Tuesday, July 5, 2011

David Brooks joins the rest of us in reality

Maybe he was there all along. But it took this column for him to spell out exactly how Republicans aren't living in reality, rather some place where every concession Democrats make is unacceptable, even when its something Republicans just said they wanted. Here he lays out what Democrats are willing to give:

If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases.

A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.

The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.

That's a lot just to raise a debt ceiling that is unnecessary to begin with and which hasn't been used as a negotiating ploy since Republicans tried it one time with Clinton. The difference then was Clinton had the guts to essentially tell them to piss off. Obama doesn't have that political courage. And Republicans stand to reap the benefits. But they haven't yet:



But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.

The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.

The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.

The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name. Economists have identified many factors that contribute to economic growth, ranging from the productivity of the work force to the share of private savings that is available for private investment. Tax levels matter, but they are far from the only or even the most important factor.

But to members of this movement, tax levels are everything. Members of this tendency have taken a small piece of economic policy and turned it into a sacred fixation. They are willing to cut education and research to preserve tax expenditures. Manufacturing employment is cratering even as output rises, but members of this movement somehow believe such problems can be addressed so long as they continue to worship their idol.

Sorry to quote so much of that but I think its all important. This is what liberals have been saying about Republicans since Obama got in office. The Republican or conservative criticisms of Obama and Democrats haven't had much factual evidence or strong political ideology behind them. As Brooks says, its been almost purely cultural and a very strict adherence to magical belief in ridiculous tax policies.

Honestly I think Boehner and the reasonable members will win out on the debt ceiling negotiation. However crazy some of these Republicans are I think they will be sat down and told that if they don't get their shit together they will be ostracized from the party. But the fact that it has even got this far shows how willing the party is to be crazy. Its a shame decent conservatives can't see this and the rest of us have to suffer.

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