Thursday, June 30, 2011

GOP Politicians and Policy Basics

What really gets me worried about the debt limit situation, as I said over at Greg's place today, is the possibility that more than a few Republican Members of the House really believe their own rhetoric -- that failing to raise the limit is actually no big deal.

More broadly, I wonder just how little Republican Members are just not really up to speed on policy basics. Not that they would be the first group in Congressional history to have little idea of what they were talking about...there have been plenty of backbench Members who couldn't last twenty minutes talking about policy. But this group isn't your grandparents backbenchers. They appear to be, as Susan Davis reports, unusually unwilling to trust their own leadership. It's one thing if the bottom 25% of the majority party in the House is made up of policy illiterates who are willing to vote with the leadership in exchange for the things they want to keep them re-elected. It's quite another if that bottom 25% are a bunch of policy illiterates who, at the same time, believes it's best to think for themselves on every vote.

What I'd love to know? How many Members of the House Republican Conference have any idea at all of what ACA -- what they call "Obamacare" -- actually consists of. I don't mean the details; I mean a broad outline: exchanges, subsidies. Hey, maybe they really are reasonably well-informed; just because politicians use over-the-top or focus-group-tested rhetoric certainly doesn't prove that they really believe that junk. But I'd love to know.


  1. the possibility that more than a few Republican Members of the House really believe their own rhetoric

    At this point, isn't it a bit more than a mere "possibility"?

    Remember, these are the same people who believe that global warming is a giant hoax and the Earth was created 6,000 years ago. Why wouldn't they sincerely believe that what this nation needs is a good, hard default?

    And after default happens, and the economic shit hits the fan, and millions more people lose their jobs, and revenue plummets ... well, what do you think will happen next? Will the GOP (A) concede that they were wrong and default really DID have catastrophic consequences, or (B) argue that this is all happening because Obama refused to compromise on spending cuts?

  2. Why can the question not be turned around .. that more than a few Democratic Members of the House really believe their own rhetoric -- that exceeding the budget limit is actually no big deal. If they believe that a 'limit' is mere fiction - they need to be honest and delete the requirement to establish one. - Robert in Portland, OR

  3. In addition to their "don't confuse me with the facts" ideology, many Republicans nowadays honestly see their #1 priority to be a defeat of Obama in the 2012 election. If national default serves that priority, that's fine by them. They're confident that they can blame Obama for overspending. Many of them probably still barely comprehend what happened on September 15, 2008, and in subsequent weeks, when the global financial system took quite a shock. It concerns me that there are some Republicans who honestly aren't all that worried about the prospect of a default on the national debt.

  4. "more than a few Democratic Members of the House really believe their own rhetoric -- that exceeding the budget limit is actually no big deal..."

    Here's the thing - having Congress vote on the debt limit - NOT the "budget limit", whatever that is - really isn't, or shouldn't be a big deal. It's basically certifying that we're going to repay money that we've already spent.

    Now, if you wanted to make the argument that we shouldn't have spent that money, fine. I would broadly agree with you, although we might disagree on particulars. If you wanted to make the argument that debt is a big deal, good. I would love to have the discussion about how to make entitlements sustainable over the long term.

    But that's not what the vote on the debt limit is about. A vote on the debt limit is about, again, agreeing to repay money we've already spent. At a minimum, this should be considered the core principle of good financial practice, as a government or a human being. Resolve to spend less money, absolutely. *While repaying your fucking debts.*

    There's a couple reasons why Republicans have chosen to make their stand here. One, it hurts Obama. The financial uncertainty this standoff creates hurts the economy, the number one argument against Obama in 2012. Two, and more importantly, it's politically convenient - as long as you don't fully understand the potential consequences. It's exceptionally convenient for the party out of power to try to deny the party in power the one tool they have for political change - spending. The Democrats did it with Bush Jr., the Republicans did it with Clinton, the Democrats did it with Reagan and Bush Sr., and so on and so forth in perpetuity.

    The Republicans just believe the Barry Goldwater bullshit more. They've built their party around insurgent rhetoric. And now the Republicans in power can't control the golem they've created, they can't keep Michelle Bachmann and Fox News on message. For Michelle and Fox News, they've already tried forcing a government shutdown, and it didn't work. They would lose. So now they're trying to force the country into bankruptcy. And Jonathan is right - they may not have a clue what they're doing. Or they know exactly what they're doing, and it's purely political. Too bad for all of us.

  5. Don't forget their embarrassing encounter with the President last year. Many of their questions/points were SO easy to answer, SO easy to refute, it became very obvious, that, yes, they did believe their own rhetoric.

  6. Oh, this is grand. A liberal accusing conservatives of being "policy illiterate"... Most liberals - inside and outside of Congress - are completely ignorant of kindergarden economics. Ever try to explain supply and demand to a Democrat? Ever hand a liberal a copy of Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson? Their eyes just glaze over.

    The biggest policy error that Democrats make is that they always believe (or want to believe) that the stated goal of a particular policy will be the actual result of that policy. In reality, government policies almost never achieve their stated goals - and they very often achieve the total opposite of their stated goals.

    The goal of minimum wage laws is to help the poor, but the reality is that minimum wage laws hurt they poor. The overwhelming majority of economists agree that minimum wage laws increase unemployment among the poor - which creates a permanent underclass.

    The goal of rent control is to help the poor find housing, but the economic reality is that rent control reduces the amount of affordable housing, contributes to homelessness, contributes to suburban sprawl, etc.

    Cash for Clunkers is another good example. It was supposed to help the environment, but in reality producing a new car consumes more energy than fueling an older one for a few more years. It was supposed to assist poor people in buying a new car, but in reality taking hundreds of thousands of used automobiles off the market hurt the poor. Cash for Clunkers was almost Soviet in its stupidity and destructiveness.

    The list could go on and on really. Most of the coercive policies advocated by our self-proclaimed "policy wonk" friends on the left either do not achieve their stated goals or achieve the exact opposite or have horrible unintended consequences. Please note how often they go back and try to revise their previously stated goals (e.g. after rent control laws result in lack of affordable housing, they suddenly claim that the real policy goal was fostering a diverse population).

    What were the stated goals of Obamacare? (1) Reducing the cost of healthcare. There's a good chance it will increase the costs of healthcare. (2) Decreasing the number of people with health insurance. A strong case can be made that it will increase the number of people without health insurance. (3) Allowing people to keep their present health insurance if they like it. A strong case can be made that both the employer penalty and the individual penalty are too low - which could result in tens of millions of more people without health insurance.

    Or take this current drama over the debt ceiling? What's fueling this debt crisis - unsustainable handout programs that the left created in the 1930's and 1960's. Social Security was and is an irresponsible pyramid scheme. If a private businessman created something like Social Security, he'd be thrown in jail. Same thing with Medicare. Medicare has cost more than 10 times what the left originally claimed it would cost - yet another example of complete ignorance about the outcomes and consequences of sweeping, coercive policies.

    And after all this, the left calls us "ignorant" because we do not have faith that their policies will have the outcomes they they promise they will have?

  7. The real questions is not whether the Republicans read Obamacare in minuscule amount of time the Democrats let it be published before voting. (Remember, "President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history" ?)

    No the real question is whether Nancy Pelosi has ever read it. ACA is the worst designed major legislation in modern history. Here's just one example - it has a big ole f-ing notch. That means at some incomes the more you work, the less money you take home. Not less proportionally (like income tax), less TOTAL income.

    This is absolute proof that the Democrats never read ACA.


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