I used to believe that the Age of Reagan had ended.
The financial collapse and all the pain and hysteria it caused, I thought, would surely change the prevailing mindset that had ruled over public policy in this country since Reagan. The election of Barack Obama was a signal that people were finally ready for some hopey-changey stuff. Surely the mantras of deregulation/tax cuts/small government/free trade that politicians reflexively cited to build a case for their laissez-faire policies would be revealed as the articles of faith that they had become. Surely our politicians would now start to wrestle with alternative approaches to address the decline of the American middle class that coincided with the past thirty years of unchallenged right-wing policymaking by every Congress and President (including Bill Clinton).
Well, maybe I was wrong. The right wing, they’re still calling the shots. If we can’t let the radical tax cuts of George W. Bush expire at a time when everyone is moaning about the deficit, I wonder why we think we’ll be able to do anything that doesn’t entail the continued embrace of far right-wing policies.
Get out of Iraq and Afganistan? Rebuild a manufacturing base in America? Reduce income inequality? Reregulate the financial industry (or any other industry)? Control health care costs?
Maybe, though, the age of Reagan is over — we just haven’t replaced it with anything better. I don’t think anything like Obama’s health care bill could have passed in the Age of Reagan. It is simply too activist (“big”) government. But one thing the health care bill is not is anti-big health insurance companies. It’s too early to fully assess the merits of Obamacare, but I continue to suspect that in ten years, it won’t have followed the path of Medicare and Medicaid and morphed into something stronger that supporters of universal public health care financing want to see. Instead, I suspect that it will exemplify a growing corporatism (like Italy’s) in America.
I wish Obama had not made this deal to extend the Bush tax cuts, but at least he got a payroll tax cut.