Thursday, June 16, 2011

How conservative ideas won

Yesterday I ran into myself at Starbucks.  That is, I almost ran into myself - I was careful not to touch me since I wasn't sure who was matter and who was anti-matter.  Ever since reading Neal Stephenson's Anathem I've been wary of parallel universe cross-over.  Anyway, it looked like I was really depressed, so I asked "Why so glum?" 
     "The conservative ideas have won,"  was the response from me.
     I tried to comfort me by saying, "We hear the same in this world, but I don't agree".
     I got a confused look from me. "How can you not agree?" My voice was incredulous, almost angry. "All the evidence is on their side!  After all, President Reagan cut taxes, deregulated savings and loans, increased military spending and balanced the budget.  Inflation remained below 2% and the economy grew at 5% per year.  George H.W. Bush continued the policies, and by the end of his term we'd paid off the national debt."
     I looked like I was about to cry.  But I choked it back and continued, "We had a chance with Clinton to show how liberalism works, but we blew it.  We re-regulated the savings and loan industry, causing their collapse and a $124 billion bailout.  We kept in place the depression-era laws that separated investment and commercial banks, resulting in the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehmann Brothers - this time almost annihilating the economy and requiring a $750 billion bailout.  To top it off, under Clinton we raised taxes - which led to 8 years of recession, massive deficits and declining wages for average Americans.  Then George W. Bush came in and fixed all that.  He cut taxes to the lowest in history, and what his father once called 'Voodoo Economics' actually worked!  The wages of average Americans rose, the economy boomed - everyone got richer.  In each year of GWBs presidency, job creation was greater than during any other presidency."
     "Wow", I said.  "Those are really tough facts." I was becoming despondent as well. "It's hard to argue against policies that prove so successful."  
    Parallel me agreed, "Liberal tax policies never balanced the budget and we've run out of excuses.  I think we'll just have to admit the conservatives were right."
    Then I had a thought to cheer me up, "Wait a minute, what about the internet boom?  Didn't your liberals get credit for Al Gore opening the government computer infrastructure for commercial use?  Didn't that ignite a creative renaissance and commercial expansion?"
    There was a pause.  It was as if this idea was too bizarre to be believed, "Gore? Don't be ridiculous, that was Cheney's policy!  Gore said that since the internet was created with government money, it shouldn't compete with industry and should remain solely for the use of the military and scientists.  Gore thought that if the internet was important, private industry would create it."
    It was my turn to be incredulous, "But that sounds like a Republican policy!"
    I shook my head in disgust, "You don't understand, the GOP is flexible and pragmatic.  They look for policies that actually produce results; they don't blindly stick to ideology when the facts disagree. They understand that sometimes economic advances have to be built on government investments in infrastructure."
    The conversation reached a standstill.  I decided it was my turn to explain what happened in this world.  At first, I wasn't believed.  It didn't seem possible that things could be so different.  When I concluded, it was clear I needed to sit and think for awhile. Parallel me stirred the dregs of his cappuccino and said,
     "So let me get this straight. After the deficits of Reagan, the balanced budget of Clinton, declining wages under GWB, and financial collapses due to deregulation, your Republicans claim their ideas have won?"
     I gave me a shake of my head and a sheepish look, "Yes, it defies logic, but that's their claim."
     I saw me smile.  A strange smile, starting with small twitch at one corner and then turning into a big grin. "Then there's hope for liberalism in my world after all. Facts don't matter!"
     I saw me skip out of Starbucks and vanish.

     That was when I realized - it's my world that's anti-matter.

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