Don't Help Us Consume, Invest

That's what Matthew Continetti wants government to do:

I think we need to distinguish between a government that finances long-term investment and a government that finances present consumption. Hamilton, the Whigs, Lincoln, and TR sought to improve American infrastructure and level the playing field so that young men of talent could overturn entrenched market incumbents. Growth was the result. Yet the American welfare state, as presently composed, is devoted almost entirely to present consumption in the form of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on the debt. The money spent on education, R&D, and infrastructure is a pittance by comparison. The one place where we actually do massively invest in (global) public goods is defense. But of course that's where everyone wants to cut.

We need to deemphasize consumption and focus on investment. I think that Obama, in his heart, would like to do just thatas David Brooks pointed out, Obama's "New Foundation" speech, while disturbing in its rhetoric of a fundamental break from past decades of American history, was about an economy of investors rather than consumers.

But the president is also trapped, as he and his party seek to protect, and in some cases expand, the welfare state as it exists today.