Wednesday, 16 December 2015 11:46

Survey of Conservative Magazines: Another Straw in the Wind?

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Survey of Conservative Magazines: Another Straw in the Wind?

Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin

Fayette Durlin and Peter Jenkin write from Brownsville, Minnesota.

Our readers may be tiring of our chronicling of the confused response of conservatives to Greenism, but we believe that the struggle against this mad movement is going to be the titanic battle of our time, and conservatives are only confusedly groping toward an understanding of it. If conservatives don't take the lead, they are liable to be pushed aside by the forces demanding development that are even now beginning to stir, and the GOP may wind up like the Whigs in the 1850s: unwilling to take a clear stand on the great issue - slavery - of the day: the party disintegrated under the pressure of the pro and anti-slavery forces. This is the issue with the potential to make or break the republic, and even now it is hampering, not only our domestic policies but even our responses to foreign threats, like the Russian takeover of Ukraine (e.g., licensing liquefied natural gas ports to ship gas to Ukraine). We have noted the appearance, for the first time, in the conservative press of articles about various Green depredations, and the EPA's "war on coal" is regularly noted, but hitherto the conservative response has lacked a sense of urgency.

An article by Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, in the May issue of The American Spectator lacks historical and ideological understanding of the subject, but is the best comprehensive piece we have seen on Greenism in the conservative press, and it does not lack urgency:

. . . it is time for conservatives to combat the most economically and statist movement in the world today . . . the modern-day green movement . . . whose guiding principle is . . . to impede economic growth, material progress, and capitalism. . . .

He goes on to identify unequivocally the Green villain - the human race. He points out that Greens are "against almost all forms of electric power, except those that are prohibitively expensive." To put it more broadly, they are implacably hostile to energy development, the factor that makes modern civilization possible (a prominent Green told us that his Green friends knew the potential bonanza of shale gas, "but we're not going to let you get it.")

Mr. Moore goes on to point out how big corporations cultivate a Green image, noting that Chevron and British Petroleum talk "about anything but oil and gas."

Since we all know that corporations, no matter how clearly they are marked down as victims, will never fight, the Moore says the job is up to conservatives, which brings up the question:

How can we awaken Americans to the insanity of modern greens? The best line of attack might be to expose them as power-grabbing elitists, whose policies would do grievous harm to the poor and disadvantaged that they pretend to care about.

It is telling that the two major voting groups that oppose the Keystone pipeline are Democrats who make more than $100,000 annually, and Democrats with a college or advanced degree. Greenism is an elitist movement whose cost will be borne by everyone but the gentry. What an opportunity for Republicans

. . . to win back the old Reagan Democrat swing voters . . . middle-class, blue-collar workers who care more about their families and their jobs, not the snail darter or the prairie chicken.

Of course we are pleased to see such a forthright piece in a conservative magazine, but our pleasure is a little dampened by the inference that the editors did not grasp its significance: besides the cover story, there are nine articles highlighted on the cover - and this is not one of them.

* * * * *

Nicholas Eberstadt has a disturbing, and ultimately challenging essay in the 5/19 issue of The Weekly Standard, "The Great Society at 50," which analyzes the War on Poverty as it has developed over the years. He begins by describing President Johnson's Great Society proposals, showing how far reaching they were and how quickly they were implemented. When it comes to judging the results, using the "statistical measure invented to gauge" those results - the official "poverty rate - the effect has been an "unmitigated failure": the rate as of 2012 was 15 percent, up from 14.7 percent in 1966. Of course we know better, and the author goes on to explain why the official rate is so misleading; ". . . it presumes an immediate and exact equivalence between income levels and consumption levels." In fact, however, by 2011 "those in the lowest quintile were spending nearly 125 percent more than their reported pretax incomes," and much of that discrepancy is due to "noncash transfers of means-tested public benefits." The truth about poverty is that "consumption poverty" afflicts about 4 percent of the populace.

It is at this point that the essay becomes disturbing, as he shows how the antipoverty effort has coincided with a "tangle of pathologies": welfare dependency, the flight from work, and family breakdown. For instance, by 2012 a third of Americans were getting aid from antipoverty programs - and a third of these were below the poverty line. As for the flight from work, the proportion of employed men over 20 "has dramatically and steadily fallen . . . from 80.6 in 1964 to 67.6 [today]."

For every adult man who is between jobs and looking for new work, more than five are neither working nor looking for employment. We all know about family breakdown today, but the statistics are, nevertheless, startling and depressing. Before the war on poverty more than 93 percent of babies were born to married parents. By 2013 out of wedlock births were over 40 percent, and for some groups, like Negroes and Hispanics, the figures are even direr. A large body of research for years has shown the disadvantages of such children: their odds of "suffering adverse educational, health, behavioral, psychological and other outcomes [are high]".

We cannot draw hard and fast lines of causation between the rise of the welfare state and these social disasters, but the author points out that the welfare state "facilitated these trends by helping to finance them." He concludes that the antipoverty programs "subverted" the American promise by tacitly encouraging, and overtly subsidizing, an alternative to financial self-reliance, work, and intact family: the very social basis upon which the American experiment was built.

We cannot read this essay without asking ourselves this stark question: are we capable of confronting and dismantling the welfare state? *

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