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Monday, December 5, 2016

Can The Right And Left Have A Real Conversation About Entitlements?

Democracy can’t function unless both sides are willing to debate the actual proposals on the table instead of trying to change the subject.

I got hit with something of a onetwo punch Tuesday on National Review Online. In two different articles, I’d referred to William Voegeli’s book, Never Enough, which argues that liberalism’s aspirations for the welfare state are essentially boundless. Both Reihan Salam and Voegeli himself take issue with my argument, but both seem to me to be changing the subject.

Let’s take Salam’s post first. (He’s an old friend and one of the smartest young conservatives I know.) He’s responding to the column I wrote about Mitt Romney’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor” comment. I treated Romney more generously than anyone else (including Romney himself, who took it back). I took the gaffe, along with Romney’s speeches about the “entitlement society,” to indicate that he’s aligned with House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan and Voegeli in arguing for a safety net carefully limited to the very poor, rather than a more expansive set of supports for those moving out of poverty.

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