OK, everyone is picking on Ross Douthat's column from yesterday. Why isn't anyone picking on Richard Haass?
Much of his piece yesterday, the part concerning foreign relations, seemed sensible to me. And I have no real problem with his point that, given the lack of major danger abroad, it's a good time to solve domestic problems. But then there's this:
At home, we must work to restore the foundations of American power. In many cases, this doesn’t even require spending more — often there is little relationship between our investments and the results.In other words: I'm going to use my expertise on foreign affairs to tell everyone what they should be doing on domestic policy, and I'm going to pretend that my particular policy preferences are simply common sense that everyone obviously should support.
The United States spends nearly twice as much as other industrialized nations per citizen on health care — often with worse outcomes. We spend more per student on education than most other wealthy countries, with few results to show for it. Attracting top-quality teachers, rewarding them for success, and enabling parents and students to choose effective schools would be a better use of resources.
And with only modest government funds we could foster public-private partnerships to rebuild this country’s often crumbling infrastructure, refashion immigration policy to give preference for visas and green cards to many more immigrants with advanced degrees and needed skills, and above all reduce long-term entitlement obligations, cutting the ratio of public debt to G.D.P.
It's not true! As Jamelle Bouie said in a nice post last week: "Americans—both in and out of Washington—like to think that because we share a common national identity, we also share common interests. And in the broadest sense, we do. But for issues of public policy—on the questions that drive our politics—there’s far more disagreement than not." His point there was that this is perfectly healthy and natural, and he's exactly right.
Nor is it the case that the US has ignored education, health care, and other domestic issues out of some sort of misguided obsession with mythical threats from abroad. Simply not true!
There's just no hint here of two massively important factors: that people disagree over policy, and that policy -- even when everyone does agree -- is sometimes really, really, hard to get right.
It's enough to, yes, make me cranky.