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“I’ve Seen America’s Future And It’s Not Republican”: The Policy Vacuum Of Movement Conservatism

It is true that the media is having a bit of a feeding frenzy in their attempt to “vet” the latest front-runner in the Republican presidential nominating contest – Ben Carson. But in the midst of all that, this line from a column by Amy Davidson stood out to me:

A certain number of Republicans turned to Carson because the other candidates seemed even less plausible to them.

That was basically my reaction to the last GOP presidential debate. Initially, I looked forward to John Kasich’s attempt to come out swinging against the rhetoric he called “crazy.” But when he actually did it, all he had to offer as an alternative were the same-old Republican policies of tax cuts and a balanced budget (i.e., the “voodoo economics” of trickle-down) that were completely discredited during the Bush/Cheney years. That’s when I realized why the so-called “establishment candidates” haven’t been able to gain any traction against the rabble-rousers…they’ve got nothing.

That is basically the same conclusion reached by “movement conservative refugee” Michael Lind.

Why isn’t the old-time conservative religion working to fire people up any more? Maybe the reason is that it’s really, really old. So old it’s decrepit.

Lind goes on to talk about the birth of the modern conservative movement 60 years ago with the founding of the National Review by William F. Buckley, Jr. That was followed by Barry Goldwater’s failed presidential candidacy and Ronald Reagan’s eventual success. But by then, the strains were beginning to show.

Yet by the 1980s, movement conservatism was running out of steam. Its young radicals had mellowed into moderate statesman. By the 1970s, Buckley and his fellow conservatives had abandoned the radical idea of “rollback” in the Cold War and made their peace with the more cautious Cold War liberal policy of containment. In the 1960s, Reagan denounced Social Security and Medicare as tyrannical, but as president he did not try to repeal and replace these popular programs. When he gave up the confrontational evil-empire rhetoric of his first term toward the Soviet Union and negotiated an end to the Cold War with Mikhail Gorbachev in his second term, many conservatives felt betrayed…

Indeed, it’s fair to say that the three great projects of the post-1955 right—repealing the New Deal, ultrahawkishness (first anti-Soviet, then pro-Iraq invasion) and repealing the sexual/culture revolution—have completely failed. Not only that, they are losing support among GOP voters.

Lind suggests that this should have resulted in “an intellectual reformation on the American right in the 1990s.” But instead, Buckley-Goldwater-Reagan conservatism returned in an even more radical form in the 2000’s. The result was 2 failed wars in the Middle East, huge federal deficits and the Great Recession. And once again, rather than engage in an intellectual reformation, establishment conservatives initially embraced the post-policy strategy of obstruction and eventually drilled down even farther on the failed policies of the past.

Combine all that with fear-mongering about changing demographics/social mores and heated talk about a “world on fire” and you get a policy vacuum that has been filled by the likes of candidates like Trump and Carson.

It is impossible to know with any certainty how all this will play out. But unless/until conservatives come to grips with their own policy failures and re-think their whole ideological foundation (i.e., incorporate some of their own advice about personal responsibility rather than blaming others), I’d say that Stan Greenberg is right when he says, “I’ve seen America’s future – and it’s not Republican.”

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, November 7, 2015

November 8, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Conservatism, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Zombies Of 2016”: As Far As Issues Go, 2016 Is Already Set Up To Be The Election Of The Living Dead

Last week, a zombie went to New Hampshire and staked its claim to the Republican presidential nomination. Well, O.K., it was actually Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. But it’s pretty much the same thing.

You see, Mr. Christie gave a speech in which he tried to position himself as a tough-minded fiscal realist. In fact, however, his supposedly tough-minded policy idea was a classic zombie — an idea that should have died long ago in the face of evidence that undermines its basic premise, but somehow just keeps shambling along.

But let us not be too harsh on Mr. Christie. A deep attachment to long-refuted ideas seems to be required of all prominent Republicans. Whoever finally gets the nomination for 2016 will have multiple zombies as his running mates.

Start with Mr. Christie, who thought he was being smart and brave by proposing that we raise the age of eligibility for both Social Security and Medicare to 69. Doesn’t this make sense now that Americans are living longer?

No, it doesn’t. This whole line of argument should have died in 2007, when the Social Security Administration issued a report showing that almost all the rise in life expectancy has taken place among the affluent. The bottom half of workers, who are precisely the Americans who rely on Social Security most, have seen their life expectancy at age 65 rise only a bit more than a year since the 1970s. Furthermore, while lawyers and politicians may consider working into their late 60s no hardship, things look somewhat different to ordinary workers, many of whom still have to perform manual labor.

And while raising the retirement age would impose a great deal of hardship, it would save remarkably little money. In fact, a 2013 report from the Congressional Budget Office found that raising the Medicare age would save almost no money at all.

But Mr. Christie — like Jeb Bush, who quickly echoed his proposal — evidently knows none of this. The zombie ideas have eaten his brain.

And there are plenty of other zombies out there. Consider, for example, the zombification of the debate over health reform.

Before the Affordable Care Act went fully into effect, conservatives made a series of dire predictions about what would happen when it did. It would actually reduce the number of Americans with health insurance; it would lead to “rate shock,” as premiums soared; it would cost the government far more than projected, and blow up the deficit; it would be a huge job-destroyer.

In reality, the act has produced a dramatic drop in the number of uninsured adults; premiums have grown much more slowly than in the years before reform; the law’s cost is coming in well below projections; and 2014, the first year of full implementation, also had the best job growth since 1999.

So how has this changed the discourse? On the right, not at all. As far as I can tell, every prominent Republican talks about Obamacare as if all the predicted disasters have, in fact, come to pass.

Finally, one of the interesting political developments of this election cycle has been the triumphant return of voodoo economics, the “supply-side” claim that tax cuts for the rich stimulate the economy so much that they pay for themselves.

In the real world, this doctrine has an unblemished record of failure. Despite confident right-wing predictions of doom, neither the Clinton tax increase of 1993 nor the Obama tax increase of 2013 killed the economy (far from it), while the “Bush boom” that followed the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 was unimpressive even before it ended in financial crisis. Kansas, whose governor promised a “real live experiment” that would prove supply-side doctrine right, has failed even to match the growth of neighboring states.

In the world of Republican politics, however, voodoo’s grip has never been stronger. Would-be presidential candidates must audition in front of prominent supply-siders to prove their fealty to failed doctrine. Tax proposals like Marco Rubio’s would create a giant hole in the budget, then claim that this hole would be filled by a miraculous economic upsurge. Supply-side economics, it’s now clear, is the ultimate zombie: no amount of evidence or logic can kill it.

So why has the Republican Party experienced a zombie apocalypse? One reason, surely, is the fact that most Republican politicians represent states or districts that will never, ever vote for a Democrat, so the only thing they fear is a challenge from the far right. Another is the need to tell Big Money what it wants to hear: a candidate saying anything realistic about Obamacare or tax cuts won’t survive the Sheldon Adelson/Koch brothers primary.

Whatever the reasons, the result is clear. Pundits will try to pretend that we’re having a serious policy debate, but, as far as issues go, 2016 is already set up to be the election of the living dead.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 24, 2015

April 27, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Lying To Your Face”: Republicans Don’t Care About The Deficit. Just Look At Scott Walker

Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker is almost certain to run for president. He’s got two blue state election victories under his belt, ravening anti-union bona fides, and a record that would make him the most conservative presidential candidate in at least 50 years. Best of all, he’s got a pleasant, mild demeanor — none of the bug-eyed nutcase affect of other right-wingers.

However, he’s recently run into some budget troubles. Back in 2013, Wisconsin had a sizable budget surplus. Walker did what conservatives always do: he passed $2 billion in tax cuts heavily weighted towards the rich, blowing through the entire surplus and then some. Now he’s resorting to financial chicanery to avoid default:

Scott Walker, facing a $283 million deficit that needs to be closed by the end of June, will skip more than $100 million in debt payments to balance the books thrown into disarray by his tax cuts. [Bloomberg]

Whether Walker — who has surrounded himself with Ronald Reagan’s crackpot voodoo economists — can talk his way out of this will be a big political question. But this does demonstrate a fundamental truth of American politics: conservatives don’t care, at all, about deficits or debt. They use deficit concern trolling as a convenient excuse to cut social insurance and other benefits. But when it comes down to brass tacks, they choose larger deficits, not smaller.

To be clear, Walker’s move is perfectly legal. But it’s just a delaying tactic, and it will cost more in the future. Per Bloomberg‘s analysis, it will increase debt service payments “by $545,000 in the next budget year, which starts July 1, and by $18.7 million in the one after that.”

Kansas’ Sam Brownback, another Republican governor, did the exact same thing to his state. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another possible 2016 contender, has the same problems as Walker, only worse — his budget hole is $1.6 billion. He passed massive tax cuts early in his term, and has spent the rest of the time cutting services, especially higher education, to the bone in a desperate, futile bid to make up the shortfall. He won’t rescind the tax cuts, of course.

And when collapsing oil revenues turned the budget problem into a full-blown crisis, Jindal began raiding every change jar in the state to keep Louisiana from defaulting outright, including selling state property and burning through all manner of special reserve funds.

The Republican Party has gone precisely nowhere on fiscal policy since 2000, when President George W. Bush pulled this exact same trick. He took the Clinton surplus and spent it on tax cuts for the rich. The following eight years, incidentally, resulted in the worst economic performance since Herbert Hoover.

Policy-wise, there isn’t that much to learn from this, other than conservatives produce absolutely atrocious economic policy. But we already knew that.

However, there are two political lessons. For liberals, very much including President Obama, it implies that any hard work done reducing the budget deficit will be immediately negated the moment Republicans get a chance. All of Obama’s cherished deficit reduction — accomplished at gruesome cost to the American people — will go straight to the 1 percent if Walker (or Jindal, or Jeb Bush) is elected.

Second, for paid-up members of the centrist austerity cult, who worship a falling deficit like some kind of fetish object, realize that Republicans are lying to your face. If you genuinely care about the deficit, the GOP is not going to deliver.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, February 20, 2015

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Deficits, GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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