It’s funny how things go in circles. Back in 1996 I was a board member of a highly-respected, though very liberal, civic organization in New Orleans. The board was made up off some of the finest citizens in the City and I suppose I was there as the token suburban conservative.
As many will recall, in 1992 Bill Clinton was elected President and one of his major promises was to “end welfare as we have come to know it.” He pretty much ignored that promise until the American people gave him a rude awakening by electing a Republican majority in the mid-terms. Finally in 1996 he signed the “The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act.”
The actual details of this landmark legislation are a thing of history and are not my subject. However, the liberal reaction to the Act is. In the months leading up the passage of this legislation the members of my civic board became absolutely unhinged at the idea that people would, as a condition of receiving government support, have to either attempt to find a job or would actually have to work. They, all being good liberals, had conjured up a vision of disaster. Beyond untold masses of poor people starving they foresaw great civil upheaval to include riots, looting, and all sorts of mischief.
Please remember that these were highly educated and very sincere people, but within their collective thinking had been cultivated a belief that only through government support could poor people survive. They fervently believed that at its very roots the plight of the poor was somehow a result of something that they or their peers had done or had not done. Call it collective guilt if you will, but to them it was their fault and only through the penance of opening the government’s wallet full of other people’s money could they pay some imagined debt that they owed.
At no time did it occur to these folks that people who had until then had subsisted wholly on welfare could actually be somewhat self-supportive through actual work. They were consumed with the idea that the mandate that came to fruition in the legislation signed by President Clinton would bring about calamity.
But as history has shown it did work and work well. It wasn’t until President Obama, in his efforts to expand the American socialist state, that a great deal of President Clinton’s strategy was quietly undone. In all the years that the mandate was in place there was no starvation, there was no upheaval, and in fact our people actually did better by having to at least reach out to find work.
I don’t blame my liberal friends for their overwhelming fear at what they foresaw. After all big government programs such as unlimited welfare were what they had always believed in. It was impossible for them to accept that they could have been wrong and that by undoing such a major plank of liberal philosophy anything except disaster could occur. As should have been expected as no disaster occurred the fear that was so prevalent in that board soon dissipated only to be replaced by the next hot liberal topic.
And so the circle has closed for me. Today liberal Democrats are falling all over themselves to support something they call “democratic socialism.” Their claim is that it has worked in Scandinavia and it will work here. Like my friends in the 1990’s they follow the latest big idea even as they fail to recognize that America is a different place than Scandinavia. In fact they defiantly refuse to recognize that their concept is not really even what occurs in Scandinavia, where the economies are generally quite capitalistic.
But like the unrealistic fear that I saw in 1990’s these people, many sincere and well-meaning, will never let little inconvenient facts stand in the way of their political identity and their blind adherence to whatever liberal idea is popular today!
So I am afraid that we will have to suffer through a few years of incessant drumbeat to convert our great capitalist society into something that has never existed because it represents only assured failure. And during those years we will have to put up with off-the-rails politicians and fringe groups buoyed by a receptive media. But in the end, as they fail to gain support, these people will lose interest and they will move on to the next big thing that feeds their liberal sensibilities!