Political Animal


June 11, 2012 8:53 AM Mitch Daniels’ Future Games

By Ed Kilgore

For every open reactionary who pines for the restoration of the Good Old Days before uppity women and minorities ruined the greatest country the world ever knew, there is a figure who tries to recast the politics and economics of the distant past as the wave of a brave, innovative, future—almost hip. This seems to be Mitch Daniels’ particular thing:

On the heels of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s history-making recall victory, the governor of nearby Indiana with his own record of curtailing union benefits suggested public-sector unions are past their prime and should be abolished.
“I think, really, government works better without them,” Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told “Fox News Sunday,” when asked whether public-worker unions should even exist.

Yeah, all that job security and benefit stuff, certainly pensions, maybe even “retirement,” is so old-think. At the 2011 CPAC conference, at which Daniels was rapturously received despite the deep offense he had caused the Christian Right by proposing a “truce” on social issues while the urgent work of fiscal retrenchment could be consummated, Mitch came right out and said the New Deal and Great Society programs were obsolete and needed to be discarded in favor of something new and less safety-nettish:

If freedom’s best friends cannot unify around a realistic, actionable program of fundamental change, one that attracts and persuades a broad majority of our fellow citizens, big change will not come….
We know what the basic elements must be. An affectionate thank you to the major social welfare programs of the last century, but their sunsetting when those currently or soon to be enrolled have passed off the scene.

“Affectionate thank you.” Yeah, Social Security and Medicare were fun while they lasted, kind of like handshake deals and dollar lunch specials and home visits by doctors. But no one could seriously think they’d work in this day and age, right? So shredding the safety net in order to give “job creators” lower tax rates and labor costs and more flexible, nimble business structures conducive to the knowledge-based global economy blah blah is what’s obviously necessary to keep up with never-ending change. And we sure don’t need any sclerotic, industrial-age unions around to resist change, particularly in the public sector, which needs to be the handmaiden of the fast-paced blah blah entrepreneurs who are peeking around corners to adapt our nation to its future global leadership role while the rest of us poor dumb cattle mosey along blindly, dependent on their bold genius, right?

I personally prefer my reactionaries to be in the Jim DeMint mode, just blatantly dripping with resentment of anything and anyone that’s not just like him. But if Republicans win control of Congress and the White House this November and the Ryan Budget is enacted and we do begin to say our affectionate goodbyes to all that egalitarian nonsense of the twentieth century, we’ll hear a lot more from the likes of Mitch Daniels, who’ll comfort us that it’s all a matter of keeping the country strictly up to date.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • kd bart on June 11, 2012 9:04 AM:

    At this point, I'm almost expecting "Hologram Jay Gould" to make an appearance at the Republican Convention to make a speech on the virtues of Robber Baron Economics.

  • T2 on June 11, 2012 9:08 AM:

    If I was 27 I'd be scared sh*tless about my future and counting the days until I could cast a vote to expel the likes of Daniels and DeMint from government.

  • martin on June 11, 2012 9:17 AM:

    I had a rotten weekend, so please excuse me but, F*ck Them, just F*ck them.

    And now back to civil discourse.

  • stormskies on June 11, 2012 9:17 AM:

    In essence these pigs like Daniels want the 99% to be nothing more than indentured servants to the 1% with no way of undoing such a fate. These pigs are self appointed Zarathustra's who expect all the rest of us to worship, and be servants too in order to know and understand our 'place'.

    The reality they want to recreate comes from the 1890's and President McKinley.Of course they fail to remember that his vice-president who became one of our greatest presidents, Teddy Roosevelt, tried to undo all of that. And, to large extent, he did.

    And he was a Republican of course. These current pigs are just that: REPIGLICANS.

  • c u n d gulag on June 11, 2012 9:19 AM:

    Conservative POV:

    "Modern America doesn't need safety net programs, because by deregulating everything, and low, low, taxes, on corporations and their rich owners, every single person will be able to lift themselves by their own bootstraps, and become - A MILLIONAIRE!!!

    And if you don't, well, it's YOUR fault, so don't ask me and mine to help you and yours.
    You should have had a richer sperm donator, or picked a luckier womb, or worked harder, or not gotten sick.

    None of that's MY fault - that's YOUR'S!!!!!!!
    I'm on MY own. You're on YOUR own.
    I got mine! Feck you, get your own.
    Well, that's too damn bad, ain't it? FOR YOU!!!

    When are the moronic sheeple in this nation going to realize, that they ain't out to just fleece ya - they're out to skin ya alive!

  • Anonymous on June 11, 2012 9:32 AM:

    Don't mind me, I'll just be over here polishing my guillotine.

  • Hedda Peraz on June 11, 2012 9:37 AM:

    "If freedom’s best friends cannot unify around a realistic, actionable program of fundamental change, one that attracts and persuades a broad majority of our fellow citizens, big change will not come…."

    Mitch, you had me at "IF". Only, not the way you want. . .

    @Anonymous: Tumbrel time? ( I KNOW gulag has one in his garage!)

  • c u n d gulag on June 11, 2012 9:56 AM:

    Not a tumbrel per se - but my late father's 95 Pontiac's in there.

    I can saw the roof off, weld some bars on it, and it'll make a fine motorized tumbrel that can accommodate at least a half-down standing people on their way to meet the guillotine, and the wicker basket to catch their head in, and the pike to display it on.

  • Joy on June 11, 2012 10:00 AM:

    If I'm not mistaken, Gov. Daniels has a government job with government benefits (good ones it seems). I don't get it. They rail against public sector employees but seem oblivous to the fact THEY ARE PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYEES. In Illinois, retirees are being hit with a huge increase in health care premiums, although we don't know how much, and the threat of 3% COLA raises being taken away. You want to talk about dampening the economy? In Springfield where I live, retail sales are slacking off. Too many people do not know the impact of the legislature's assault on retirees. Things we thought were guaranteed are now being taken away. This is the preview of things to come under Republican rule.

  • Varecia on June 11, 2012 10:08 AM:

    Although I really don't want to come to this conclusion, I think the American people have entirely lost the ability or the inclination to get outraged enough to push back against these people. I think it's something they must be putting in the water. It's like when onlookers turn away and completely fail to get involved when they see a crime being committed right before their eyes. I thought the Occupy movement was a glimmer of hope that Americans hadn't completely turned into sheep, but I guess even that couldn't reach critical mass.

  • R on June 11, 2012 10:10 AM:

    @Joy - just what I was going to say, except you did it much better. Of course Mitch is probably sitting on a bundle gained in his private-sector stint with...wait for it...Eli Lilly, a global pharmaceutical company. One can't make this stuff up.

  • Diane Rodriguez on June 11, 2012 10:10 AM:

    Hmm... As a spokesmodel for the right, Daniels the cuckolded husband, has a narrow path preaching the Republican commandments. He has no control over his lady or her parts.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on June 11, 2012 10:35 AM:

    This is what coddling bullies for 30+ years gets you.

    No issue, no battle was big or important enough to draw a line in the sand.

    No issue, no battle was small or unimportant enough that the scratches from the potential skirmish weren't life-threatening enough.

    This is what third ways, political cowardice, political spinelessness, political impotence and incompetence get you.

    I've watched this shit play out for two decades right in front of my eyes, hoping against hope that somebody in the Democratic party had enough insight to see what a child could see was going to happen. And now the barbarians are setting fire to the entrance to the castle.

    This ain't going to be pretty. The barbarians have won.

  • boatboy_srq on June 11, 2012 10:37 AM:

    It's moments like these, when I either want to watch what happens when the Conservatists succeed in killing off social safety net - and their "supporters" find out that really DOES mean their Medicare/Medicaid/SocSec/etc - or I want to ask if CUND's "Conservative POV" includes the concept that the millionaires the Conservatists want to create are only millionaires in the Zimbabwean sense (e.g. holders of millions' worth of a worthless currency). Either end result seems equally likely.

  • boatboy_srq on June 11, 2012 10:38 AM:

    Oh, and Daniels and Ryan are just as much Conservatist tools as DeMint and McConnell - they just say it prettier.

  • Mimikatz on June 11, 2012 10:46 AM:

    @Varecia: It isn't in the water, it is in their hands--electronic gadgets that let you focus on yourself and your friends. I do think we have become far more passive than, say, 50 years ago. And ahistorical, so most people won't even know what it is that they are missing.

    This may really be the election that decides whether we have a democratic future or not.

  • lou on June 11, 2012 11:21 AM:

    Joy: "This is the preview of things to come under Republican rule."

    Gov. Quinn is a dem. The IL house and senate are controlled by dems. Sometimes even the dems have to govern with what the government takes in and what it spends. The pension and health care expenses of gov. employees and retirees are a big and growing part of the equation.

  • lou on June 11, 2012 11:33 AM:

    Joy: "You want to talk about dampening the economy? In Springfield where I live, retail sales are slacking off."

    That ain't keeping Springfield Clinic and Memorial Hospital and all the other major health care businesses from expanding like mad. Much of that business is built on state worker and retiree health care bennies. All I suggest is for you is to look at this from the angle of someone in the private sector who is purchasing individual health care insurance with $10,000 + deductibles. Then see if you can afford to visit medical facilities and doctors in Springfield.

  • Josephus on June 11, 2012 11:40 AM:

    I,for one, am certainly glad that this "egalitarian nonsense" is still working. With my social security and medicare benefits I am barely able to meet my needs.I have always had a soft spot for President Truman who once said "I think all republicans should go to hell!"

  • dianne on June 11, 2012 12:39 PM:

    Didn't I just hear that Obama plans another confab on the "Grand Bargain" by year's end should he be re-elected?
    If we are going to lose Social Security and Medicare, I would rather it be at the hands of the Repubs instead of the Dems. Both sides seem determined to see it end.
    I will still vote for Obama, of course, but with a great sense of disappointment rather than the enthusiasm I felt in 2008. If he ends Social Security and Medicare that will become the legacy of his term. All of the good things that he did will be forgotten if this comes about. I hope it's not true.

  • Peter C on June 11, 2012 12:43 PM:

    "Freedom's best friends"

    This sort of thing makes me so angry. Someone recently published a list of foreign words which can't yet be translated into English. My favorite was "Backpfifengesicht", a German word for 'A face badly in need of a fist'. Mitch Daniels has one.

    Freedom does not mean the ability of the rich to opt out of their responsibility to help pay for the costs of the society. FDR had 'Freedom from want' and 'Freedom from fear'. The Republicans would replace those with 'Freedom from responsibility'.

    That's a disgusting definition of 'freedom'.

  • emjayay on June 11, 2012 12:57 PM:

    Ok guys don't crucify me for this....but, incarnations of evil that Mitch and his ilk are, there is a little bit of something to their basic complaint. As has recently been shown, our exceptional best in the world in everything non European Socialist ole USA actually has, quite the opposite of what these jerks imagine, one of the worst records in social and income mobility, and the worst income inequality to begin with. We do need to look at the actual causes of this and do something about it.

    I do realise that there are all kinds of other more macro factors in these problems, but I would suggest that a big factor is public housing. Housing projects simply create multigenerational and disfunction. It may have sounded like a good liberal idea in 1950, but social beings such as we humans are, ended up being a long term disaster in many ways, paid for by taxpayers.

    The welfare piece of the problem was addressed to some degree anyway in the Clinton administration, but I'm not sure how effectively given the whole picture of housing projects, food stamps (SNAP), WIC, MedicAid, whatever replaced AFDC, etc. Back then at least, I'm sure an uneducated young woman, particularly one who grew up in such an environment, might well think I'll have a bunch of babies, we'll get free or close to free food and free medical care and a bigger really cheap apartment and free schooling with free food there as well, grandparents and relatives all around the complex, and that's how life works. No job and no fathers and no education needed. And the fathers, if thinking at all, figured on free sex with zero responsibilty since the state took care of the results.

    I know I'm greatly simplifying, but this all part of the picture the TeaBaggers are imagining, and it's not entirely imaginary.

    As progressives, we should be willing to take an honest look at what's really happening in society and address the problems. But this stuff is all a taboo and apparently politically impossible topic.

  • thebewilderness on June 11, 2012 1:12 PM:

    I have thought for some time that the sample they had of what it would be like to return to patronage, demonstrated during the W admin, is part of what prompted the ratcheting up of the effort to a fever pitch.
    The long term strategy is working, partly because no one wants to believe that it is what it is.

  • KarenJG on June 11, 2012 1:57 PM:

    DisgustedWithItAll, your very excellent comment reminds me of the "history" book that, despite "Godwin's Law," I've seen as prophetic for at least the last decade, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer. He was talking about the Germans during the rise of the Nazis but this section excerpted by the publisher (University of Chicago) in particular could be written today, and not seem anachronistic (except for the references to Hitler and the Nazis, of course). An excerpt from the excerpt:

    "You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

    [...]"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

    It's chilling to realize that we are already at at least "Step C."

  • boatboy_srq on June 11, 2012 2:30 PM:

    @emjayjay: It's not public housing per se that's the US' problem. It's how public housing is viewed. Most other developed countries have public housing of some sort or other; their chief issues with the idea are the architecture and build quality involved. In the US, the very idea of public housing is repugnant, and those who depend on it are stigmatized as somehow unworthy: lazy, poor, "takers," whatever. It doesn't help matters much that for all the DofI writers' efforts to avoid this, Locke's Third Right (property) remains firmly embedded in the national psyche as one of those "endowed by our Creator" things that all Ahmurrcans should have. There's a valid argument that part of the mortgage fiasco of late would have been avoided completely if public housing were to become somehow socially acceptable.

    The trouble with addressing public housing is that we have three options: 1) make public housing somehow respectable (difficult for reasons already mentioned); 2) improve the standings of those dependent on it as it is so that they can transition into privately-held housing (diffucult, as described elsewhere when dealing with the economy, the mortgage implosion, and public policy in an age of austerity); 3) make the public somehow comfortable with a much larger homeless population (easy in terms of options 1 and 2, but horrific in its own right).

  • emjayay on June 11, 2012 3:39 PM:

    Thanks. You're right. In England council owned housing wasn't a big deal if it was just regular flats that the government ended up owning for some reason. But when big Le Corbusier type projects were built after WWII they became hellholes by the early 70's just like our projects. Same thing in France. Same dynamic. In Holland, maybe you get an apartment in some kind of government owned or enabled co-op place when you are maybe just out of college. No big deal.

    You could empty any housing project that is in an otherwise OK area and flip it onto the open market and people would line up for rentals and there would be no local or societal problems created. When nice townhouse developments are built and given to the same people who lived in the old project, a lot of the same dynamics may reoccur.

    In NYC 200,000 people live in crime infested money sucking housing projects. A union built a bunch of high rises decades ago that are still really cheap (and they stopped taking applications years ago). I'd move in in a flash if I could.

    Ask a sociologist (which I'm not one of). A low-income based apartment building eventually creates a environment of moneysucking intergenerational disfunction, dependence, and crime. No respectable person wants to live there, or anywhere near there, much less walk down the same block. Public housing is viewed as what it becomes. The perception is not innaccurate.

    Housing projects create a cultural and economic black hole, but no one wants to talk about it. Not the only reason for crime and dysfunction and high taxes and lack of socioeconomic mobility and income inequality and TeaBagger anger, but a major element that is never talked about.

  • joeff on June 11, 2012 6:47 PM:

    For awhile it looked as though they'd gone too far, pushing the white working class into fight-back mode. But now they have found a way to divide even the WWC--coddled government workers vs. honest, god-fearing, laid-off, pension-free private sector workers.

    OTOH, if they have to resort to calling for hiring FEWER cops, they must be kinda desperate.