Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Catch of the Day

To Jamelle Bouie, who's been very good lately, for pointing that that an otherwise quite good Ross Douthat post about Wisconsin was topped off by Douthat repeating the current false Republican talking point that Barack Obama and the Democrats have no agenda if they win in 2012.

This [agenda from the 111th Congress] is incredibly ambitious—Douthat says as much earlier in the post—and more importantly, ongoing: under four more years of an Obama administration, Democrats will work to implement these policies. In addition, they still hope to sign laws on climate change—building upon the cap and trade legislation passed in 2009—immigration reform, and tax reform. It’s simply ridiculous for Douthat to say that “there’s no liberal agenda to speak of at the moment,” especially when Republicans devoted themselves to constant obstruction throughout the 111th Congress.
Now, realistically, there's an excellent chance that climate and immigration legislation go nowhere in a divided Congress if Barack Obama is re-elected, partially because Democrats are not, in fact, totally united on those issues. But that doesn't mean that Obama and most Democrats have dropped them, or wouldn't pass those measures if they had the votes. As for tax reform...I actually suspect that one has a pretty good chance if we get a status quo election.

Part of what's going on here is Douthat (and he's not alone) so focused on the deficit hawk agenda that he absolutely misses the possibility that there are other possible policy plans that a party might have. The other part is that Douthat foolishly buys into the idea that the Senate's choice to duck budget votes is a meaningful indication of a lack of interest in budget politics. That's just not the case; the Senate, for good or bad, is ducking those votes for a variety of reasons, but it doesn't really tell you about what they would do if Democrats had unified government.

At any rate, the Democrats certainly do have an agenda. Just no confidence that they'll be able to pass it anytime soon. Nice catch!


  1. Bouie is right. The point is that there's always an agenda for more government takeover. All Douthat needs to do is look at how Hollywood claims to live and note the differences with the rest of the country; those differences are the agenda.

  2. Oh Ross, looks like someone's been spending too much time with David Brooks! This is a great example of how big the disconnect between conservative public intellectuals and the Dems the purport to "cover" can really be. If Ross had talked to any Dem member of Congress about what they would like to do tomorrow if they got back into the majority in the house and the filibuster disappeared, the list would be miles long and would included more "ambitious" items than ending nutritional programs for poor children. But alas, Ross apparently did not pick up the phone or didn't listen if he did. Anyway, this is also a great example of how Krugman's "Very Serious People" seem to think. The only serious matter of public policy that exists is cutting entitlements and anything else, like stopping the climate from being radically altered and our current civilization ending is "not serious". And note I said cutting entitlement not balancing the budget as the Ryan plan doesn't balance the budget at all, indeed it makes the "crisis" worse.

    1. longwalkdownlyndale,

      "like stopping the climate from being radically altered and our current civilization ending is "not serious"."

      Just like there was no starve off due to The Population Bomb, their will be no earth-murdering climate change. Technology already exists to trap GHGs on an industrial scale. We continue to find new energy deposits which can power them. We're holding centuries of Thorium and already have small working reactors. Large ones will come on line. Even if the US doesn't convince the emerging countries to not accept the money we send them so that they will run our heavy industry, we'll be fine. Calm down.

  3. I too thought the piece was for the most part very good, but have one other bone to pick. Douthat writes, "In fact, it’s useful to think of Obama’s stimulus bill and Walker’s budget repair bill as mirror image exercises in legislative shock and awe, and the Tea Party and the Wisconsin labor protests as mirror images of backlash."

    I do not think the cases are analogous in important ways. Nearly everyone thought stimulus was necessary beforehand (McCain made stimulus part of his campaign platform). Sure there were disagreements about size and composition, but nearly everyone thought something should be done and a couple (few?, can't remember) Republicans even voted for the stimulus bill. It has only become unpopular after it has passed, including many people who called for stimulus at the time now mocking the idea.

    That is definitely not how it went down in WI. Walker's very proposal sent Democrats in the state legislature scrambling. Protests interrupted the vote at the time. The "shock and awe" of the stimulus was anything but at the time. This is looking at history through partisan glasses.

    Sidenote: I'm no expert, but as I understand it, the Tea Party formed in reaction to TARP and housing policies, not the stimulus directly. And TARP was bipartisan, so cannot be the mirror image of what happened in WI for obvious reasons.

    1. I had a similarly blurry memory of the stimulus and the beginning of the Tea Party, so I researched both. Here's my summary on the stimulus. It answers the question: which Repubs voted for the stimulus? A: Snowe, Collins (both Maine) and Arlen Specter. No House GOP votes. Nada.

      Here's my summary of how the Tea Party started.


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