Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Adults Are Finally Speaking Up; Will Republicans Listen?

I think that the Bloggers' Rule Book says I'm supposed to answer this question at the end of the post.  I'll break the rule.  I fear the answer is no because ideas, or the lack thereof,  have consequences.

First, conservative columnist David Brooks who scolded,
If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases.
A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.
The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.

This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.

But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.

The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.
The Economist adds its voice to the scolding Brooks began,
This newspaper has a strong dislike of big government; we have long argued that the main way to right America’s finances is through spending cuts. But you cannot get there without any tax rises. In Britain, for instance, the coalition government aims to tame its deficit with a 3:1 ratio of cuts to hikes. America’s tax take is at its lowest level for decades: even Ronald Reagan raised taxes when he needed to do so.

And the closer you look, the more unprincipled the Republicans look. Earlier this year House Republicans produced a report noting that an 85%-15% split between spending cuts and tax rises was the average for successful fiscal consolidations, according to historical evidence. The White House is offering an 83%-17% split (hardly a huge distance) and a promise that none of the revenue increase will come from higher marginal rates, only from eliminating loopholes. If the Republicans were real tax reformers, they would seize this offer.

Both parties have in recent months been guilty of fiscal recklessness. Right now, though, the blame falls clearly on the Republicans. Independent voters should take note.
Last night Speaker John Boehner withdrew from negotiations with President Obama.  The New York Times reports,
But the prospect of getting the bulk of his own Republican majority behind a $4 trillion, 10-year agreement was looming as a very heavy political and policy lift for the speaker who is still in his first year in the position.

As potential elements of the plan became public, Mr. Boehner was encountering stiff resistance from fellow Republicans determined to oppose any package containing proposals that could be construed as a tax increase, worried such a deal could cost the party dearly in the 2012 elections. In the initial White House talks last Thursday, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, broke with the speaker and pushed for a mid-range agreement.
Joe Carter analyzes "X-Cons" and makes the following observations about Generation-X conservatives.
• X-Cons do not have a broad grasp of history. If we have an interest in history, we are likely to have a read a few books which we hold in high esteem and consider authoritative (Paul Johnson's Modern Times is among our favorites). At best, we may have done in-depth study on a particular historical era (the American founding, the Civil War, World War II) but we lack a deep understanding of general history. We have almost no comprehension of the intellectual history of conservatism.
• Talk radio has had a profound influence in shaping our political sensibilities. Just as William F. Buckley, Jr. provided the cast for conservatism in the 1950s, Rush Limbaugh shaped the conservatism of X-Cons in the 1980s and 1990s. Limbaugh provided not only the content but the style in which we conservatives would engage in political discourse: assured, confrontational, snarky. Talk radio taught us X-Cons to appreciate confirmation of our political views. Arguments needn't be persuasive when you are certain not only that we are right and our opponents are wrong, but also that we are right and they are wrong-headed.
• With confirmation came a sense of (virtual) community and a realization that a Ph.D in Political Science wasn't required in order to express a valid opinion on politics. Imbued with a sense of confidence from a young age, we X-Cons grew comfortable expressing ourselves in a conversational style that imitated our talk radio mentors. Blogging was (and remains) a natural outlet for our mode of expression.
• Unlike previous generations, X-Cons do not necessarily associate conservatism with either the East Coast, the preppie-class, or Republicanism. William F. Buckley, Jr. and George Will may still command respect, but they are considered eccentric curiosities rather than exemplary models of conservative intelligentsia. X-Cons associate such elitism with liberalism and consider the GOP, rather than the Democrats, to be the party of the “little guy."
In short, Generation-X conservatives have little respect for experts or intellectuals.  That attitude is having consequences now as Brooks observes,
The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it. . . .
The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name. Economists have identified many factors that contribute to economic growth, ranging from the productivity of the work force to the share of private savings that is available for private investment. Tax levels matter, but they are far from the only or even the most important factor.
It's easy to see why a group with "little grasp of history" would "have no economic theory worthy of the name."  Further, a group that doubts scholars, considers intellectuals like Buckley a "curiosity," and believes that many opinions, including those screamed on talk radio, are the equivalent of those who have spent a lifetime studying a subject, will not listen to the adults warning them of the risks they're cavalierly taking

1 comment:

Curtis said...

i've said it before and say it again: teapot party is morons manipulated by the fascist right.