The answer is clear

Dear Editor:

In a piece sprinkled with seven cinematic references, Melanie Sturm asks why President Barack Obama doesn’t take a cue from Reagan and Clinton and pursue bipartisan tax and entitlement reforms (“Sequester: Drama even Tarantino wouldn’t touch,” Comment, Feb. 28, The Aspen Times). The best answer is offered by the editor of National Affairs: “Obama wants to alter our American DNA rather than change our European ways.”

Longer version: It’s helpful to grasp how “structure” and “relationships” define and bifurcate the titanic battle on the Potomac. The left is trying to avoid a fundamental transformation of the structure of our entitlement programs since liberals believe the structure of those programs is key to sustaining a just society. The right is trying to avoid a fundamental transformation of the relationship of government and society in American life since conservatives believe that the structure of that relationship is essential to freedom and prosperity.

The left would rather see American life altered (with a significantly larger government, a smaller and less active civil society and a more consolidated but less dynamic economy) than see our welfare-state Leviathan reformed. The right would rather see our entitlement system altered (with lumbering universal entitlement programs turned into means-tested and market-based safety-net systems for the elderly and the poor) than see the character of our society transformed.

Shall we alter our DNA – or our profligacy? The sensible answer should be obvious.

Gary Harrington

St. Petersburg, Fla.