Not Pell Grants! Defining “Radical”

According to Jonathan Cohn, cutting spending to 2008 levels is radical:

As many others have noted, the demand of going back to 2008 spending levels is radical and, not coincidentally, highly unrealistic: According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, it’d amount to a one-fifth cut in discretionary spending–forcing cuts that could damage the fragile recovery and starve programs like Pell Grants that most Americans value.

Starving Pell grants? Not Pell grants! My heart races at the prospect.

Radicalism should be made of sterner stuff.

This is buffoonery, but buffoonery of an interesting sort, inasmuch as it throws some light on the thought processes at work here.

There are, I suppose, two ways of looking at 2008 spending levels vs. 2010 spending levels. One is to look at 2008 in independent terms: Did we have a radically small or austere government in 2008? I’d say no. Maybe Citizen Cohn feels differently. Or we could ask, Are 2008 levels radically lower than 2010 levels? Twenty percent? Sure, let’s call that radical. But if a 20 percent change is radical, then we could as easily say we’ve had radical, irresponsible growth in government spending since 2008 as say a 20 percent discretionary-spending cut today would be radical. And would not that be more accurate? Increased spending, after all, is the moving variable. It’s not like we’ve had 20 percent population growth since 2008.

But ratchets by definition only go one way. And this ratchet is a racket.

– Kevin D. Williamson is deputy managing editor of National Review and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, now available at Amazon.com. You can buy an autographed copy through National Review Online here.

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