President Joe Biden’s address to Congress is one for the history books, not the least that he gave his speech with two women sitting behind him. He greeted the women by saying “Madame Vice President. Madame Speaker.” There is something astounding to see this moment of two women in some of the most powerful positions in our nation. We aren’t near parity when it comes to women in government, but this moment was an achievement.
The other historical moment is that Biden’s speech could be the moment when the Reagan era of small government and low taxes is at an end. It’s still too early to tell if this is that inflection point, but it does feel like we are at a tipping point not unlike what it might have been in 1981 when Ronald Reagan came to office.
Biden talked about proposal after proposal that would spend trillions on paid family leave, 2 years of community college free and infrastructure. I think the president’s plans are way too expensive and I do worry about the expansion of government. But unlike fellow travelers on the center-right, I do think Biden believes the public is more receptive to higher spending and larger government and it would behoove conservative to pay attention and respond accordingly.
What might have changed the minds of the public? Simple: COVID-19. The federal government had to spend trillions to keep the economy from tumbling into a depression after the economy shut down because of the pandemic. People were getting extra money in their unemployment checks. My own experience during the pandemic has made me consider that maybe conservatives and libertarians should reconsider how the government gets involved. Last summer, I lost my health insurance because I lost my job. The Affordable Care Act allowed me to find an affordable healthcare plan and during this pandemic, I still had health care. The extra payments in unemployment didn’t keep me from looking for a job but allowed some fiscal breathing space as I worked to find my next place of work.
On New Years Day 2020, libertarian economist Tyler Cowen suggested that libertarianism needs to see how government can play a positive and active role in our lives. He called it state capacity libertarianism. He got a lot of push back from traditional libertarians, but he also got some support from others who suggested that a libertarianism which provided freedom and a strong government (which tends to work in Estonia) is where the liberty movement should head. Whether it will or not, remains to be seen.
For both conservatives and libertarians, the ground may have shifted when it comes to policy. How we proceed has yet to be determined.
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Today was a big day for me and a few other folks. The last time I worshipped at the church where I served was March 8, 2020. Since then, we had done our worship mostly online with the occasional outdoor worship service.
Until this morning, when we had our first indoor worship service. It’s not like it was in March 2020 since we are masked and social distancing, but the vaccines have allowed us to be able to get back to being in person again. I am nothing but happy and thankful that our little church held together during this challenging year, and I hope God will be with us in the years to come.
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