I just want to record an insight on politics from a discussion with our favorite American in Italy. (Call him Giacomo.) It is this:
Americans, taken by and large, are compassionate as long as they don’t have to talk or think about “compassion.”
“Compassion” is fuzzy-headed, ineffectual, improvident, and invites all kinds of trouble. It symbolizes vulnerability to lazy, dishonest, even cruel people who’d rather live off of others than contribute. People like that really make our blood boil. This is why some of us still resent “welfare” without realizing that it no longer exists.
This attitude also contributes to our vague sense that it’s always good to reduce taxes and spending. But few of us are ideologues about it. We’re willing to use government to help the poor, sick, and weak. It makes sense to do this, as long as it’s done right. Just don’t tell us it’s the compassionate thing to do.