Having already posted my thoughts on the problems associated with the Republican Party adopting some ideology or message of “libertarian populism,” I will note in passing Ramesh Ponnuru’s succinct rejection of the idea that combining hostility to state subsidies for big businesses and other special interests with the traditional conservative hostility to state “redistributive” efforts on behalf of the needy will work electoral magic.
It was not until Monday that Tim Carney, a libertarian-populist writer (and a colleague of mine at the American Enterprise Institute), got around to publishing a manifesto for the group. It is a document that contains several good ideas — but not a viable political strategy for conservatives.
The main focus of Carney’s work is that big government and big business collude at the expense of the little guy, and he recommends that Republicans run against that collusion in order to win working-class votes. In particular he wants them to break up the big banks, end corporate-welfare programs, clean up the tax code so that powerful interests no longer profit from it, and end regulations that protect established businesses from competitors (regulations that stifle food trucks, for example). He would also cut the payroll tax and end government policies that favor employer-based health insurance.
I’m sympathetic to most of the items on Carney’s list — and those on the list that fellow populist Conn Carroll has compiled. Taken together, though, they do not seem to amount to a winning political platform. A Republican party that took on the U.S. Export-Import Bank might improve its image a bit, but how many Americans really care enough about the issue to change their votes based on it? Nor does freeing the food trucks seem like it would win many votes, however right it might be as a policy matter….
Cutting the payroll tax, unlike most of these ideas, would tangibly affect most people’s lives by raising their take-home pay. If Republicans proposed it, though, they would surely be accused of jeopardizing Social Security and Medicare, which seems like a rather large political defect. Other Carroll proposals, such as ending student loans and the mortgage deduction, seem likely to be unpopular even at first glance.
Republicans ought to propose conservative answers to the concerns that are uppermost on most voters’ minds. The libertarian-populist method seems to be to start with the solutions and then to imagine that voters have the relevant concerns. And while many of the proposed solutions have great potential appeal to conservative voters, few would do much to expand their ranks.
In other words, if you want to sell a political party highly resistant to change a “new” ideology of “populism,” it had better be popular. Because it’s not, you typically find Republicans taking the easier route of defending government programs that benefit their own constituencies against the claims of those people. I don’t think it’s a winning formula in the long run, but it’s more promising than pretending the voters Republicans need would be happier if government stayed out of their lives altogether.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 18, 2013
Over the weekend, the White House leaked word that President Obama will push a new debt-reduction idea: the “Buffett Rule.” Named after Warren Buffett, the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, who’s been urging policymakers to raise taxes on the very wealthy. As Buffett recently explained, millionaires and billionaires “have been coddled long enough.”
We don’t yet know the details of the proposal — most notably, what the new millionaires’ minimum tax rate would be — but Republicans are already responding with predictable disgust.
Here, for example, was House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) yesterday on Fox News, making the case for coddling millionaires and billionaires for a while longer. See if you can pick up on the subtlety of his talking points.
“Class warfare, Chris, may make for really good politics but it makes a rotten economics. We don’t need a system that seeks to divide people. […]
“[I]t looks like the president wants to move down the class warfare path. Class warfare will simply divide this country more. It will attack job creators, divide people and it doesn’t grow the economy. […]
“[I]f we are just going to do class warfare and trying to get tax increases out of this, and I don’t think much will come of it…. He’s in a political class warfare mode and campaign mode.”
So, I guess I’ll put him down as a “maybe” on the Buffett Rule?
By any reasonable measure, Ryan’s arguments aren’t just wrong, they’re borderline offensive.
For a generation, Republican policymakers have rigged national tax policy to reward the wealthy, and then reward them some more. We’ve seen the class gap reach Gilded Era levels, only to hear GOP officials again demand that working families “sacrifice” while lavishing more breaks on the very wealthy.
Remind me, who’s engaged in “class warfare” and “dividing people”?
Also note the larger policy context here. President Obama wants the richest of the rich to pay a little more, but keep tax breaks in place for the middle class. Paul Ryan and his cohorts want the polar opposite — more breaks for the very wealthy and higher taxes for the middle class.
Let’s also not forget that one of the GOP’s more common tax-policy arguments is that nearly half the country doesn’t have any federal income tax burden — and they see that as a problem that needs fixing. As a practical matter, the Republican argument on this is practically the definition of “class warfare.”
I realize much of the political establishment has come to look at Paul Ryan as a wise wonk who deserves to be taken seriously, but it really doesn’t take much to realize how spectacularly wrong the far-right Wisconsinite really is.
By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 19, 2011
CNN Online has publisheda story titled an “angry electorate helps sustain tea party,” ignoring the clear evidence the “movement” is only sustained by thinly-veiled religious zeal and wealthy funders like the Koch brothers.
Perhaps in an effort to avoid accusations of liberal bias, CNN Online parrots Tea Party spin, concluding the article by quoting a GOP strategist who states “The tea party is an organic movement that was largely created by people who were frustrated by Washington. . . There’s not much you can do about something that’s genuine, something that grew organically.” On the contrary, the tea party has been funded since its inception by the billionaire Koch brothers and other wealthy ideologues, and its events and gatherings have been orchestrated by corporate lobbyists.
Koch-funded Christian Right
Studies show that most people who now identify with the Tea Party were already highly partisan Republicans and identified with the religious right before the “movement” began. In the August 2010 New Yorker article lifting the veil on Tea Party funding, conservative economist Bruce Bartlett explained that “the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement,” and that they are “trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.” Tea Party handlers, then, harness the religious zeal of its members, allege they are motivated by Ayn Rand-inspired economic populism, and run candidates like Michele Bachmann who play down their extreme social conservatism in favor of an economic platform. And news outlets like CNN apparently continue to take the “grassroots movement” at face value.
Clearly Partisan Agenda
Matt Kibbe, longtime Republican operative and president of tea party group FreedomWorks, told CNN “we’re not a protest movement anymore; we’ve morphed into something else. We’re a get-out-the-vote machine. We’re organizing at the community level.”
Recently released recordings from the Koch brothers’ donor retreat in June, though, demonstrate that Tea Party events have always been aimed at electing Republicans. As Think Progress notes, Koch Industries executive and lobbyist Kevin Gentry described being “on the road” in 2010 for the Koch-funded “Americans for Prosperity’s last minute kind of get out the vote tours,” which he said was “a Tea Party AFP event designed to help in the Congressional races.” The specific “get out the vote” event Gentry referenced was in Congressman Paul Ryan‘s district.
CNN is co-sponsoring a GOP presidential debate with the Tea Party Express tonight.
By: Brendan Fischer, Center for Media and Democracy, September 12, 2011