Monday, March 28, 2005

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (2)

Republicans and their discontents

Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that over at Daily Pundit, Bill Quick has eleven laments about the current incarnation of the Republican party. Go check them out. I don't agree with all of them, but obviously I agree with enough of them to post about it. The third one -- "The deadly combination of establishing huge new permanent expenditures while at the same time cutting taxes, thereby guaranteeing massive new debt for future taxpayers" is the one that really kills me.

Quick closes as follows:

The Republicans are no longer the party of small, limited government, fiscal sanity, states and individual rights, and the Constitution. In their own way, they have become as bloated, hypocritical, invasive, and spendthrift as much of the worst the Democrats have to offer.

If you think there must be some alternative, I am with you, and I would like to find one. That means we have to create an interest group of moderates and libertarians who become crucial to the balance of power. If we hold the keys to the electability of candidates from the right and the left, then both sides must listen to us.

Am I suggesting the formation of a new party? No, not at the moment. But we do have tools available to us, most especially the Internet and blogs., as much as I dislike its goals, has perfected these as a method of exerting enormous influence. It has, in effect, taken over the machinery of the Democratic party. What they did, we can do as well, and I am proposing that we do it.

Quick makes an intriguing parallel -- but I'm unconvinced that, judging by either electoral or ideational outcomes, the growth of the left blogosphere and other Internet sites has been particularly beneficial for the Democratic party. These groups' biggest successes have been: a) increased voter turnout in November 2004; and b) ensuring a solid Democratic bloc to prevent Social Security reform. Against those successes, the Dean self-immolation, the electoral losses in November, and the party line demanding an exit option from Iraq ASAP count as failures.

I agree with Quick on the substance, but even as a blogger I'm not convinced the process would be beneficial

posted by Dan on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM


"The third one -- "The deadly combination of establishing huge new permanent expenditures while at the same time cutting taxes, thereby guaranteeing massive new debt for future taxpayers" is the one that really kills me."

All according to plan, per the Norquist. The more govt promises and doesn't deliver, the more it "fails." Never mind that in the process we reach european levels of debt/gdp rations.

posted by: actus on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

7. For those who mentioned the horrors of the Clinton administration, to wit: the sale of pardons, they should also know that not only did the Bush administration cover up or prevent entirely an investigation of the vandalism and thefts committed by the Clintonistas on their departure from the White House, he within the past month also covered up the results of the investigation of Clinton's pardon fire sale.
I think that tells you how seriously the whole post should be taken. The Bush Administration didn't "cover up an investigation" - they shut their mouths once it became clear they were setting themselves up for libel and slander lawsuits by outgoing Clinton appointees - since no vandalism had actually occurred.


posted by: Cranky Observer on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

What exactly do "small-government"conservatives want Bush to do on budget deficits?

To put it concretely suppose you had three choices as a percentage of GDP:
1)Taxes 15% Spending 15%
2)Taxes 15% Spending 20%
3)Taxes 20% Spending 20%

Obviously number 1 would be ideal from the conservative point of view but it is practically impossible politically. Most spending is reasonably popular and if the GOP tried to push massive cuts in domestic spending they would probably lose power.

So the effective choices is between 2 and 3 and my sense is that most conservatives are perfectly happy with 2 which is where Bush has moved towards. So given political reality and their own ideoligical hostility to taxes, they should be reasonably happy and be prepared to accept long-run deficits.(at least so long as the Asian central banks continue to oblige)

If they genuinely prefer 3 it would be straightforward to repeal some of Bush's tax cuts and move in that direction (perhaps combined with some spending restraint).

Alternatively if they really think 1 is politically feasible I would like to hear arguments for that. Which programs would it be feasible to cut and how much money would they save? For instance on the prescriptions drugs benefit the polling evidence seems to suggest that the majority wants more benefits not less. And of course there is a long-run trend of increased spending on Medicare as a % of GDP.

posted by: Strategist on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

At least half of Quick's list consists of complaints over issues of secondary importance either by themselves (Bush's position on the assault weapons ban) or in the context of larger issues of which they are a part (Fallujah).

My orientation is a little different -- I'm not a libertarian, for instance, and I think how government does things is often as important as what it does -- so my own bill of indictment would be different as well. Allowing large areas of foreign policy to be run out of the Pentagon during Bush's first term would be on it; so would the chronic dishonesty about fiscal forecasts. Bush's never having vetoed any bill, especially any spending bill, is a big strike against him. His bratty posture toward judicial appointments is another -- the only reason I don't hold his rhetoric against filibusters against him is that any Senate leader with an once of dignity would have told him to forget about changing Senate rules months ago.

But the biggest thing, the one that dwarfs all others, is the absolute dominance of the business of government by the business of campaign politics during this administration. The mechanics of the permanent campaign pervade nearly everything Bush has done, from his daily message to his administration's public diplomacy to every piece of domestic legislation he has attempted to move through Congress. Not only does the Republican Party at the highest levels share his campaign-first orientation, but the number of dissenters in the GOP can be counted on one's fingers.

posted by: Zathras on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Re: Actus' comments on Norquist's plan-- I know that the idea is to "shrink government to the point where it can be drowned in the bathtub," by running up debts, etc., thereby destroying the democratic party. But what happens if there is a substantial, long-term backlash against the republican party for its fiscal policies, as well? Or a permanent split between paleocons and neocons? Or one between economic conservatives and social conservatives? Who wins then? Norquist is a smart guy, and I'm sure he's considered these possibilities. Does anybody know if he's written about it?

posted by: Rachel Beck on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

The problem with a faction of moderates is that they don't agree with each other on anything. If you poll a 100 moderates on any issue, it's likely that about half of them will agree with Democats and half of them agree with Republicans.

"an interest group of moderates and libertarians"? Libertarians are by definition not moderates. Even though we are likely to agree with one party on some issues and the other party on others, the reasons why we take those positions are completely different than why the average voter take those positions. Libertarians are extremists. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Also, the number of libertarians in this country is dwarfed by the number of MoveOn types. No comparison at all.

posted by: Hei Lun Chan on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

"since no vandalism had actually occurred."

Well the GAO report on the Clinton vandalism says otherwise:

Damage, theft, vandalism, and pranks occurred in the White House complex during the 2001 presidential transition. Incidents such as the removal of keys from computer keyboards; the theft of various items; the leaving of certain voice mail messages, signs, and written messages; and the placing of glue on desk drawers clearly were intentional acts.

posted by: Mio on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Dear 'Strategist'

You've missed the boat.

Imagine these options:

1) Taxes 15% Spending 15%
2) Taxes 15% Spending 20%
3) Taxes 20% Spending 20%
4) Taxes 10% Spending 30%

This administration takes option 4. Every time.

posted by: rdg on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Against those successes, the Dean self-immolation, the electoral losses in November, and the party line demanding an exit option from Iraq ASAP count as failures. -- Drezner

That's the Dem party line? Says who? Not even talks about getting our troops out anymore. Kerry talked about staying in Iraq until we win and the left blogosphere supported him.

posted by: Carl on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Germany's Epiphany

As long as the Government spends ineffectively compared to the private sector, it makes sense to decrease taxes if only to put the pressure on. It only becomes apparent when growth in the private sector is in trouble though. Normally things are improving so much that the wasted money isn't missed.

I think this trend in competition among govenments for corporate business will push down taxes and put pressure on goverments to improve transparncey and simplicity in their legislation.

We took some half-hearted measures during the recession, but as other countries face more dire situations they will take more drastic measures and we will be left behind.

Increasingly goverment will need to be run more like a business. Clear tax and legal codes will become expected. Social programs of the goverment will have to be transparent. There will pressure to cut ineffective spending and to improve the effectiveness of social programs.

I think the problems we are having right now with being able to affect change, evidenced in social security reform, are a bad sign for us. Some countries have already taken steps to lighten the load of the ineffective social programs (like Ireland) and we are still trying to refinance the system instead of changing the economics to be more effective. Dealing with the financial aspects (balancing the budget) of SS could improve the transparency, but won't make it more effective until people push for change.

posted by: aaron on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

On the matter of so-called Clinton administration "vandalism", the GAO estimated costs to be probably less than $30 K or so, with a lot of the damage probably just the normal weat and tear of a large office staff transition. The GAO also said that previous Presidential transitions had seen similar damages and pranks. Of course, there wasn't a right wing media to blow it up into a major crime.

It need hardly be added that making this an item for breaking with the Republican Party makes the writer look like a loony.

posted by: Josh on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Lets not pretend we couldnt slash spending significantly if there was a quiver of political will to attack farming subsidies and corporate welfare. The solutions to our problems are so blindingly simply no-one in Washington has a glimmer of a chance of figuring it out.

You want to solve the Medicare/Social Security crisis? Easy. Stop pretending they arent the middle class welfare that they are and means test them. Ross Perot doesnt need government purchased Viagra. Senior citizens are already the wealthiest age strata and that is going to accelerate as the very wealthy boomers retire. Sapping 22 year old trying to buy a car or a house or have a kid to give the former stockbroker living his golden years out in Malibu bingo money is morally repugnant.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

It has long been my desire to see both parties implode due to their internal contradictions and now that the Republicans have started down the path, Quick's idea is a good start for a real third party. Those whom can not see the various moderates getting along may be surprised if they start along the lines of Greenspan's speech before the Senate approximately five weeks ago.

In lamenting the lack of money for Social Security because of over promising the ability of the economy to produce the income to pay for it, he made it clear that fiscal policy had to change such that it was focused on growing the _INPUTS_ necessary to produce an economy that could generate the _INCOME_ for Social Security(he was referring to redeeming the bonds held by the SSA in trust for the systmem). If the moderates can sit down, identify and agree on what these_INPUTS_ are to grow the economy period I suspect a third party can come about. Inputs have to include what many regard as statist functions(healthcare and education-from kindergarten to higher education(anything post high school)) and legal and regulatory reform. The costs are burdening everyone whether you look at them seperately or two sides of the same coin.

This is not as far fetched as immediately comes to mind. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story this past Sunday on the left and right coming together over environmental concerns. If this is the type issue people can identify with, it may be the beginning of a wonderful partnership.

posted by: Robert M on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Don't look for spending cuts anytime soon. Libertarians need to realize that they are, at best, a small minority in the USA. Large majorities of people will say they want lower taxes and less spending, but getting even a small minority to agree to cut any particular government program is almost impossible. A large majority of so-called libertarians are libertarian until you try to cut their pet programs.

Accusing George Bush of being fiscally irresponsible amounts to a whole lot of the pot calling the kettle black. If you want fiscal responsibility, why not do something about it by working to assemble a majority to eliminate the spending program of your choice.

posted by: Ben on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

At least we don't have to worry too much about over cutting. We've established that introducing new spending legislation easiliy if we do.

posted by: aaron on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

At least we don't have to worry too much about over cutting. We've established that introducing new spending legislation is easy if we do.

posted by: aaron on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Two things:

First, on the idea that "the party line demanding an exit option from Iraq ASAP" is uniquely Democratic, or even wrong, no less a conservative than Robert "Douchebag of Liberty" [per Jon Stewart ;-)] Novak has a column out arguing that this is the position of Secretary Rice, and implying that he himself sees it as no bad thing:,1413,206~11851~2787114,00.html

Second, to Mark Buehner-- the problem with means testing is this. Imagine two ordinary upper-middle class dudes, Mr. A and Mr. B. Mr. A saves and invests early, often, and fairly wisely, and through the magic of compounding retires with a substantial, if not extravagant, net worth. Mr. B, on the other hand, is a spendthrift, running up his credit cards, going into hock for fancy cars and so forth, and he retires with squat. The government then says Bravo Mr. A, well done, no Social Security for you. And Mr. B, here's your check. Does this sit well with your sense of justice? Does it create the sort of incentives we would really like? I think not.

posted by: La Grippe on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Well,I'm a Mr. B, and when I'm eating catfood on soda crackers in the future, I'm going to know exactly why, and I'm not going to bitch that the government hasn't provided me with the same leisure lifestyle of Mr. A. I'll know why my friends that have made the right choices throughout their working lives will be playing golf everyday, and I'll still be working cleaning out their golf carts. The proper incentives are already out there.

posted by: rastajenk on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

I enjoy the sensation of being all fairsy-sharesy as much as the next guy, but necessity trumps fairness.

The point of Social Security is to limit the number of elderly Americans living in poverty. If it can do other things as well given the resources we can afford to give it, great. If not, though, we'd better focus on keeping a program that continues to achieve its primary objective.

I don't know if means-testing Social Security would be enough to do this by itself -- the numbers have to work, and I don't know enough to be sure they do. But I'm not about to turn away from policy changes that would keep some people out of poverty in their old age because I'm worried that other people in no danger of impoverishment might feel shortchanged.

posted by: Zathras on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

> The point of Social Security is to limit the
> number of elderly Americans living in poverty.

Does anyone read any history prior to 1980? The purpose of social security, as laid down by that ultra-leftist Otto von Bismark, was to provide a basic element of social stability for the older portion of the workforce and for widows and orphans - thus heading off the escalating societal pressure for what would have amounted to a communist revolution (anachronism, but the basis was the same) and stringing up of the barons of the Industrial Age from lampposts.

Not only did this achieve its desired purpose, it actually made the workforce _more_ productive. Whoda thunk it? Not the fundamentalists of the day who assumed that fear of starving to death was the great "motivator". Oddly enough, when people enjoyed their lives and didn't fear age 55 rolling around they worked harder.

This is the model that Roosevelt and Hopkins used, for exactly the same reasons. And it too worked. Now we are busy trying to get back to the "toil or die" model of motivation. Why exactly will the results be different that 1880, this time? Keep in mind that North America in particular no longer has the limitless resources and boundless opportunity it had in those days, either.


posted by: Cranky Observer on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

And when the left becomes mealy-mouthed, trimming its sails to catch the faintest hint of an electoral breeze, it loses its vaunted moral superiority. Listen to Irving Kristol, the former publisher of the National Interest and the Public Interest, supporting Social Security in 1993: "The conservative hostility to social security, derived from a traditional conservative fiscal monomania, leads to political impotence and a bankrupt social policy ... If the American people want to be generous to their elderly, even to the point of some extravagance, I think it is very nice of them ... [The elderly] do not have illegitimate children, they do not commit crimes, they do not riot in the streets."

posted by: NeoDude on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

As to the value of blogs and so forth, it seems to me that not enough time has passed to judge their effect. The Republicans are in power now because of an extended effort, and the reimergence of the Democratic Party into a new and stronger body would also take time.

More than one presidential election cycle or even two. Thus, why the Dean burnout is really relevant is unclear. It doesn't mean those online that supported the guy were of little value. The true value will be shown in the long haul, especially when there are some good candidates to rally around, and the Republicans start to overstay their welcome a bit.

posted by: Joe on 03.28.05 at 02:39 PM [permalink]

Post a Comment:


Email Address:



Remember your info?