Yglesias Award Nominee

May 4 2012 @ 12:52pm

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On the core issue, I'm with Murdoch. The levels of inequality we're seeing, along with what seems to be profound structural economic change weakening the middle class, are dangerous for political and social stability. Conservatives should be concerned about this. Because conservatism is about conserving the internal coherence of a society through prudential judgment. It is not, whatever Jonah Goldberg believes, an ideology. It is the antithesis of ideology.

The logic of Simpson Bowles is overwhelming: you can raise revenue while simplifying and even lowering some income tax rates if you erase every single deduction we have. And in one stroke of the pen, you disempower and expose the lobbyists for special interests. Of course, this has to be accompanied by severe cuts in "defense", means-testing of Medicare, cost-control experiments in healthcare delivery, and raising the retirement age.

What's maddening, of course – and yes, I know I'm a scratched CD on this – is that this obvious pragmatic solution is somehow competely impossible in our current polity, primarily because of the derangement of the Republican party, but also because of the squeamishness of Democrats on entitlements. But while I can see flexibility on the Democratic side, I see none on the Norquist-Ryan axis which now runs the GOP (and for whom Romney is a tool, not a leader).

[Full disclosure: I've written a column for the Sunday Times for a decade and a half. It's owned by News Corp.]