”, finally and over time grew tired of the condescending attitude of the media elite of the two coasts. The de-massification of the media so accurately predicted by Alvin Toffler over twenty years ago in The Third Wave has also helped. Radio talk shows and cable TV competitors brought an unbundling of the message and with it, more unvarnished news and analysis. As a result, the mainstream outlets plus CNN were forced to respond by at least attempting to appear more accommodating. In the final analysis, Americans essentially have conservative instincts, our regime is grounded in conservative political philosophy, and our cultural levers of power—media, academia, and philanthropic institutions—have been too long out of step. Some healthy competition was long overdue. As Limbaugh often says, “we are equal time”. Eat your heart out, Phil Donahue.
Texas Budget Crunch
No one envies the job currently facing policy-makers at every level of government and education in the difficult task of solving the current budget imbalances. As in all such crises, the essential trade-of is about whether revenue is too low or expenses too high. Pretty basic stuff with some obvious answers for businesses and families, but governments often get confused about where to start. At the state level, there are those legislators and agency heads who immediately want to introduce new or enhanced revenue sources, i.e., taxes and fees, but Gov. Rick Perry has his priorities in good working order by refusing to talk about new funding until spending has been appropriately reduced: “Once you take your eye off of spending matters and talk about revenues, there seems to be a historical pattern of people losing their resolve to pare the budget down to where it needs to be.” It could be that he remembers the difficulties of his predecessor in the legislative session of 1997, when state revenue restructuring took precedence over expense reduction, with the result that the process spun out of control in the House, forcing Senate Republicans, with the support of the Texas Association of Business, to step in to stop potentially disastrous legislation from reaching the Governor’s desk.
Look no further than California for an example of what can happen when spending wish lists trump fiscal responsibility—a $35 billion budget deficit primarily created by a 14% increase in government employment during the period 1997-2001 compared to a 6% population increase over the same period, and a highly progressive tax system that penalizes capital formation and job creation. And Gov. Gray Davis, true to his pedigree, feels that the solution is yet another income tax rate increase for upper income taxpayers!
There is no doubt that Texas has an ill-structured, early 20th century tax system that relies too heavily on capital intensive sources, i.e., real property, plant, and equipment, and is in dire need of transformation to the service- and knowledge-based economy we have become. But the priority should be to restructure spending patterns before arranging their financing, because it is the nature of government and its undisciplined constituencies to spend all available revenues, then ask for more.
A Double Standard In Responsibility
It has always been puzzling, but instructive, to me that the victims groups and their allies in the plaintiff bar are quick to find justification to go after McDonalds for childhood and teenage obesity and the tobacco companies for causing cancer while completely (and conveniently) ignoring the entertainment industry, particularly the music business and Hollywood’s “dream factory”, for the damages caused by their cultural pollution that has contributed so much to the impoverishment of our youth. They talk of the ready availability of the “off” button, but somehow this option never applies to tobacco products and Big Macs. Where is the difference in the responsibility of the producer of the product?
Of Old Europe, New Europe, And U. S. Foreign Policy
With all the attention given to the confrontation on war policy between France and Germany on one hand and the U. S. and Great Britain on the other, it is useful to look at some underlying issues that do not usually make the evening news. For example, Charles Krauthammer has recently noted that the phenomenon of “old” vs. “new” Europe is not only not new, but not really even mostly about war with Iraq. We should remember that everything about the world order that we new from the end of World War II ended with our victory in the Cold War and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, and that global institutions are slowly being transformed to adjust to this reality. Frankly, a case can be made, and Tom Friedman has made it well, that World War III began on 9-11. France, for one, doesn’t like the new arrangements for dealing with such events, with the U. S. as the only remaining superpower, and is behaving, in John McCain’s words loosely quoted “like the aging movie star who has gotten by on her looks for too long and they are now failing her”.
So who is out of step here? Some, like former CIA official Graham Fuller, believe the U. S. is, that France and Germany represent “the coming world”, that the European Union is the new model for states who are willing to give up large parts of their national sovereignty in order to join a “new civilizational project”, and that America in this sense represents the old world. To me, this is internationalist utopianism to the max, but no less an authority than Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott has written, “all countries are basically social arrangements……within the next 100 years, nationhood as we know it will be obsolete. All states will recognize a single global authority”.
Robert Kagan, in his new book, Of Paradise and Power, has it pegged much better. He believes that there is a culture gap between the U. S. and Western Europe over a range of issues from global warming to religion to the death penalty and that Europe no longer wants to hear about issues of good vs. evil in the world, given their disastrous experiences in the previous century. This gap has enormous consequences for our relationship with Europe and it has destroyed the Cold War consensus on foreign policy, therefore, there is much work to be done to forge a new one. In August 2001 (“Bush And The U. S. In Europe”), I wrote of America’s history as the “anti-Europe”, a nation founded in opposition to the social contract theory of Thomas Hobbes and Jean Jacques Rousseau, in which the individual relinquishes his sovereignty in exchange for security and social welfare and in deference to the “general will”. The nations that are being called the “new” Europe, those we freed from Soviet totalitarianism, have had quite enough of this model. I said previously, and I repeat, that President Bush’s belief in American exceptionalism within the context of a shared history “reaching from Jerusalem and Athens to Europe and Washington” will enable him to craft a new post-Cold War order based on freedom, self-determination, and the rule of law.
Membership and leadership in the global institutions that supervise order (the United Nations or whatever replaces it), however, should require more than self-determination exercised by tribes with flags. This is probably too much for some, but there should be objective thresholds for determining membership in the responsible order. It befalls this generation to lead, and enforce when necessary, this transformation, which should have begun more seriously in 1991. I repeat a quote by Margaret Thatcher: “America’s duty is to lead. The other Western countries’ duty is to support its leadership………under American leadership, the West will remain the dominant global influence; if we do not, the opportunity for rogue states and new tyrannical powers to exploit our divisions will increase, and so will the danger to all.”