Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What Republicans Think

Last week David Brooks wrote a column titled "What Republicans Think" in which he makes what, on the surface at least, seems a rather convincing case that the Republican party has not gone off the deep end and embraced reckless radicalism. No, argued Brooks, the Republicans are convinced that they're actually the ones seeing things clearly. The world's economic reality is changing, and they're sincerely trying to get the rest of us to wake up and smell the coffee before it's too late:
[M]any Republicans have now come to the conclusion that the welfare-state model is in its death throes. Yuval Levin expressed the sentiment perfectly in a definitive essay for The Weekly Standard called “Our Age of Anxiety”: 
“We have a sense that the economic order we knew in the second half of the 20th century may not be coming back at all — that we have entered a new era for which we have not been well prepared. ... We are, rather, on the cusp of the fiscal and institutional collapse of our welfare state, which threatens not only the future of government finances but also the future of American capitalism.” 
To Republican eyes, the first phase of that collapse is playing out right now in Greece, Spain and Italy — cosseted economies, unmanageable debt, rising unemployment, falling living standards.
To address this scary new scenario, as Brooks sees it, the Republicans, in contrast to Obama's plan to carefully re-balance the economy, feel something more drastic is imperative:
Republicans, meanwhile, envision comprehensive systemic change. The G.O.P. vision is of an entirely different magnitude: replace the tax code, replace the health care system and transform entitlements.
Brooks admits that how the Republicans (meaning via Romney as President) hope to do that remains "extremely vague," but that doesn't mean they're otherwise extreme. No, their goals are the same as Obama's goals, even if their plans are more vague:
The intention is the same, to create a model that will spark an efficiency explosion, laying the groundwork for an economic revival. .
Where they differ significantly, though, is on what they believe will ignite that spark. Obama's plan includes a slight increase in taxes on the wealthiest Americans (following more or less the balanced approach that saw 32 straight quarters of growth at an average of 3.8 percent under Clinton). Romney's plan takes the exact opposite approach. He favors additional tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (following more or less the unbalanced approach that saw only an average 1.7 percent growth under Bush, as Brooks notes himself.). Romney favors that approach, however,  because he thinks, as Brooks put it:
[T]he current model shifts resources away from the innovative sectors of the economy and into the bloated state-supported ones, like health care and education.
And, remember, also because Romney and the Republicans think "we are...on the cusp of the fiscal and institutional collapse of our welfare state, which threatens not only the future of government finances but also the future of American capitalism."
The original Bush tax cuts were implemented under the belief that ensuring the top 1% became even more wealthy would benefit the entire nation. In other words, money was shifted toward the top percent so that they would invest it, the economy would rebound, and we'd all benefit from the "innovative sector" doing its thing. 
At least that was Bush's second rationale for the tax cuts. He only embraced that rationale as the economic situation on the ground shifted, you may recall:
Changing Rationale, But the Plan Remains the Same
Even as Bush remains firmly committed to the tax cut, his rationale for enacting it has changed. During the campaign, when economic projections were rosier, Bush said a reduction in the basic income tax rates would be a way of giving citizens money that was rightfully theirs.
“The surplus is the people’s money,” Bush said frequently during his stump speeches.

But after Election Day — and even before the outcome of the presidential race was fully resolved — Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, had begun saying that a tax cut would be necessary to stoke an economy showing signs of cooling, a position they continue to play up.

“I think it’s really important for members of the Congress to understand that the tax relief plan I put forward is an integral part of economic recovery,” Bush said Wednesday.
In other words, the reality was that Bush wanted the tax cuts because he wanted the tax cuts. His rationales were fungible. 
But here's the thing. Bush pushed his tax cuts through, shifting more money up into the top 1%, so that (according to his second rationale) the now-even-more-wealthy would invest in ways that would help all of us by sparking an economic recovery. The deal wasn't that they'd simply keep the money (as they're doing now) when that plan didn't quite work out.  That money was supposed to "trickle" down through a system that the Republicans now--now that a sliver of the top has more of the nation's wealth than ever before--claim is irrevocably broken and they want to scrap. 
On top of that, now the Republicans want even more tax cuts for the wealthy and are offering us as rationale that those currently hording all the cash they amassed via the Bush tax cuts will begin to invest the additional cash they amass via the Romney tax cuts. Clearly, What Republicans Think is that the average American voter can be fooled twice.
Only this time, if Romney gets his way, the system will be different. They'll reform entitlements to ensure government can't help the poor and needy. 
But that's OK, because this time the top 1% won't horde all the additional money via new tax cuts. This time, the money really, really will trickle down through the free market to the poor and needy.
Sure it will.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this terrifying view comes from the strange clinging to hope that if you support the 1% you somehow are still part of the deciding class (those that decide what happen to the poor/them) and the moment you cross over to supporting social programs (even if you would be better off with them) you are no longer in control & with the ruling class. I think people would rather have their kids education go down the drain than admit they are not in control. The crazy irony is my mom who has only lived here for the last 1/4 of her life has so much vested in keeping America American

6/19/2012 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Spot on, of course. The unfortunate thing is the average American seems to have an unlimited capacity to allow him/herself to be fooled. We seem to relish it. The American Dream dies hard.

6/20/2012 08:30:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

And it only seems to get worse, the closer you look:

Republicans want the broad middle class to pay more taxes than they currently do, and the upper class to pay significantly less.

6/20/2012 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear uncle scam

Wanna kick start the economy?

1. refinance my mortgage at 0%

2. forgive all student loans as of now.

3. break up the big banks

4. 1000% tariffs on all chinese stuff.

5. instant citizenship for all overseas millionaires and PHD Brainiacs.

6/20/2012 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill Clinton recently said that he was OK with Bush's tax cuts only to flip-flop after he realized his words did not bode well for Obama.

Winkleman, considering that you are able to keep a gallery open in the location that you do I assume that you make more money than me. I don't know your background, but you must be doing well today. I doubt you are around 'the poor' on a daily basis.

I live among the poor. I'm poor. I see how other poor people abuse programs that I can't take advantage of, either because I'm not poor enough, because I'm a male, OR because I don't have custody of my kids.

I see how I work my butt off while the drug dealer down the street lives in public housing for $75 a month because his gf has three kids. It is actually her place. My place is nearby and I pay $300 rent and have that little thing called a job.

I see how I have to choose whether to have the air condition on or not based on my budget for the month while the family down the street (both thirty-something parents have not worked in over a decade) enjoys a program that keeps them cool.

I see how I use coupons and pinch pennies when buying groceries while the single mom next door, who makes about the same amount I do, receives $300 in food assistance. She is eating steak while I'm eating beans.

I see a lot of families, from one generation to the next, do just enough to receive those benefits while people like me still value the pride of having steady work even if it does not pay much.

Should the 1% pay more taxes? Sure. But I'd also see all the free-loaders dealt with as well. The solution is NOT to give free-loaders more OR to continue the insane exploitation that has went on for decades.

Many of these programs were designed to help people who are out of work while they try to find work. But I personally know people who have not had a job in 20 years. There is NO excuse for that. With some local programs you do have to show that you are looking for work. Some of these people will apply for jobs that they know they have zero chance of getting.

The Democrat party has failed me because they rarely talk about the exploitation that goes on. Instead they pump this idea of the noble poor. As if all poor people are honest. A poor person can be just as deceptive as someone on Wall Street. We all end up paying for it.

6/21/2012 02:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My idea of the American dream involves pulling up the boot straps. There are way too many twenty-something people receiving benefits because of poor choices. If a single mom of 3 can stay off programs and work full-time other young single moms should be able to do the same instead of living off of our taxes. There is a difference between helping people and creating a way of life that allows people to avoid responsibility.

6/21/2012 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

We all end up paying for it.

Regardless of who games the system, you're right. Obama did say in his economic speech in Ohio "if you believe this economy grows best when everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules, then I ask you stand with me for a second term as president."

The fallacy the Republicans are promoting (and you seem to be as well) is that Democrats are OK with poor people not playing by the rules. I certainly am not OK with it.

Having said that, my guess is that for each example of someone you can see taking advantage of the system, if you truly do live among the poor, and you look for it, you'll see other people who would be homeless or destitute without some assistance.

More than that, though, if you're struggling as much as you say you are (and your access to a computer and the internet does suggest you're not quite destitute), just imagine how much more stress that would be for you if there were no safety net.

You actually know nothing about my personal situation, let alone what I come from, but let me just say that extreme poverty and I have been more than just casually acquainted (and no, I'm not romanticizing my college years).

Now that we're not so close-- poverty and I--I personally don't begrudge the people who truly need help. I'm relieved for them that the safety net is there, and I'm relieved for me. I'm not sure I could sleep if it weren't there for the people I see who clearly need it.

So to summarize. Gaming the system = bad. Having a system = Good.


6/21/2012 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are out of touch.

I can think of a dozen people who don't work and live off of the system, by choice, who have access to a computer and the Internet. When you are receiving hundreds in food support each month it is not hard to trade some of that for real cash, drugs, or whatever it is that you need. Especially if you live in a small community.

You also have the people who work under the table while receiving forms of welfare because on paper they are unemployed. So you end up with people doing roofing and other work that can bring in up to $1,000 a week all while being taken care of by the system. Do you really think a family bringing in nearly $4,000 a month deserves to receive support just because the husband does not report his taxes? It is not exactly easy to turn people like that in either.

There should be help available. But it should only be long-term help if the person receiving it is truly unable to work. The disabled and the elderly SHOULD be taken care of. Having 5 kids does not mean that you are not able to work. Having a slight learning disability does not mean that you are unable to work.

I know a guy who receives a monthly check because he claims he can't understand directions. But that does not stop him from playing Skyrim 24/7. He could be bagging groceries instead of doing video game quests. It is just insane.

6/25/2012 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

You are out of touch.

And you seem entirely obsessed with people you deem unworthy. Why is that? What grudge do you hold against these examples, most of whom you seem to be compiling out of several different people?

I strongly feel there need to be measures in place to ensure people don't abuse the system. But you're not as focused on that as you seem to be on illustrating the system is being abused (there's a significant difference). I'd be curious as to why if you were a little more polite, but as you're not, well, vote your conscience. I'll vote mine.

6/25/2012 08:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Aside from some of the envy for those who can game the system (some of that envy I share) it gets people to completely ignore the other side where exists a corporate welfare system that is grossly out of proportion to a government support for the poor. Why be angry at some drug dealing neighbor living with his girlfriend making little money and not at some CEO pulling in millions for sitting at a board table or doing less than that and living off of dividends or trust funds? Why stop short and only see the neighbor and not the white collar criminal whose weekly cost to the government is probably more than your neighbors yearly welfare costs. Corporations make huge profits pay little taxes and support their own. Compare the percentage of our taxes that go to welfare to the loss of income from tax shelters.

Your anger Anon is misplaced it is redirected by years of Republican and corporate mass media conditioning.

6/25/2012 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this argument has gotten sidetracked. Yes, there are issues with our welfare system. We can talk about whether these issues are so bad we should throw the whole thing away, but this inflated rhetoric distracts from the rest of the problem.

Remember that this isn't just about welfare or the poor. It's about publicly used money. This goes to many things that all but the super rich need to maintain their standard of living. We're talking about hospitals, roads, sewage, water, and anything else that hasn't been privatized. Keeping these services in the hands of a body that has a moral (instead of just financial) duty to its constituents, and whose constituency includes all Americans, seems like a good idea.

What about education? Quoting Edward quoting Brooks, "[T]he current model shifts resources away from the innovative sectors of the economy and into the bloated state-supported ones, like health care and education."

As I see it, the flaw in this assumption is that all innovators come out of corporations and the wealthier classes. Scrapping our education system because of whatever issues is a problem, because it limits the pool of innovators to a very small minority of the population. We should actually be increasing our resource input into education and related systems. That's how we'll crank out the real changes.

Of course, this is assuming that, as the Republicans and may others believe, progress is an end in itself. This philosophy, called technological determinism, says that if we focus on building the economy and advancing technology, everything else will take care of itself. The poor/non-rich will be fed and educated, the roads and sewers will be built and maintained, and all the refuse of society will somehow be dealt with.

I think we can safely say this has proven to be wrong. There are many countries in the world (not pointing any fingers, China) with pretty strong economies where social programs have not self-corrected. Progress is still happening, but what is the point if that progress barely benefits anyone?

6/25/2012 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is absolute folly to believe that Conservatives want tax cuts for millionaires because they truly think that such a thing will be a catalyst for "job creation." They merely want tax breaks to keep more of their cash. What they do with it after they have it has nothing at all to do with loyalty to their nation or some concept of responsibility to build the economy.

The ONLY way to ensure that jobs will be "created" in the USA and kept in the USA is through DISincentives, otherwise known as Tariffs. Funny that such a concept was spectacularly successful from the time of George Washington until roughly the time that Clinton signed NAFTA. The tax "incentive" scam is just a license to blackmail governments for tax breaks. It is legalized bribery for the wealthy to keep their money AND in some cases, steal more from taxpayers in the form of subsidies.

The entire concept of "let's allow rich people to keep more money because every tax break = jobs" has been proven to a farce. It's not only beyond time to go back to Tariff penalties, but to also get BACK the wealth that "industry" has stolen from We the People since 1980 and put it back to work for our nation. If it means sending the Marines to the Caymen's to physically get the money back, then so be it. Conservatives have ripped us off for too long and it's time they pay for it by forfeiting their ill-gotten cash and by spending some quality time in prison.

8/19/2012 12:41:00 PM  

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