Who’s Being Radical?

Some articles that highlight Our Present Insanity — Michael Lind in Salon and Paul Krugman in the New York Times both complain that President Obama is being way too cautious and timid and “centrist.” Lind is especially harsh, saying that Obama is falling into the neoliberal pattern of buying into the Right’s “market friendly” fetish.

You might have thought that the Crash of 2008 would have led Democrats to reconsider this neoliberal approach to providing public goods by private means. But to judge from President Obama’s budget, the White House is still living back in the neoliberal era, when the diminutive Milton Friedman cast a giant shadow.

I think Lind is overstating things a bit, but I agree that the Obama Administration is making more concessions to “conservative” (note quotes for irony) ideas than I would like.

But on the other end of the scale, Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post complains that Obama “intends to enact the most radical agenda of social transformation seen in our lifetime.” Oh, and Obama’s health care proposals? “Socialized medicine.” The usual blah blah blah.

I’ve been working on a long rant on health care, which is partly why I didn’t post much yesterday. It’s not finished, but the major theme is that “conservative” health care proposals are untried and radical — nowhere on the planet is 21st century medical care being delivered via a “market-driven” health care system — whereas Obama’s proposals are genuinely conservative, in the common dictionary sense of the word, compared to the way health care is funded and delivered in all the other industrialized democracies.

You see this in everything the Right does. You want “the most radical agenda of social transformation seen in our lifetime”? Look at the results of Reaganism. (America, are you better off now than you were thirty years ago? I don’t think so.)

It’s time to speak loudly and clearly that the “conservative” agenda is not conservative at all, but dangerously radical. The results of this radicalism are plain to see, in the form of a once-healthy economy that is now crumbling around our feet. The ur-talking point we liberals need to adopt is that “movement conservatism” is and always was a crazy, radical, extremist pile of nonsense that was only packaged as conservatism.