Open Thread: Change We Don't Believe In

Today's starter topic: Do you believe that President Obama has fulfilled his promise to "fundamentally transform America?" In a poll commissioned by The Hill newspaper, about two-thirds of Americans agree with that statement.  Among those who agree, a sizable majority, 56 percent to 35 percent, say Obama has changed America for worse rather than for better.

That's somewhat significant but what's more significant is that nearly 20 percent of sellf-identified Democrats say that Obama has brought more negative than positive change. Not everyone agrees with the notion that Obama has done anything that substantial, however.

In an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks argues that "America already is Europe:"

I'm often asked if I think America is trending toward becoming a European-style social democracy. My answer is: "No, because we already are a European-style social democracy." From the progressivity of our tax code, to the percentage of GDP devoted to government, to the extent of the regulatory burden on business, most of Europe's got nothing on us.

In 1938—the year my organization, the American Enterprise Institute, was founded—total government spending at all levels was about 15% of GDP. By 2010 it was 36%. The political right can crow all it wants about how America is a "conservative country," unlike, say, Spain—a country governed by the Spanish Socialist Workers Party for most of the past 30 years. But at 36%, U.S. government spending relative to GDP is very close to Spain's. And our debt-to-GDP ratio is 103%; Spain's is 68%. [...]

The second force leading us down the social-democratic road is cronyism. America possesses a full-time bipartisan political apparatus dedicated to government growth and special deals for favored individuals and sectors. For example, the farm bill that just passed the Senate contains around $100 billion in subsidies, mostly for large, corporate farms that do nothing to improve nutrition or food security. Or witness the recently reauthorized Export-Import Bank, which doles out about $20 billion annually in corporate welfare.

Third, and most importantly, while a majority of Americans are neither leftists nor corporate cronies, they aren't paying much attention to the political system. We often hear that more than 85% of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing. But, according to the 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, only 25% of American adults can correctly name both of their U.S. senators, and 51% can name neither. If I don't know who my senator is, I am unlikely to know much about his bridge to nowhere.

What do you think?

Open Thread
Matthew Sheffield's picture