WHY THE REPUBLICRATS...

WHY THE REPUBLICRATS WILL RISE. Julian Sanchez has some thoughtful comments on my feature in the latest issue arguing that small government conservatism is dying and the right is going to swing towards an economic progressivism that takes the survival and encouragement of the nuclear family as its raison d'etre. His comments make me fear, however, that I overemphasize poll numbers in the original piece, so let me restate the evidence a bit.

The polls that I use show the emergence of so-called "pro-government conservatives": Republicans who want government-guaranteed health care, corporate regulations, and all the rest. Julian cautions that these show little more than that "people right now are responding to a specific form of political rhetoric under specific conditions." I think that's wrong. Among the various answers that set this group apart is that fewer than 30 percent report no trouble paying their bills. The rest are financially squeezed.

These polls, in other words, are catching expressions of real economic trends: the deterioration in household incomes, the rapid acceleration in health costs, the rising price of secondary education, the increase in economic instability, and all the rest. You've heard me go through the list before, but if you need succinct restatements see Larry Michel, Dean Baker, and Jacob Hacker's contributions to TAP's forum on the middle class.

Given the economic realities of the moment, and the direction the indicators (like health inflation) are pointing in, I see little appetite on the horizon for further cuts in the safety net. Folks are going to want more health security, not less -- and the same goes for pension security, unemployment insurance, and so forth. As such, I see little hope that Newt Gingrich-style attacks on Medicare are going to prove popular anytime soon.

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