Friday, September 02, 2005

A Response to Jonah Goldberg & the Corner Climate

I love Jonah to death. But the 'response' on the Corner has been less than measured. My response to his recent Corner post noting that Republicans in Congress over-spend and a reckoning is appropriate for the administration and the federal government.

I have to agree with Mark (Levin). I've been absolutely disgusted by this sniping at the heels of an administration trying to react to an unprecedented natural disaster, and I turn to the Corner for some sanity. A port in the storm (no pun intended).

What I've been reading certainly hasn't been re-assuring. Now, I don't want reassuring for the sake of reassuring, but where did those bedrock conservative principles go?

1) Fixing the city of New Orleans, from a conservative perspective, isn't supposed to be a federal gig. Providing police, preparing for emergencies, upgrading city infrastructure...that is what state and local governments are for. I want the federal government to help in any way that it can. But if we're talking about the problems that *caused* the problem...then we have to start at the source and work out.

2) Preparing for the unlikely. And where is that conservative understanding of the inherent limitations of a finite resource (i.e. funding!)? It has been estimated that a category 4-5 hurricane would hit New Orleans once every 500 to 1000 years. Do you know how many potential disasters fall into that time-frame? Of course you do. You're a conservative. You understand that there are a universe of potential problems that the government is confronted with and that 'doing' (i.e. massive federal spending) something about each and every one of them isn't always (if ever) the wisest course. I don't know if more should have been done with the leavys. But I suspect that what could be done was being done given realistic assessments of the cost and risk. It is easy to Monday Morning QB this thing.

3) Government isn't the solution to everything. It is simply amazing to me to witness smaller government, devolution, states rights conservatives wail about how the federal government didn't solve this problem yesterday. We *know* that government is very bad at preparing for the future. That's one of the reasons that we advocate limited government. This is a disaster of epic proportions. To expect a perfect response is unbelievably idealistic and unrealistic. There are going to be breakdowns. There is going to be chaos. We're conservatives. We understand the baseness of our nature. Without the civilizing control of an ordered society, panic, anarchy, death, and disease will prolifigate. Order will be restored. But to expect anything other than what has happened and is happening, given the scope of this event, is to look at the situation through a child's eyes.

4) Too much hot air, not enough ballast. We are just a few days into this thing. While a retrospective on the response--evaluating what could have been done to avert the disaster (or mitigate it)--is certainly a necessary certainly is not for a few days into the crisis without anywhere close to the full set of facts. Maybe FEMA dropped the ball in its response. Maybe Louisina and Mississipi officials made mistakes or were AWOL when they were needed. I don't know. And neither does anyone writing in the corner to day. These recriminations are shameful.

5) Congress overspends. Yup! Always has...and probably always will. But to bring this up in the context of this disaster is quite difficult to stomach. First, you're treating the Republican party as a monolith. I know you know better, but that's exactly what you're doing. While there is certainly a consensus among conservatives like ourselves regarding the importance of a limited government and hard reductions in federal spending, it is hardly the domninant viewpoint in Washington...and I doubt it is a majority view among elected Republicans in Washington. Certainly the man in the White House is no spending hawk. And, frankly, a disaster like this illustrates the problem of being a small government conservative and an elected official. All congressman can do is spend money or reogranize the bureaucracy as a response to a problem. The demands of constituents for resources is omnipresent. They vote. So you have infinite demands and finite resources. The allocation of those resources is what politics is about. No, it isn't perfect. Nor would we want to maximize perfection, since that would mean sacrificing valued principles of democracy, liberty, and freedom. Naval gazing can have its benefits, but right now we need a few voices taking note of the fact that resources are limited, public policy is never perfect, politics makes for incremental responses (and that's a good thing most of the time), and that our governments are doing what they can to the extent that they can right now. A little perspective please.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

1 week to Comps. Argh.