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“The GOP Needs To Change”: Paul Ryan Just Revealed That The GOP Has Learned Nothing From Its Trump Debacle

Paul Ryan is, at least arguably, the leader of the Republican Party. He was the GOP’s vice-presidential nominee in 2012. He’s now speaker of the House of Representatives. And he remains the party’s unofficial wonk-in-chief.

So what lessons has the savvy, brainy Ryan drawn from the stunning ascent of Donald Trump, as the billionaire (probably) businessman closes in on the Republican presidential nomination?

Maybe none. Certainly none that suggest Ryan thinks the party needs a big change of direction.

In a CNBC interview on Thursday, reporter John Harwood repeatedly probed Ryan on what the rise of Trump means for the future of the GOP. Not only is Trump against many of the GOP’s traditional policy pillars — including free trade, immigration, and entitlement reform — but he is also attracting working-class voters who are equally skeptical of center-right economics as practiced in Washington.

To his great credit, Ryan insisted that he will continue to push for Social Security and Medicare fixes to prevent a future debt crisis. And he still supports the Pacific trade deal, noting that “America should be at the table, writing the rules of the global economy instead of China.”

All good stuff, as far as it goes. But at no point did Ryan acknowledge that the rise of Trumpism possibly signals a Republican agenda inadequate in meeting the anxieties and real struggles of middle- and working-class America. This exchange between Harwood and Ryan about the tax burden is illustrative:

Harwood: “On taxes, when your predecessor as Ways and Means chair, Dave Camp, came out with a comprehensive tax reform a few years ago, he adopted as a principle that it was going to be distributionally neutral. It wasn’t going to give an advantage to any group over the current system. Is that still a principle that you think is appropriate for the Republican tax agenda?”

Ryan: “So I do not like the idea of buying into these distributional tables. What you’re talking about is what we call static distribution. It’s a ridiculous notion. What it presumes is life in the economy is some fixed pie, and it’s not going to change. And it’s really up to government to redistribute the slices more equitably. That is not how the world works. That’s not how life works. You can shrink or expand the economy, and what we want to maximize is economic growth and upward mobility so that everybody can get a bigger slice of the pie.”

Harwood: “And you’re not worried that those blue-collar Republican voters, who are voting in the primaries right now, are going to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. You’re really taking care of people at the top more than you’re taking care of me.'”

Ryan: “I think most people don’t think, ‘John’s success comes at my expense.’ Or, ‘My success comes at your expense.’ People don’t think like that. People want to know the deck is fair. Bernie Sanders talks about that stuff. That’s not who we are.”

In other words, Republicans should keep deeply cutting taxes for the richest Americans — as part of across-the-board tax cuts — and not give any special preference to targeted or direct middle-class tax relief.

Not only does Ryan’s position clash with the Trumpist truths of 2016 — his position makes little sense from a policy standpoint. Analyses of the tax plans of the various GOP presidential candidates show their deep individual income tax cuts — such as slashing the top rate from 40 percent to 28 percent — would cost the most revenue while producing the least amount of economic growth. That 2014 big-bang tax reform plan by Camp would have likely increased the size of the economy by less than one percent over the next decade. And if you ask Silicon Valley about pro-growth policy, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are far more likely to mention burdensome regulation than income tax cuts.

Ryan’s professed politics are also dodgy. Most middle-class Americans seem to think they’re already paying their fair share in taxes. And a YouGov finding poll last year found 45 percent of Americans disagreed with the idea that lower taxes on the wealthy creates shared prosperity vs. 29 percent who agreed. Also, fair or not, voters see the GOP as the party of the rich. A recent Pew survey found 62 percent say the GOP favors the wealthy, compared to 26 percent who say it favors the middle class. And recall that in 2012, 81 percent of voters who wanted a president who empathized with them voted for Barack Obama.

The same middle class that does not trust the GOP on trade and immigration is also unlikely to trust them to reform Medicare and Social Security or the tax code. So maybe the GOP ought to listen to the recommendation of National Review editor Reihan Salam and take a break from tax cuts for households making over $250,000 a year. Even better: Use your political capital to formulate a middle-class agenda that acknowledges the challenges as well as the opportunities from globalization and technological change. This might mean expanded tax credits or payroll tax cuts for working-class families. Maybe even broad wage insurance for people who lose their jobs, whether to offshoring or the robots. Social Security reform that improved benefits for those at the bottom. And wouldn’t the GOP be better off if voters thought it was the party obsessed with making higher education a better value for students as opposed to cutting taxes at the top?

The GOP needs to change. If conservative reformers in Washington won’t do it, then populist outsiders like Donald Trump just might.

 

By: James Pethokoukis, The Week, March 18, 2016

March 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Uberize The Federal Government?”: Uber Isn’t A Model For Government, Despite What Republicans Argue

A couple of years ago, Republicans made no secret of their love for Uber – not just as a service, but as a model. “Republicans love Uber,” Politico noted. “The Republican Party is in love with Uber, and it wants to publicly display its affection all over the Internet,” National Journal added. Uber has become a “mascot” for Republicans “looking to promote a new brand of free market conservatism,” The Hill reported.

Vox noted late last week that John Kasich is making this affection for Uber a central rhetorical element of his struggling presidential campaign.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference [Friday], long-shot Republican presidential candidate John Kasich argued that we should “Uberize the federal government.”

Kasich didn’t go into much detail about what this means, but it’s a line that he’s been using for weeks on the campaign trail.

Much of this is symbolic, not substantive. Republican policymakers at the local level actually tend not to like Uber much at all, but at the national level, where presidential candidates tend to paint with broad brushes, the car-service technology has come to represent a breakthrough against regulations and against organized worker rights.

And with this in mind, when a presidential candidate like Kasich says he wants “Uberize the federal government,” it’s worth asking what in the world such a model might look like.

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman’s answer rings true.

Bear in mind that the federal government is best thought of as a giant insurance company with an army. Nondefense spending is dominated by Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and a few smaller social-insurance programs (now including the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act.) How, exactly, is an Uber-like model supposed to do anything to make that work better?

And don’t say it would remove the vast armies of bureaucrats. Administrative costs for those federal programs are actually quite low compared with the private sector, mainly because they’re not trying to deny coverage and don’t engage in competitive advertising.

If Kasich means anything, he means “privatize”, not Uberize – convert Social Security into a giant 401(k) plan, replace Medicare with vouchers. But that wouldn’t poll very well, would it?

No, it wouldn’t. Uber is popular with voters Republicans are trying to reach, so it’s become a vehicle (no pun intended) for conservative policy goals the party has long wanted anyway – only now GOP candidates can wrap unpopular ideas in a tech-friendly package.

Of course, Kasich isn’t alone on this front: Marco Rubio has been eagerly touting the service for years, while Ted Cruz last year described himself as the Uber of Washington, D.C.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Federal Government, John Kasich, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Is It Okay To Exploit Fear?”: Deliberately Increasing People’s Sense Of Insecurity To Make Them Vote For You

When I saw that President Obama had remote-psychoanalyzed Trump voters, I knew that the right would go crazy and say that it reminded them of his infamous bitter-clinger comments from 2008. At this point, it’s Pavlovian. What I saw from right-wing blogger Tom Maguire was a little unexpected, however.

He took a screenshot of the New York Times headline, which read: Obama Accuses Trump of Exploiting Working-Class Fears. And then he posed a rhetorical question for all of us:

The headline is baffling – exploiting fears is now a political no-no? – and shows a failure of nerve somewhere in the editorial process.

For a moment it was me who was baffled. It took a second to process what exactly Maguire was getting at. To me, “exploiting fears” is a moral failing. Full stop.

For Maguire, exploiting fears is a given in the political process and unworthy of notice.

At first, I was offended. Then I realized that we’re both probably correct in our own way, but with limitations.

I’m sure if I challenged him, Maguire would recite countless examples of Democratic politicians exploiting the fears of the electorate. These would be fears about the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, or fears about NSA surveillance, or fears about grandma losing her Medicare or Social Security. No doubt, talking about the bad things that may result if the other party wins is a core element of all political campaigning, and it always has been.

I think this is different in kind, though, than using fear itself as a political tool. It’s hard to draw a hard line, and it’s partly about the merit of the threat you’re talking about. Jim Geraghty tried to get at the distinction in a piece he just wrote at the National Review that complains about Democratic accusations of fear-mongering.

…all of other threats that we’re told are more likely to kill us than a terrorist — other drivers, the ladder at home, the stove, the local swimming pool – aren’t deliberately trying to kill us.

…You may fall off your ladder while putting up the Christmas lights on the roof, but it’s not like there’s a sinister group, al-Laddera, plotting to wobble when you’re leaning over to put that last string up above the gutter. There’s not much the government can do to stop you from falling off a ladder, other than PSAs saying “be careful!” But there’s an awful lot the government can do to target terrorists and mitigate the threat they present.

In other words, for Geraghty, it’s legitimate to continually alarm the electorate about a very low-probability threat to their personal safety because there is at least something the government can do to minimize that threat.

For me, though, the responsible thing to do as a political leader is to calm people’s fears both so that they won’t be needlessly or disproportionately afraid and so that they don’t freak out and make unreasonable demands on their political leaders.

What’s really bad, in my opinion, is to deliberately increase people’s sense of insecurity not primarily so that they will demand policies to keep them safe but to make them more inclined to vote for you and your political party. Making people afraid for political gain is cynical and almost cruel.

So, naturally, I see it as dubious when someone like Donald Trump ramps up people’s anxieties and provides nothing solid as actual policy prescriptions. To me, that’s totally different than arguing that electing Hillary Clinton will result in a Supreme Court less inclined to overturn Roe v. Wade or energy policies less favorable to coal. You can scare and motivate people to vote based on accurate information. That’s not a political no-no, and it never has been.

But “exploiting” fears is a little different, especially when part of your pitch is to create fear when none ought to exist (“The president is a secret Muslim”) or to ramp fear up beyond any rational level, which is what the terrorism vs. wobbly ladder comparison is meant to illuminate.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 22, 2015

December 23, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fearmongering, Politicians, Terrorism | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Angrier And More Toxic”: Donald Trump And The Revenge Of The Radical Center

The GOP may soon recover from the Donald Trump scare. Despite his maddeningly persistent lead in the polls, Trump isn’t building the normal campaign operations that are usually needed to win. He won’t get key endorsements. His voters may be the ones least likely to be active. It’s unclear how much, if any, of his fortune he’s willing to spend on advertising himself.

Nonetheless, Trump’s continued presence in the race is a danger to other viable candidates. Trump’s campaign may discredit the party in the eyes of many voters who are disgusted with Trump’s presence in the GOP, or other voters who are disgusted with the treatment of Trump’s supporters by the party apparatus.

And that brings us to the big lesson the GOP should take from the entire Trump affair: There is another side to the Republican Party, one that the GOP has tried to ignore, and can ignore no longer. It’s a side of the party that has learned to distrust its leaders on immigration, to be suspicious of a turbo-charged capitalism that threatens their way of life. And it may be a side of the party that is needed to return the GOP to presidential victories. It is the forgotten part of the Nixon-Reagan coalition. And by being ignored, it has turned angrier and more toxic.

The winning Republican coalition may still be the Nixon and Reagan coalition, old as it is. This is a coalition that includes conservatism, and is “anti-left,” certainly. But it also includes a huge number of people to whom the dogmas of conservatism are as foreign to their experience as Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville. The piece of the Nixon coalition that Trump has activated cares not for the ordered liberty of conservatism, nor the egalitarian project of progressivism. It cares about fairness, and just rewards for work and loyalty. There is nothing moderate about it. This is the radical center. And it explains why when Trump’s support is measured, it is almost always found to be strongest among “moderate” or “liberal” Republicans.

These are the voters who hate modern, tight-suited, Democratic-style liberalism not because it offends God, but because it is “killing” the America they knew. It threatens their jobs with globalization and immigration. They hate tassle-loafered right-wingers who flippantly tell them to get retrained in computers at age 58, and warn that Medicare might be cut. They built their lives around promises that have been broken and revoked over the past two decades. Trump looks like their savior. Someone who can’t be bought by the people who downsized them. Or at least, he is their revenge.

It is frustrating for most conservatives to take Trump seriously as a presidential candidate. He’s a ridiculous troll. He talks about renegotiating the global order with China based on “feel.” He also says he can “feel” terrorism about to strike, perhaps the way an arthritic can feel a storm coming. This is idiotic. But the Republican Party needs to learn a lesson from it. And learn it fast. Few have Trump’s resources, his can’t-look-away persona, or his absurdly high Q-rating among reality TV viewers. But many are watching him divide the GOP in twain, on issues like trade, jobs, and immigration. It would be surprising if no one tried to campaign on his mix of issues again after seeing his success.

This should have been obvious from the politics of the past two decades. Pat Buchanan’s challenge to the GOP in the mid-1990s focused on some of the same issues, though Buchanan was also a tub-thumping social conservative. Buchanan won four states in 1996, while suffering the same taunts about fascism that are now aimed at Trump. His race was premised on finding the “conservatives of the heart.” His 1992 convention speech begged Republicans to get in touch with “our people” who “don’t read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke,” like the “hearty” mill worker of New Hampshire who told Buchanan, “Save our jobs.”

And it is not just populists. Even conservative wonks have been warning for years that the GOP was offering little of economic substance to their base of voters, save for the vain hope of transforming them into an ersatz investor class by privatizing Social Security, and making them manage health savings accounts. In the mid-2000s, there was the plea for a new Sam’s Club Republicanism, a harbinger of the so-called reform conservatism to come later. This was an attempt to connect with the middle American voter, really the Trump voter.

Republicans need to understand this not just to repair their coalition, but to head off Trump in the here and now. Flying banners over his rallies that say, “Trump will raise your taxes” is counterproductive. His supporters correctly perceive the burden of higher taxes will likely fall on those who already have more than they do. Similarly, all the attacks on Trump’s cronyism, or his relationships with Democrats, will fail as well. His supporters are weakly attached to the Republican Party. They won’t blame him for being the same way.

Trump’s candidacy is teaching the GOP that it has to deliver for voters who feel economic insecurity. If they don’t, the radical middle will rise not just to embarrass them, but to wound them as well.

 

By: Michael Brendan Dougherty; The Week, November 30, 2015

December 5, 2015 Posted by | Conservatism, GOP | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Marco Rubio Has An Arithmetic Problem”: Anyone With Access To A Calculator Should Recognize Just What A Joke This Scheme Is

At first blush, it’s tempting to see Marco Rubio’s economic plan as a dog-bites-man story: Republican presidential campaign proposes massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, even while saying the opposite. The Florida senator isn’t alone on this front, and it all seems sadly predictable.

But in this case, there’s more to it. Even if you’re unmoved by Rubio’s odd inability to handle his own personal finances in a responsible way, the way he intends to deal with the nation’s finances as president is arguably a national disqualifier.

The trouble started in earnest at the last debate for Republicans presidential candidates – the one pundits decided was a triumph for Rubio – when CNBC’s John Harwood pressed the Florida senator on his tax-cut plan.

HARWOOD: The Tax Foundation, which was alluded to earlier, scored your tax plan and concluded that you give nearly twice as much of a gain in after-tax income to the top 1 percent as to people in the middle of the income scale. Since you’re the champion of Americans living paycheck-to- paycheck, don’t you have that backward?

 RUBIO: No, that’s – you’re wrong.

It turns out, analysis from both the left and right scrutinized Rubio’s plan and found that he was completely wrong. I can’t say whether he was deliberately trying to deceive viewers or simply unaware of the details of his own policy, but in either case, the senator’s claims were false.

In the days that followed, scrutiny of Rubio’s plan intensified. Vox’s Dylan Matthews talked directly to Rubio staffers and discovered that the senator’s plan includes even more generous tax breaks for the top 1% than Jeb Bush’s and Donald Trump’s plans. An analysis for Citizens for Tax Justice also found that the bulk of the benefits in the Rubio plan would go to the very, very wealthy.

Indeed, New York’s Jon Chait added, “Rubio’s proposal deliberately provides some benefits to Americans of modest income, which means that its enormous tax cuts for the very rich come alongside some pretty decent-size tax cuts for the rest of us. All told, Rubio’s plan would reduce federal revenue by $11.8 trillion over the next decade. The entire Bush tax cuts cost about $3.4 trillion over a decade, making the Rubio tax cuts more than three times as costly.”

It’s against this backdrop that Rubio has also proposed a vast expansion of the U.S. military, while leaving Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees untouched.

In any version of reality in which arithmetic exists, Rubio’s plan is simply indefensible. Massive tax breaks for the rich, coupled with significant increases in military spending, leads to ballooning budget deficits. It’s not theoretical – we tried this in the Bush/Cheney era and it led to predictable results that we’re still trying to address.

The difference is, Rubio wants tax cuts that are triple the size of the ones created by George W. Bush and Dick “Deficits Don’t Matter” Cheney.

As this relates to the 2016 race, the central problem relates to policy: Rubio’s numbers don’t, and can’t, add up. Anyone with access to a calculator should recognize just what a joke this scheme is.

But the other problem is what we’re learning about Rubio as a candidate. There is, like it or not, a character aspect to presidential hopefuls’ platforms – because they offer Americans an opportunity to learn about candidates’ honesty, priorities, values, and candor. The Florida senator who talks about his ability to appeal to maids and bartenders has gone to almost comical lengths to craft a plan that benefits CEOs and hedge-fund managers, all while pretending to be an expert on fiscal responsibility.

Marco Rubio’s economic plan tells us something important about his candidacy, and it’s not flattering.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 9, 2015

November 10, 2015 Posted by | Economic Policy, Marco Rubio, Tax Policy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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