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January 21, 2016
Morning Jolt
... with Jim Geraghty
Contemplate the Possibility That Americans Are Fine with Big Government

Over at Hot Air, Taylor Millard examines my contention that the Tea Party is effectively dead and argues that it’s more accurate to say it evolved:

. . . the focus seemed to shift from fiscal responsibility to other things: worshiping God, social conservatism, and, at times, immigration. There’s nothing wrong with this, but that’s not what the Tea Party was founded upon. The first Tea Party rally in Arizona I went to in 2012 was definitely more of a show, and not like the rallies I’d seen on TV, watch online, or read about on blogs.

Taylor concludes:

It isn’t always going to be easy, but that doesn’t mean what happened in 2009 should be forgotten. What it does mean is the fiscal hawks need to keep fighting and keep explaining why sanity is needed. This means things like entitlement reform, audits of the Fed and Defense Department, and cutting government where it needs to be cut (no more farm subsidies please) are all issues which have to be pressed, but messaged in a way to get more people involved.

Let me offer a thought that every conservative should contemplate, even though it’s one we would rather avoid: What if the American people don’t want smaller government that spends less?

This is where we usually hear talk about how small-government conservatives need “better messaging.” Or someone will insist that there’s a broad desire for a smaller government that spends less, but those Washington insiders and establishment sold out the conservative agenda. But what if Americans have heard the arguments for smaller government, understand the arguments -- or understand them as well as they’re ever going to -- and have rejected them?

Does a country where the popular vote in the last six elections went for Clinton, Clinton, Gore, Bush, Obama and Obama really crave smaller government?

Polling indicates that 70 percent want a smaller deficit . . . but the only spending cut that gets anywhere near a majority support is to foreign aid -- about one percent of the budget -- and even that’s close to an even split. “For 18 of 19 programs tested, majorities want either to increase spending or maintain it at current levels.” People want smaller government right up until the point where it actually affects them.

The current Republican front-runner is running against entitlement reform:

Trump opposes any cuts to Social Security and Medicare -- and Medicaid, for that matter. In April, at the New Hampshire Republican Leadership Summit, Trump criticized his fellow Republicans for proposing reforms of the entitlement programs that are bankrupting the country: “Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that.” Medicare and Social Security alone face more than $69.1 trillion in unfunded liabilities, but Trump insists that the programs can be saved without cuts. “All these other people want to cut the hell out of it,” Trump said of Social Security. “I’m not going to cut it at all. I’m going to bring money in, and we’re going to save it.”

And it’s not just Trump; members of Congress and poll respondents are less concerned about spending levels, too:

Total mentions in Congress of “deficit” peaked in 2011 at 8,101. The count declined to 1,543 mentions in 2015. The use of “debt,” too, has fallen precipitously since 2011.

. . . Congress’s apparently declining interest in deficits and debt is shared by most Americans. Fewer Americans now cite the federal budget deficit as one of their top priorities. According to PollingReport.com, in 35 polls taken between June 2010 and July 2015 that asked about the “most important problem” or “priority” for the country, the percentage of respondents citing some variation of the “federal deficit” or “budget deficit/national debt” steadily declined.

If the national debt were tangible -- a giant monster, rampaging across the landscape -- people would mobilize to stop it. But it’s not; it’s just a number on a piece of paper. By the time Obama leaves office, he’ll have added about $8 trillion to the debt, and plenty of Americans -- to the extent they’re even aware of it -- will feel it hasn’t affected their lives one bit. The interest payments on the debt -- $227 billion -- don’t “feel” big enough, and aren’t squeezing out other spending priorities enough, to worry people.

Saul Alinsky wrote: “The moment one gets into the area of $25 million and above, let alone a billion, the listener is completely out of touch, no longer really interested, because the figures have gone above his experience and almost are meaningless. Millions of Americans do not know how many million dollars make up a billion.”

The Flint Water Scandal: A Depressingly Familiar Tale of Government

If you’ve only heard intermittent reports about that awful mess in the water supply of Flint, Michigan, you’re probably wondering how somehow overnight Governor Rick Snyder became the scapegoat for decisions about local water-supply safety. The editors illuminate this depressingly familiar tale of incompetent city government, exacerbated by incompetent, butt-covering federal agencies:

Before the appointment of the (Democratic) emergency manager, Flint’s elected mayor and city council (Democrats) had decided to sever the city’s relationship with its drinking-water supplier, which was at the time the Detroit water authority. Flint intended to join a regional water authority that would pipe water in from Lake Huron, a project that was scheduled to take three years to come online. In a fit of pique, Detroit (a city under unitary Democratic control) immediately moved to terminate Flint’s water supply, leaving the city high and literally dry.

At this point, somebody -- no one will quite admit to being the responsible party -- decided to rely temporarily on the Flint River. The Democrats in the city government deny responsibility for this; so does Darnell Earley, the Democrat who served as emergency manager. Earley says that the decisions to terminate the Detroit deal and rely temporarily on the Flint River “were both a part of a long-term plan that was approved by Flint’s mayor, and confirmed by a City Council vote of 7–1 in March of 2013 -- a full seven months before I began my term as emergency manager.”

Meanwhile, Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality -- no hotbed of covert Republican activity -- seems at the very least to have suppressed worrisome findings about Flint’s water supply, and may have done worse than that. The federal Environmental Protection Agency -- whose Democratic chief was appointed by our Democratic president -- knew for months that there were concerns about Flint’s water, and did nothing.

Ah, so that’s why everyone says it’s Rick Snyder’s fault.

For those who want more detail on the EPA’s role:

In June, more than a year after the city had begun using the Flint River as its water source, an EPA official named Miguel Del Toral wrote up the preliminary results of his investigation into reports of high lead levels. The memo lamented the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s failure to make sure the river water was treated so that it wouldn’t corrode the city’s pipes, many of which contained lead. Del Toral explained that federal rules require systems of Flint’s size to control for corrosion.

“A major concern from a public health standpoint is the absence of corrosion control treatment in the City of Flint for mitigating lead and copper levels in the drinking water,” Del Toral wrote. “Recent drinking water sample results indicate the presence of high lead results in the drinking water, which is to be expected in a public water system that is not providing corrosion control treatment. The lack of any mitigating treatment for lead is of serious concern for residents that live in homes with lead service lines or partial lead service lines, which are common throughout the City of Flint.”

That memo wasn’t supposed to be released, but Curt Guyette, a reporter for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, obtained a copy from Lee Ann Walters, a Flint resident who had been given a copy by Del Toral after he took water samples from her house. She’d contacted the EPA because she was worried about her water and her kids.

City and state officials downplayed Del Toral’s report, and the EPA said it was only a draft that wasn’t supposed to be released . . .

Susan Hedman, the administrator of the regional EPA office, told then-Mayor Dayne Walling in a July email that Del Toral’s “preliminary draft report should not have been released outside the agency” -- something Hedman reiterated in several other messages.

Man, this is the worst EPA scandal in . . . like, six months.

ADDENDA: It’s just one of those days where Pamela Geller approvingly cites me over on Breitbart.com, criticizing Sarah Palin.

Ever feel like we slipped over into Bizarro World, where everything is the opposite?

The Many Contradictions of Hillary Clinton
Trump’s Support for Ethanol Is Bad for Taxpayers and Their Cars
Mike Huckabee’s Home Stretch
Living with History, Part III
Iran Played the Obama Administration in the Hostage-Release Negotiations, Again
Russell Moore Rallies with Evangelicals for the Lives of the Unborn
Failures of Imagination
By Congressman Michael McCaul
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