The Corner

Urgent Questions

I had a further thought about the Janet Daley column, discussed below. She says that the American election campaign “is going to consist of the debate that all Western democratic countries should be engaging in, but which only the United States has the nerve to undertake.” At the beginning of his presidency, Ronald Reagan — appealing for major economic reforms — said, “If not us, who? If not now, when?” He said it often, as I recall. And, oh, did it drive the Left crazy. They mocked him furiously for it.

I remember a cartoon in The New Yorker: It showed a poor man in his bathtub, in some kind of hovel, saying to his wife, “If not us, who? If not now, when?” It was a hilariously drawn cartoon, actually.

At the time, Democrats were saying that Reagan was trying to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor.” That was one of the great and constant sayings of the day: Reagan was “balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.” Of course, Reagan’s reforms lifted up the entire country, and who needed lifting up more than the poor? In any era, who needs lifting up more?

The rich aren’t in great need of prosperity. The rich are doing fine, regardless. It’s the poor who, acutely, need prosperity, the same as sick men need medicine.

Mario Cuomo & Co. always said that Reagan was for the rich, only. Cuomo charged that Reagan couldn’t see the poor “from the veranda of his ranch” — a typical Cuomo line, reeking of falsity and cheapness. It was the record of the 1980s — what actually happened — that convinced me of the correctness of Reagan-style policies and the wrongness of Cuomo-style ones.

Anyway, we might ask, today, If not us, who? If not now, when? Who is going to lift us out of this mess? Obama, Biden, Reid, and Pelosi? Really? If not Romney, Ryan, and their allies, who? And how much more time do we have? Can we muddle through a second Obama term?

In an interview a few years ago, George Shultz told me that his friend Milton Friedman liked to say, paraphrasing Adam Smith, “There’s a lot of ruin in the United States.” True. But not an unlimited amount, we can be sure . . .


One more thing: Democrats talk a lot about kindness, compassion, and fairness. They say Republicans like me lack those things. One thing to say, in rebuttal, is: There is nothing kind, compassionate, or fair about financial collapse. Absolutely nothing. You think entitlement reform is cruel? Wait’ll you see collapse.

Been to Greece lately? Seen the formerly well-off people pawing through garbage cans? Real compassionate, lemme tell you . . .


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