May 11, 2012
Everyone is talking about this “slideshow” put out by Barackobama.com last week. It depicts the life of Julia (“who has no face”), a hypothetical woman who is dependent on the government at every stage of life, thanks to the policies of President Obama. Except that’s presented as a good thing. The slideshow is a cornucopia of half-truths, question begging, and born-yesterday utopianism.
As an antidote, the Heritage Foundation offers an alternative slideshow explaining why conservative reforms would be better, and exposing the hollowness of some of Barackobama’s arguments. It doesn’t address everything, either—and I’d prefer much less government than either of them considers an option right now—but it’s an improvement.
Update (May 16th, 2012): Moderate Ross Douthat also has some thoughts on the slideshow:
On the one hand, its public policy agenda is essentially a defense of existing arrangements no matter their effectiveness or sustainability, apparently premised on the assumption that American women can’t make cost-benefit calculations or indeed do basic math. In addition to ignoring the taxes that will be required of its businesswoman heroine across her working life, “The Life of Julia” hails a program (Head Start) that may not work at all, touts education spending that hasn’t done much for high school test scores or cut college costs, and never mentions that on the Obama administration’s own budget trajectory, neither Medicare nor Social Security will be able to make good on its promises once today’s 20-something Julias retire.
At the same time, the slide show’s vision of the individual’s relationship to the state seems designed to vindicate every conservative critique of the Obama-era Democratic Party. The liberalism of “the Life of Julia” doesn’t envision government spending the way an older liberalism did — as a backstop for otherwise self-sufficient working families, providing insurance against job loss, decrepitude and catastrophic illness. It offers a more sweeping vision of government’s place in society, in which the individual depends on the state at every stage of life, and no decision — personal, educational, entrepreneurial, sexual — can be contemplated without the promise that it will be somehow subsidized by Washington.
(Links in original.)
Update (May 18th, 2012): Robert Tracinski has more:
Here’s one point I haven’t seen made elsewhere: the fact that Julia is apparently in the middle class. . . . If Julia is in the middle class, what does she need government help for? . . . The welfare state is now here to serve the middle class. It’s here as a normal part of everyone’s life, even the lives of those who are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.
Update (May 21st, 2012): Julia even made it into a Mitt Romney speech:
Julia progresses from cradle to grave, showing how government makes every good thing in her life possible. The weak economy, high unemployment, falling wages, rising gas prices, the national debt, the insolvency of entitlements — all these are fictionally assumed away in a cartoon that is produced by a president who wants us to forget about them.
. . .
President Obama is looking in the wrong direction. Looking backward won’t solve the problems of today nor will it take advantage of the opportunities of tomorrow. His are the policies of the past.
Hat tip to Laura Ingraham.