Krugman: Republicans Against Reality

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

A must-read analysis by the Professor today, Paul Krugman of the New York Times. Republicans Against Reality:

Krugman.pngLast week House Republicans voted for the 40th time
to repeal Obamacare. Like the previous 39 votes, this action will have
no effect whatsoever. But it was a stand-in for what Republicans really
want to do: repeal reality, and the laws of arithmetic in particular.
The sad truth is that the modern G.O.P. is lost in fantasy, unable to
participate in actual governing

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about policy substance. I may believe
that Republicans have their priorities all wrong, but that’s not the
issue here. Instead, I’m talking about their apparent inability to
accept very basic reality constraints
, like the fact that you can’t cut
overall spending without cutting spending on particular programs, or the
fact that voting to repeal legislation doesn’t change the law when the
other party controls the Senate and the White House.

Am I exaggerating? Consider what went down in Congress last week.

First, House leaders had to cancel planned voting on a transportation bill,
because not enough representatives were willing to vote for the bill’s
steep spending cuts. Now, just a few months ago House Republicans
approved an extreme austerity budget, mandating severe overall cuts in
federal spending — and each specific bill will have to involve large
cuts in order to meet that target. But it turned out that a significant
number of representatives, while willing to vote for huge spending cuts
[in the abstract] as long as there weren’t any specifics, balked at the details. Don’t cut
you, don’t cut me, cut that fellow behind the tree.

Then House leaders announced plans to hold a vote cutting spending on food stamps in half [$40 billion] — a demand that is likely to sink the already struggling effort to agree with the Senate on a farm bill.

Then they held the pointless vote on Obamacare, apparently just to make
themselves feel better. (It’s curious how comforting they find the idea
of denying health care to millions of Americans.) And then they went
home for recess, even though the end of the fiscal year is looming and
hardly any of the legislation needed to run the federal government has

In other words, Republicans, confronted with the responsibilities of
governing, essentially threw a tantrum, then ran off to sulk

EddieMunsterHow did the G.O.P. get to this point? On budget issues, the proximate
source of the party’s troubles lies in the decision to turn the
formulation of fiscal policy over to a con man
. [The GOP Flimflam Man's Budget Fraud – Blog For Arizona.] Representative Paul
Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has always been a
magic-asterisk kind of guy — someone who makes big claims about having a
plan to slash deficits but refuses to spell out any of the
all-important details. Back in 2011 the Congressional Budget Office, in evaluating one of Mr. Ryan’s plans,
came close to open sarcasm; it described the extreme spending cuts Mr.
Ryan was assuming, then remarked, tersely, “No proposals were specified
that would generate that path.”

What’s happening now is that the G.O.P. is trying to convert Mr. Ryan’s
big talk into actual legislation — and is finding, unsurprisingly, that
it can’t be done
. Yet Republicans aren’t willing to face up to that
reality. Instead, they’re just running away.

When it comes to fiscal policy, then, Republicans have fallen victim to
their own con game.
And I would argue that something similar explains
how the party lost its way, not just on fiscal policy, but on

Think of it this way: For a long time the Republican establishment got
its way by playing a con game with the party’s base. Voters would be
mobilized as soldiers in an ideological crusade, fired up by warnings
that liberals were going to turn the country over to gay married
terrorists, not to mention taking your hard-earned dollars and giving
them to Those People. Then, once the election was over, the
establishment would get on with its real priorities — deregulation and
lower taxes on the wealthy

At this point, however, the establishment has lost control. Meanwhile,
base voters actually believe the stories they were told — for example,
that the government is spending vast sums on things that are a complete
waste or at any rate don’t do anything for people like them. (Don’t let
the government get its hands on Medicare!) And the party establishment
can’t get the base to accept fiscal or political reality without, in
effect, admitting to those base voters that they were lied to.

The result is what we see now in the House: a party that, as I said,
seems unable to participate in even the most basic processes of

This is where Ed Kilgore at the Political Animal blog takes issue with the Professor's analysis. The Fiscal Con:

Where I’d differ a bit from Krugman is in his assumption that “the
base” (or more specifically, the grassroots activists who are its voice
and its commissars) is being conned instead of being in on a con
aimed at the rest of the electorate. Consider supportive “base”
sentiments about Social Security and Medicare, which a lot of
progressives (including Krugman) regard as prima facie evidence of hypocrisy and/or ignorance. I’ve argued for a good long while now
that this assumption misses the tendency of many white middle-class
conservatives to view “their” entitlements as “earned benefits” (at the
very most a half-truth, but a powerful one) which are sharply different
in nature from “welfare,” the redistributive spending benefitting those people.
A parallel development has been the steady spread of radical thinking
in “the base” about public education, with open hostility to “government
schools” becoming common along with resistance to expensive “education
reform” efforts aimed at lifting opportunity for those people.

You could make a pretty good case that the significance of the Tea
Party movement is its open radicalism in favor of a variety of
ideological positions and policy ideas that don’t command anything like
majority support, but that aren’t based on its activists being “conned”
by an “establishment” that pretends huge spending reductions will be
pain-free. A big and enduring share of the GOP party “base” has, since
the Goldwater campaign, been committed to what is essentially a rollback
in the New Deal and Great Society programs, along with the civil rights
laws and other anti-discrimination efforts that accompanied the latter.
What’s happened since 2008 is that this segment of the base has become
radicalized as its practical control over the GOP has been
consummated—even when it’s failed to nominate a presidential candidate.

* * *

So if, as Krugman rightly says, there is an approaching crisis-point
where the “reality” of governing collides with conservative ideology,
it’s not at all clear “the base” will be “disillusioned” by the phony
math and evasions of GOP fiscal proposals. It’s more likely they will
simply insist on a more straightforward fiscal radicalism at the expense
of GOP credibility with voters outside their own ranks. As I’ve argued repeatedly,
we are talking about people who don’t necessarily care about party
prospects in the next election, or the practical implications of their
ideology for the economy or the ability of the federal government to
function. They are operating in the context of a different “reality”
than their fellow-citizens, and that’s not likely to change in the near

The reason for this is the conservative media entertainment complex which has built an alternate reality in which conservatives live in a closed-loop Epistemic Closure "bubble" divorced from reality. To parpahrase Krugman, "What makes this frigthening is . . . that [a] quorum of reasonable Republicans may not exist."

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