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reason: There's a new book out by Erica Grieder. She's a liberal who writes for Texas Monthly. She talks about Texas as opposed to California. Isn't the vision of the country somewhere between California and Texas, and Texas is winning right now?
Will: This is why we have federalism. Two reasons: You're more apt to have three or four smart governors than you are to have a smart president at any time, so you disperse decision-making and experimenting. Beyond that, we can now practice under federalism what the late Daniel Boorstin, great historian and librarian of Congress, called "entrepreneurial federalism." That is, let the states compete for mobile businesses.
President Obama the other day went to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and gave a speech in which he said two particularly riveting things. He said it's just terrible that Maytag pulled up from Illinois and went to Mexico. No one said: Yeah, Mr. President, that's because your friends in the labor unions chased them out. A few sentences later he says, but wonderful things are happening-Airbus, the European consortium, is going to build in Alabama. Well, why'd they go to Alabama? Because it's a right-to-work state.
reason: Do you think somebody like Obama doesn't understand that disjuncture, or is he just kind of dissembling?
Will: This is a man who says ATMs and airport ticket kiosks cause unemployment. We had this argument a long time ago, whether or not automation in the Ford plant would mean that nobody would be able to buy Ford cars. Surely we've had that argument. But, it hasn't percolated in Hyde Park, Chicago.
reason: One of the things that's interesting about your work over the past couple decades is that you were as tough on George W. Bush as you have been on Barack Obama. If economic growth started slowing down in the first decade of the 21st century, what were the policies that Bush was pushing that helped contribute to that, or Republicans more broadly? Have they internalized their role in this scarcity America?
Will: No, I don't think they have. Those people who have internalized have asked the simple question: Every proposed policy, how does it contribute to or subtract from economic growth? That's everything now. We have an ongoing national tragedy. We're losing a generation. We have what percentage of young people are now living with their parents from 18 to 28?
reason: The real tragedy is for the parents.
Will: Tell me about it. I've got four children, none of them live at home. I've dodged that bullet. But the sheer waste! Americans are prodigies at wealth creation. It's hard to stop them. We're industrious, educated, have a continental market, we are a mobile people. If things aren't working in Michigan, we move to Texas. Yet still, the cumulative weight of lots of little policiesâ€¦
reason: So what were some of those policies in particular that Bush or the Republicans layered on top of the cake?
Will: First of all, the regulations. I was asked to come out and talk to the House members two years ago and they asked what they should do. I said, first of all, pledge that you will not publish the Federal Register. You're not going to do it anymore, you're not going to have any more regulations. Then-and this is something Romney endorsed, and others have-any major regulation, understood as one that has a $100 million impact, has to be voted on. Put their fingerprints on it. It'll work wonders.
reason: But that did happen with things like Dodd-Frank more recently, with Sarbanes-Oxley. And-it's not a regulation, but the Medicare prescription drug expansion.
Will: What made the Medicare prescription drug particularly pernicious and Republican was that it was the first major expansion of an entitlement without a dedicated funding. They just simply said: We'll make it up as we go along. We'll borrow from the Chinese.
reason: What was going through the Republican mind then?
Will: In the pithy statement of Dick Cheney, Ronald Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. He didn't do any such thing, but he did prove that to Dick Cheney. And in fact, deficits don't matter politically. Americans talk about a balanced budget, but they don't care about a balanced budget at all. In fact, what deficits have done-and Reagan gets some of the demerits for this-deficits have made big government cheap. For giving the people a dollar's worth of government and charging them 65 cents for it, and the American people say, we can live with that.