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Sep/10

23

Republican Kitsch

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I heard some of the news conference introducing House Republican’s “A Pledge to America” today.  While some of the individual proposals—such as ending government control of Fannie Mae and repealing the health care law (good luck)–actually have some concrete meaning, much of the boilerplate strikes me as almost kitsch in its bland familiarity:

Promising to “honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers,” the Republicans added: “We pledge to advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense and national economic prosperity. We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.”

The Republicans had eight years in the White House without shrinking government one iota; to the contrary, they expanded it greatly with Bush’s radically unconservative Freedom Agenda wars, prescription drug entitlement, ongoing farm subsidies, Pentagon bloat, etc.  Why should anyone believe them now?  The Republican call for change is exactly as meaningless as the Obama call for change. 

And do Republicans fail to reduce government because they get captured by Washington special interests or because in fact when it comes right down to it, there is no popular stomach for program cuts, despite the angry rhetoric to the contrary?

14 comments

  • John · September 23, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    I’m as small government as they come, but I’ll defend the GOP for a bit here. They certainly increased spending, but they wouldn’t have been worse than the Dems. There was a large majority of Americans in favor of a prescription drug plan. It was going to happen, and it would have been worse under Gore/Pelosi than we got.

    They cut taxes, reformed bankruptcy, passed an important pension bill which made it easier to implement defined contribution plans instead of defined benefit plans, and generally did less damage than liberals.

    I’m also not sure I’d define the wars as “unconservative”. Since the 1950s, conservatives have generally favored a more active, interventionist foreign policy than liberals have, and have been more willing to spend more on defense and go to war. Isolationism hasn’t been “conservative” since the 1930s.

  • Polichinello · September 23, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    John,

    Bush’s wars differ from previous interventions in that they were meant to magically create democracy. It’s one thing to support an aggressive foreign policy that pursues our national interests (and if it yields democracy, so much the better, but not necessary), but it’s something else to support war for the sake of democracy (and if helps the American interest, so much the better, but not necessary).

    As far as the pledge goes, politically, it’s about what you’d expect. The out-of-power party will always speak in broad gauzy brushstrokes. It’s their counter to the advantages of incumbency. Really, what can they do. Even if they take the House and the Senate, they won’t have nearly enough votes to override a presidential veto. All they can do is sit and hold until 2012. Really, given the disaster of Newt’s reign, their best bet is to trim their sails until the next election.

  • BOB · September 23, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    “…or because in fact when it comes right down to it, there is no popular stomach for program cuts, despite the angry rhetoric to the contrary?”

    Bingo.

    Most American routinely overestimate the amount of money they pay to the government and underestimate the amount they receive. There seems to be a general consensus that large percentages of the federal budget are going to illegal immigrants, or foreign aid, or giving lollipops to convicted sex offenders. Make concrete cuts to services-that is, tell Mr and Mrs America that they have to pay for their parents’ medical care themselves, or that their son in the military will lose his job or, Lack of God forbid, they might not get a tax deduction on their mortgage interest-and the howls will be heard from sea to shining sea, until they are drowned out by the sound of whatever administration made the cuts imploding.

    And yet we cannot afford this government. It runs on debt. Like most of its constituents, which is why they need the government money. I don’t know where this Ouroboros will stop chewing, but it’s rather foreboding.

  • Le Mur · September 24, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers

    That’s a bit worse than bland familiarity; it’s an outright lie unless they plan on eliminating the FDA, DEA, SSA, EPA, DOE, etc., etc. They’ll keep them all and add a few more.

    “We pledge to advance policies that promote greater liberty…that form the core of our American values.”

    Self-contradictory boilerplate.

  • Anonymous At Work · September 28, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    You ask:
    And do Republicans fail to reduce government because they get captured by Washington special interests or because in fact when it comes right down to it, there is no popular stomach for program cuts, despite the angry rhetoric to the contrary?

    Why do you present it as an either/or like the GOP is a monolithic voting machine? Newt Gingrinch and Tom DeLay, and their successor in Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, certainly are captured by the money and the power, but the angry grass-roots types that they brought in certainly try to cut things that they hate, but there’s no stomach for such cuts. Everyone wants to cut other peoples’ programs, not their own.

  • Mageen in Old Virginny · September 28, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Them with the itch for seeing government/power as theirs by God given/inherited right were once upon a time called monarchists.

  • LFC · September 28, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    John, you state that the Medicare bill was popular and was going to happen, but it would have been worse under the Dems? Worse how? The main objection the Dems had was that it was in no way paid for. Not one red cent.

    The Repubs cut taxes? Big deal. They did it and increased debt. Where was the major closing of loopholes and cutting of spending to pay for those cuts? And note that the Republicans are vowing to extend those cuts in an unpaid for fashion once again.

    If the Democrats have been the party of tax and spend, Republicans have been the party of borrow and spend. If I’m stuck with spending (and neither party will ever hit it with a chainsaw), I’ll take the former any day. It’s truly more fiscally conservative.

  • Sasha · September 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    I’m as small government as they come, but I’ll defend the GOP for a bit here. They certainly increased spending, but they wouldn’t have been worse than the Dems. There was a large majority of Americans in favor of a prescription drug plan. It was going to happen, and it would have been worse under Gore/Pelosi than we got.

    Hard to imagine how unless a Pelosi/Gore plan also mandated using cash as kindling.

    The bill was “probably the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation since the 1960s” according to U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, head of the Government Accountability Office. The bill also had no dedicated financing, offsets, or revenue-raisers; all of the cost was simply added to the federal budget deficit. And lets not even discuss the ridiculous, unprecedented, and egregious (Republican) legislative shenanigans that birthed this beast. There is very little about this bill you can blame the Democrats for except for the fact that they didn’t filibuster it.

    Go ahead and read Reagan and Bush 41 staffer Bruce Bartlett’s piece about Republican fiscal hypocrisy. It is depressing. http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/19/republican-budget-hypocrisy-health-care-opinions-columnists-bruce-bartlett.html

    They cut taxes, reformed bankruptcy, passed an important pension bill which made it easier to implement defined contribution plans instead of defined benefit plans, and generally did less damage than liberals.

    Those Bush tax cuts are part of reason the deficit is so bloated today. (And IMHO, cutting taxes and borrowing money to go to war is downright foolish.)

    There’s a reason why people are arguing about making those tax cuts permanent — they’re supposed to expire. The Byrd rule prevents legislation from being passed through simple majority via reconciliation (another issue that Republicans are shamelessly hypocritical about) if it significantly increases the federal deficit more than 10 years in the future, so the GOP got around it by passing cuts that would only affect the deficit (sunset) for no more than ten years.

    The bankruptcy bill was jammed through at the very beginning of Bush’s second term with precious little deliberation and favors corporations over citizens. (I don’t know enough about the pension legislation to comment on it.)

    I can’t help but wonder how the above equals to “generally did less damage than liberals” considering that it was under the last Dem president that we actually had budget surpluses.

    It is sad but true fact that although the GOP was once the party of fiscal responsibility, they no longer are and haven’t been for some time.

  • Diane · September 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    How can you up hold the Constitution if you”honor faith based programs”?

  • Thorley Winston · September 29, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    John, you state that the Medicare bill was popular and was going to happen, but it would have been worse under the Dems? Worse how?

    Worse in that both the House and Senate Democratic alternative bills were more expensive than the one that got passed, didn’t include Health Savings Accounts and tried to control costs via price controls rather than by having companies compete.

    Also, it’s no secret that the bill grew in cost after Senate Democrats threatened a filibuster when Republicans originally proposed a smaller targeted subsidy for poorer seniors for fear that it would have introduced the concept of means-testing to Medicare.

  • Erik · September 29, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Or, perchance, that we have raised a class that believes in government as “careers”. When their campaign consultants argue “keep it simple” or “My eyes are glazzing of with this wonkery, soundbites people!” they compromise.

    Thus we get the STUNNING over-simplification in the pledge (pg. 22) of what Freddie and Fannie actually are and do and calls that make ABSOLUTELY no sense at a time when housing values are in the tank. Rather than be complicated, messy and operations at the margeins, a short paragraph for radically transforming one of the most important actors in the entire residential housing market (which comprises approximately 5 to 10% of GRP). But I guess it polled good so it was in.

    Now I think you CAN get to a conclusion about reforming freedie and fannie. It is probably one that conservatives would embrace as a retreat from the implied backing of these GSEs. But it is complicated, messy, will take time and worth sober discussion of the trade offs between costs and benefits. It isn’t summarized in a paragraph and it absosuletly isn’t proclaimed to be all good and no pain.

    What the “political class” gives people is a two sentance paragraph that will undoubtably disappoint when people find out there is no magic bullet.

  • John · September 30, 2010 at 1:53 am

    “The bankruptcy bill was jammed through at the very beginning of Bush’s second term with precious little deliberation and favors corporations over citizens.”

    Only if the debtor is a citizen and the creditor is a corporation. The previous laws were far too generous to people declaring bankruptcy. For instance, I could have racked up huge credit card debts, declared bankruptcy, and said, “So long, suckers!” to the companies. The new laws make it much harder to do this. The premise of the law is that when you go into debt, you should pay it off to the extent possible, a premise I agree with.

    For the rest of you, OK, I’ll admit the GOP didn’t cut spending, but neither would the Democrats. Even now with our huge deficits, the Dems are passing small business bills, ect. with no fiscal discipline whatsoever. Except for defense, the Democrats always want to spend more. If the Republicans wanted to spend $100 million on a Marshmallow Peep Museum, you can bet the Democrats want to spend $200 million.

  • Sasha · September 30, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    “The bankruptcy bill was jammed through at the very beginning of Bush’s second term with precious little deliberation and favors corporations over citizens.”

    Only if the debtor is a citizen and the creditor is a corporation. The previous laws were far too generous to people declaring bankruptcy. For instance, I could have racked up huge credit card debts, declared bankruptcy, and said, “So long, suckers!” to the companies. The new laws make it much harder to do this. The premise of the law is that when you go into debt, you should pay it off to the extent possible, a premise I agree with.

    I would argue that the new law is too draconian and very much favors creditors in that it affects many more responsible debtors, who should be allowed to declare bankruptcy, than irresponsible ones.

    What really galled me about the bankruptcy bill is that, despite the fact that bankruptcy reform was never brought up as an issue during the 2004 campaign, it was the first major legislation brought up and passed when (the Republican-controlled) Congress reconvened and crammed through with almost no public debate.

    For the rest of you, OK, I’ll admit the GOP didn’t cut spending, but neither would the Democrats. Even now with our huge deficits, the Dems are passing small business bills, ect. with no fiscal discipline whatsoever. Except for defense, the Democrats always want to spend more. If the Republicans wanted to spend $100 million on a Marshmallow Peep Museum, you can bet the Democrats want to spend $200 million.

    “What the GOP actually did was bad, but whatever the Democrats might have done is much worse.” — That’s not an argument, that’s an excuse. And not only is it laughably feeble, it is utterly without merit.

    Not only did the GOP not cut spending, they cut revenue and went on a spending spree like a gold-record gangsta rapper with his first royalty check. And if that weren’t enough, they also began two wars and then put virtually the entire the bill for them on credit.

    (I’ve already discussed the GOP’s sheer fiscal irresponsibility concerning the Medicare prescription drug bill. That deficit-booming monster exists solely because the GOP forced it into existence. And I haven’t even touched on the absolutely criminal negligence of the Republican-administrated agencies that should have prevented the current financial meltdown from occurring.)

    Yet despite their culpability, the GOP reflexively blocks passage of legislation that would enhance revenue (letting the Bush tax cuts sunset for the top 2% earners) and improve the economy (the recently filibustered bill to rein in outsourcing) while blaming the Democrats for attempting to fix the wreck (stimulus bill, the small business bill) the Republicans caused. Democrats are demonstrably more fiscal responsible.

    You’re operating under an assumption (Republicans are fiscally responsible; Democrats are not.) that you either want to be or have been told is true. It isn’t though, and frankly, it hasn’t been true for a very long time . . . if ever.

  • John · October 1, 2010 at 2:51 am

    Sasha, you don’t define fiscal discipline the same way I do. You define it as not running deficits. I define it as not spending too much. A government that taxes too much and spends too much is not disciplined, even if the budget is balanced.

    If you think that Republicans “caused” the recession, or that Democrats don’t consistently want to spend more than Republicans, you are in denial.

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