On Friday, Texas senator and likely 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) took some heat when Mother Jones reported that the right-wing Republican once offered a resolute defense of the 2009 stimulus law that he now derides as an archetypal government overreach. As a private-practice lawyer representing the Texas Retired Teachers Association, Cruz declared that stimulus money “will directly impact the [Texas] economy…and will directly further the greater purpose of economic recovery for America.” But today, he considers the law to be a failure.
Cruz is far from the first Republican to change his mind on an issue championed by the White House. Here are five policies that high-profile Republicans loved — until President Obama came along.
Since before it even became law, Republicans have decried the Affordable Care Act as a job-killing, freedom-crushing abomination. But the right wasn’t always so vehemently opposed to the law’s underlying ideas, like the health care exchanges, the individual mandate, and Medicaid expansion. In fact, they were developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, and favored by many Republican politicians.
As recently as 2008, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney considered his health care law — which was largely the inspiration for Obama’s — to be “the ultimate conservative plan,” and a “model” for the rest of the nation. But with Obama in the White House, that didn’t last.
Today, Republicans widely agree that the Common Core education standards are a hostile, oppressive government takeover of the education system. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has compared Common Core to “centralized planning” in the Soviet Union. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) derides it as “the Obamacare of education.” Senator Cruz has vowed to repeal it (even though it’s not a law passed by Congress). State Representative Charles Van Zant (R-FL) warns that it will “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can.”
But before Republicans began associating the new educational guidelines with the Obama administration (and, by extension, gay communism), they were quite fond of them. After all, Common Core takes after George W. Bush’s education policy, was introduced by the bipartisan National Governors Association, and at one point was adopted by 46 states. Even the aforementioned Jindal, now a leader of the anti-Common Core push, once defended it by promising that his state would not “move one inch off more rigorous and higher standards for our kids.”
Cap And Trade
Before Barack Obama became president, public officials broadly agreed that climate change was a real problem that required a serious policy response. Newt Gingrich even sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi to talk about it( http://youtu.be/qi6n_-wB154).
Many Republicans agreed that cap and trade, which was developed by a “strange alliance of free-market Republicans and renegade environmentalists,” was the solution that combined the most economic and environmental benefits. In fact, almost every Republican candidate in 2012 backed the plan — until they decided to run against Obama, at which point they reflexively turned against it.
Today, carbon limits remain unpopular on the right, where they are falsely considered to be a job-killing abomination.
When President Obama released his 2016 budget plan, congressional Republicans reacted as they often do to his proposals: by attacking it for failing to close the budget deficit.
“While Washington is still racking up debt, this budget doesn’t even try to balance the books,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy complained. “In fact, despite the best efforts of Republicans over the past four years to rein in spending and cut the deficit, this budget would erase all those gains over the 10-year budget horizon by increasing the deficit and adding even more to the debt. Our children and grandchildren can’t afford such recklessness.”
But back during the Bush administration, McCarthy and his fellow Republicans didn’t seem to mind budgets that never balanced; that’s why they voted for deficit-busting plans like the Bush tax cuts or the Iraq War, among many others.
Indeed, the Republican Party’s pre-Obama attitude towards balancing the budget can be best summed up by former vice president Dick Cheney: “Deficits don’t matter.” There’s a pretty good case that he was right — but don’t expect any Republican to make the argument while Obama is in the White House.
For years, many Republicans have agreed that the United States desperately needs to reform its immigration laws. In 2013, the Senate even passed a rare bipartisan bill which would strengthen border security and establish a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants who are already in the country. In other words, it closely mirrored President Obama’s goals. And that became a major problem for many Republicans. For example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted against the 2013 bill despite having supported similar measures in 1986 and 2006.
But no Republican illustrates President Obama’s effect on the GOP better than Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Rubio helped craft the 2013 bill in the first place, arguing that the issue is a question of human rights. But a year later, he had abandoned his plans — because “the Obama administration has ‘undermined’ negotiations by not defunding his signature health care law.”
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, February 13, 2015
“It’s Time For The Right Wing To Stop Lying”: Six Studies That Show Everything Republicans Believe Is Wrong
The great 20th-century economist John Maynard Keynes has been widely quoted as saying, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” Sadly, in their quest to concentrate economic and political power in the hands of the wealthiest members of society, today’s Republicans have held the opposite position – as the evidence has piled up against them, they continue spreading the same myths. Here are six simple facts about the economy that Republicans just can’t seem to accept:
1. The Minimum Wage Doesn’t Kill Jobs.
The Republican story on the minimum wage takes the inordinately complex interactions of the market and makes them absurdly simple. Raise the price of labor through a minimum wage, they claim, and employers will hire fewer workers. But that’s not how it works. In the early Nineties, David Card and Alan Krueger found “no evidence that the rise in New Jersey’s minimum wage reduced employment at fast-food restaurants in the state.” Since then, international, national and state-level studies have replicated these findings – most recently in a study by three Berkeley economists. Catherine Ruetschlin, a policy analyst at Demos, has argued that a higher minimum wage would actually “boost the national economy” by giving workers more money to spend on goods and services. The most comprehensive meta-study of the minimum wage examined 64 studies and found “little or no evidence” that a higher minimum wage reduces employment. There is however, evidence that a higher minimum wage lifts people out of poverty. Raise away!
2. The Stimulus Created Millions of Jobs.
In the aftermath of the 2007 recession, President Obama invested in a massive stimulus. The Republican belief that markets are always good and government is always bad led them to argue that diverting resources to the public sector this way would have disastrous results. They were wrong: The stimulus worked, with the most reliable studies finding that it created millions of jobs. The fact that government stimulus works – long denied by Republicans (at least, when Democrats are in office) – is a consensus among economists, with only 4 percent arguing that unemployment would have been lower without the stimulus and only 12 percent arguing that the costs outweigh the benefits.
3. Taxing The Rich Doesn’t Hurt Economic Growth.
Republicans believe that the wealthy are the vehicles of economic growth. Starting with Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, they tried cutting taxes on the rich in order to unleash latent economic potential. But even the relatively conservative Martin Feldstein has acknowledged that investment is driven by demand, not supply; if there are viable investments to be made, they will be made regardless of tax rates, and if there are no investments to be made, cutting taxes is merely pushing on a string. Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, two of the eminent economists of inequality, find no correlation between marginal tax rates and economic growth.
In fact, what hurts economic growth most isn’t high taxes – it’s inequality. Two recent IMF papers confirm what Keynesian economists like Joseph Stiglitz have long argued: Inequality reduces the incomes of the middle class, and therefore demand, which in turn stunts growth. To understand why, imagine running a car dealership. Would you prefer if 1 person in your time owned 99% of the wealth and the rest of the population had nothing, or if wealth was distributed more equally, so that more people could purchase your cars?
Every other country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has far lower levels of inequality than the United States. Since there are no economic benefits of inequality, why hasn’t the right conceded the argument? Because it’s based on class interest, not empirical evidence.
4. Global Warming is Caused by Humans.
Even as global warming is linked to more and more extreme weather events, more than 56 percent of Republicans in the current congress deny man-made global warming. In fact, the infamous Lutz memo shows that Republicans have actually created a concerted campaign to undermine the science of global warming. In the leaked memo, Frank Lutz, a Republican consultant, argues that, “The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science.”
In truth, the science of global warming is not up for debate. James Powell finds that over a one year period, 2,258 articles on global warming were published by 9,136 authors. Of those, only one, from the Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, rejected man-made global warming. That one article was likely motivated by the Russian government’s interest in exploiting arctic shale. Another, even more comprehensive study, examining 11,944 studies over a 10-year period, finds that 97 percent of scientists accepted the scientific consensus that man-made global warming is occurring.
This is not an abstract academic debate. The effects of climate change will be devastating, and poor countries will be hurt the worst. We’ve already seen the results. Studies have linked global warming to Hurricane Sandy, droughts and other extreme weather events. More importantly, doing nothing will end up being far more expensive than acting now. One study suggests it could wipe out 3.2% of global GDP annually.
5. The Affordable Care Act is Working
President Obama’s centrist healthcare bill was informed by federalism (delegating power to the states) and proven technocratic reforms (like a board to help doctors discern which treatments would be most cost-effective). Republicans, undeterred, decried it as Soviet-style communism based on “death panels” – never mind the fact that the old system, which rationed care based on income, is the one that left tens of thousands of uninsured people to die.
From the beginning, Republicans have predicted disastrous consequences or Obamacare, none of which came true. They predicted that the ACA would add to the deficit; in fact, it will reduce the deficit. They claimed the exchanges would fail to attract the uninsured; they met their targets. They said only old people would sign up; the young came out in the same rates as in Massachusetts. They predicted the ACA would drive up healthcare costs; in fact it is likely holding cost inflation down, although it’s still hard to discern how much of the slowdown was due to the recession. In total, the ACA will ensure that 26 million people have insurance in 2024 who would have been uninsured otherwise.
It’s worth noting that every time the CBO estimates how much Obamacare will cost, the number gets lower. Odd how we’ve never heard Republicans say that.
6. Rich people are no better than the rest of us.
Politicians on the right like to pretend that having money is a sign of hard work and morality – and that not having money is a sign of laziness. This story is contradicted by human experience and many religious traditions (Jesus tells a graphic story about a rich man who refused to help the poor burning in hell). But it’s also contradicted by the facts – more and more rich people are getting their money through inheritances, and science shows that they are no more benevolent than others.
More and more, the wealthy in America are second or third generation. For instance, the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, own more wealth than the poorest 40 million Americans. Thomas Philippon and Ariell Reshef have found that 30 to 50 percent of the wage difference between the ﬁnancial sector and the rest of the private sector was due to unearned “rent,” or money they gained through manipulating markets. Josh Bivens and Larry Mishel found the same thing for CEOs – their increased pay hasn’t been correlated to performance.
If rich people haven’t really earned their money, are they at least doing any good with it? Studies find that the wealthy actually give less to charity as a proportion of their income than middle-class Americans, even though they can afford more. Worse, they use their supposed philanthropy to avoid taxes and finance pet projects. Research by Paul Piff finds that the wealthy are far more likely to exhibit narcissistic tendencies. “The rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people,” Piff recently told New York magazine. “It makes them more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.”
By: Sean McElwee, Rolling Stone, April 23, 2014
There don’t seem to be any major economic crises underway right this moment, and policy makers in many places are patting themselves on the back. In Europe, for example, they’re crowing about Spain’s recovery: the country seems set to grow at least twice as fast this year as previously forecast.
Unfortunately, that means growth of 1 percent, versus 0.5 percent, in a deeply depressed economy with 55 percent youth unemployment. The fact that this can be considered good news just goes to show how accustomed we’ve grown to terrible economic conditions. We’re doing worse than anyone could have imagined a few years ago, yet people seem increasingly to be accepting this miserable situation as the new normal.
How did this happen? There were multiple reasons, of course. But I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately, in part because I’ve been asked to discuss a new assessment of Japan’s efforts to break out of its deflation trap. And I’d argue that an important source of failure was what I’ve taken to calling the timidity trap — the consistent tendency of policy makers who have the right ideas in principle to go for half-measures in practice, and the way this timidity ends up backfiring, politically and even economically.
In other words, Yeats had it right: the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
About the worst: If you’ve been following economic debates these past few years, you know that both America and Europe have powerful pain caucuses — influential groups fiercely opposed to any policy that might put the unemployed back to work. There are some important differences between the U.S. and European pain caucuses, but both now have truly impressive track records of being always wrong, never in doubt.
Thus, in America, we have a faction both on Wall Street and in Congress that has spent five years and more issuing lurid warnings about runaway inflation and soaring interest rates. You might think that the failure of any of these dire predictions to come true would inspire some second thoughts, but, after all these years, the same people are still being invited to testify, and are still saying the same things.
Meanwhile, in Europe, four years have passed since the Continent turned to harsh austerity programs. The architects of these programs told us not to worry about adverse impacts on jobs and growth — the economic effects would be positive, because austerity would inspire confidence. Needless to say, the confidence fairy never appeared, and the economic and social price has been immense. But no matter: all the serious people say that the beatings must continue until morale improves.
So what has been the response of the good guys?
For there are good guys out there, people who haven’t bought into the notion that nothing can or should be done about mass unemployment. The Obama administration’s heart — or, at any rate, its economic model — is in the right place. The Federal Reserve has pushed back against the springtime-for-Weimar, inflation-is-coming crowd. The International Monetary Fund has put out research debunking claims that austerity is painless. But these good guys never seem willing to go all-in on their beliefs.
The classic example is the Obama stimulus, which was obviously underpowered given the economy’s dire straits. That’s not 20/20 hindsight. Some of us warned right from the beginning that the plan would be inadequate — and that because it was being oversold, the persistence of high unemployment would end up discrediting the whole idea of stimulus in the public mind. And so it proved.
What’s not as well known is that the Fed has, in its own way, done the same thing. From the start, monetary officials ruled out the kinds of monetary policies most likely to work — in particular, anything that might signal a willingness to tolerate somewhat higher inflation, at least temporarily. As a result, the policies they have followed have fallen short of hopes, and ended up leaving the impression that nothing much can be done.
And the same may be true even in Japan — the case that motivated this article. Japan has made a radical break with past policies, finally adopting the kind of aggressive monetary stimulus Western economists have been urging for 15 years and more. Yet there’s still a diffidence about the whole business, a tendency to set things like inflation targets lower than the situation really demands. And this increases the risk that Japan will fail to achieve “liftoff” — that the boost it gets from the new policies won’t be enough to really break free from deflation.
You might ask why the good guys have been so timid, the bad guys so self-confident. I suspect that the answer has a lot to do with class interests. But that will have to be a subject for another column.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 20, 2014