What are the odds that a Democratic commander in chief and his chief Republican rival declare their philosophical fidelity to the Progressive Theodore Roosevelt on the same day?
In an effort to better conjure Roosevelt, the shameless Barack Obama had flown to Osawatomie in Kansas, where, in 1910, Teddy delivered his “New Nationalism Address.” So radical was the Roosevelt political program that its author was condemned as “‘communistic,’ ‘socialistic,’ and ‘anarchistic’ in various quarters.”
On the day of this staged affair – in eerie synchronicity – Newt Gingrich, whose favorability among Republican “caucus goers” is at 33 percent and rising, described himself to broadcaster Glenn Beck as “a Theodore Roosevelt Republican.”
Back in the day, “the Eastern United States denounced [Roosevelt] as a ‘communist agitator.’” This was “the most radical speech ever given by an ex-president,” writes Robert S. La Forte in The Kansas Historical Quarterly:
“[Roosevelt's] concepts of the extent to which a powerful federal government could regulate and use private property in the interest of the whole and his declarations about labor … were nothing short of revolutionary.”
As La Forte chronicles, “Roosevelt had no interest in retaining the ideals of Jeffersonian ‘state’s right’ demagogues, as he called them. He was interested in a Hamiltonian concept of power which he described as the ‘New Nationalism.’”
Don’t look for a “square deal” from the characters on the other side of the aisle. “We want to avoid becoming a welfare state like the European states” is the stock phrase we get from GOP pointy heads. Truth is not their stock-in-trade. As they tell it, America has a long way to go before it turns as Rooseveltian as Europe.
Both sides flout the facts. America is Europe by any other name, a reality with which Peter Ferrara at Forbes.com has grappled admirably.
“America’s welfare state is not a principality,” Ferrara has written. “It is a vast empire bigger than the entire budgets of almost every other country in the world”:
“Just one program, Medicaid, cost the federal government $275 billion in 2010, which is slated to rise to $451 billion by 2018. Counting state Medicaid expenditures, this one program cost taxpayers $425 billion in 2010, soaring to $800 billion by 2018. Under Obamacare, 85 million Americans will soon be on Medicaid, growing to nearly 100 million by 2021, according to the CBO.
“But there are 184 additional federal, means-tested welfare programs, most jointly financed and administered with the states. … The best estimate of the cost of the 185 federal means-tested welfare programs for 2010 for the federal government alone is nearly $700 billion, up a third since 2008, according to the Heritage Foundation. Counting state spending, total welfare spending for 2010 reached nearly $900 billion, up nearly one-fourth since 2008 (24.3 percent).
“Yet, by 2008, Robert Rector of Heritage reports that total welfare spending already amounted to $16,800 per person in poverty, four times as much as the Census Bureau estimated was necessary to bring all of the poor up to the poverty level, eliminating all poverty in America. That would be $50,400 per poor family of three. Indeed, Charles Murray wrote a whole book, ‘In Our Hands, A Plan to Replace America’s Welfare State,’ explaining that we already spend far more than enough to completely eliminate all poverty in America.
“The soaring welfare spending since 2008 is not a temporary increase reflecting the recession, as it is not projected to decline after the economy recovers. By 2013, total annual welfare spending will have grown still more, to nearly $1 trillion. Over the 10 year period from 2009 to 2018, federal and state welfare spending will total $10.3 trillion. This does not include Obamacare’s massive expansion of Medicaid, or the massive new entitlement providing subsidies for families making close to $100,000 per year, and beyond. Together, this abusive entitlement spending will add trillions more.”
For a dose of reality, read on. There is almost nothing that can reverse what the Progressives have wrought. The Ryan budget, viewed as radical by rival Rooseveltians Gingrich and Obama, will slow only the growth of the entitlement kudzu, not its invasiveness.
Whether Teddy Roosevelt wannabe No. 1 or No. 2 is elected, the American welfare state is unlikely to be dented. To repeat, the thing is “bigger than the entire budgets of almost every other country in the world.”
To answer the opening question: The dice were loaded in Teddy’s favor. The sitting Democratic president (Obama) and the Republican odds-on favorite for president (Gingrich) are in TR’s corner – in everything from executive power and the projection of American power abroad to property rights stateside.