Posts tagged ‘failed ideology’

The Fantasy is Over

That fantasy is the one where some of our citizens believe the Republicans, or in this case, traditional conservatives have anything to offer this country. Specifically, that we get a free ride by just cutting taxes for the wealthy. When Paul Ryan, who, make no mistake, was one of the biggest con men of all times, decided to step down, it was obvious that conservative ideology was dead. That ideology was self-discipline taken to fantasy levels. Nothing wrong with self-discipline until you get into the blame game. It was the view from Ayn Rand that as E.J. Dione put it this morning:

She identified with society’s winners and regarded ordinary citizens as moochers and burdens on the creative and the entrepreneurial.

Although Ryan gave warm speeches about compassion, his biggest fear was not that the poor might go without food or health care but, as he once said, that the “safety net” might “become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.”

…If the wealthy did best when given positive incentives in the form of more money, the less fortunate needed to be prodded by less generous social policies into taking responsibility for their own fate.

Ryan was always about two things, tax cuts for the wealthy and slashing the safety net to pay for them. Oh, and he complained bitterly about the deficit. But note he just worked hard to get that tax cut for the wealthy, while crashing the budget. His budgets, which the press corps used to swoon over (“wonky conservatism”) because he used big words, charts, and graphs, never added up without massive cuts to social programs, always with the magic asterisk for growth from tax cuts that never ever happen.

The self-discipline thing is what is at the bottom of every Republican’s little brain, you too would be rich if you just worked hard you lazy scum, which anecdotally you can find examples, but in the broader society is false. Their total approach has always been to make that proposition, just exercise self-discipline, almost impossible for the disadvantaged through tax cuts for the wealth and cutting government programs that actually might help level the playing field.

Now with Ryan claiming he accomplished what he could and leaving the House, we are left with this from WaPo writer Karen Tumulty:

Ryan’s announcement Wednesday that he will not run for reelection represents a bright distress flare illuminating the seriousness of the predicament into which President Trump has plunged his party.

No Karen, President DFF just shined a light on the hollowness of their ideas. Make no mistake, Republicans did this to themselves. It is becoming clear that there is not a conservative intelligencia that has anything to offer anyone today. Ryan shot his wad, said he could not also gut the safety net because of those immoral Democrats (and many of his fellow Republicans who got an earful when they tried to end Obamacare), and there was nothing left to do. I have argued before and I will argue again, they have no economic strategy except cut taxes, cut government, and cut regulations. In todays complex world and growing economic inequality, these ideas are a disaster for most of us.

What Ryan’s withdrawal signifies is that the fantasy at the core of Republican ideology that tac cuts for the rich works for all Americans is finally dead, and we are left with the crazies, conspiracy theorists, nativists, and racists. My what a Grand Old Party. Make no mistake, Trump was simply the final destination that the Republicans have been on for a long, long time. Once you eschew facts, science, and data to inform your ideological beliefs, reality bites back. If you are not growing and changing with new insights, you are losing ground*. To see Ryan, Republicans, and Evangelicals fall all over Trump is to see the hypocrisy and degeneracy of their beliefs.  They have no morals.

For the Democrats sake, and I think a lot of young New Democrats (Progressives) get it, the strategy is to take into account how past policies have increased economic inequality while leaving too many people behind. You don’t throw off capitalism, you harness it for all of us (just the opposite of what Ryan believes, you throw off harnesses). We have data from the Northern European countries that shows that a strong safety net (and paying taxes to support it) actually increases social mobility and innovation because people are willing to take more chances and change. It also brings more people into the competitive mix.

In that vein we can’t just blow off the survivors of the rust belt as stupid and foolish as they are for voting for President DFF. We have to have a plan to help them transition. Most people can’t or won’t move and it is government’s job to help them find their economic way forward, to become self-sufficient again. President DFF did just that with a giant con, that their jobs would be coming back. With the looming collapse of the Republicans, who have nothing to offer anyone but a fantasy about coal and re-industrializing the rust belt, it is becoming clear, Democrats and especially Progressives have to offer a new way forward. That includes responsible taxes to pay for what we need.

All that is assuming President DFF doesn’t do something really stupid to end democracy as we know it. That may be coming as Republicans show they have no stomach for impeachment and will take no action to restrain him. Like I said, they got nothing.

*This applies to many religions too. It turns out that like economic ideology, the law of god has to be updated from time to time as we find out how wrong the sand people were.


I guess my first musing is that the country needs to decide.  Are we going to continue Tea-Pary know nothingism or are we going to move forward, make changes and try new things.  Even for the Republican base, conservatism has failed, hence Trump.  But in that base is anti-intellectualism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and nativism which has been cultivated by the Republicans to use emotion to block rational thinking.  They are all still out there and this election really has not been about policies to change the minds of Americans on the direction of the country, but about character or lack thereof.  The really big issues have not been discussed.  So unless the American people make a decision in November on down ballot races, it is going to be more of the same in December.

I think it is foolish to think Madam President can better reach across the aisle.  Across the aisle are the same piranha that ate the flesh off President Obama’s too often extended hand.  The answer of course is to offer sensible plans that most Americans want and then don’t compromise them away into the abyss of ineffectuality.  To clearly draw clear lines and run for the election in 2018.  Without making the argument for change, real change in this election, and the failure of conservative thinking, that is all you can do.

There are many articles this morning about how Republicans finally think the Donald went too far.  Now think about this.  His let’s have other nations get nukes, his reactionary behavior to Islamic taunts, his wall and rapists in Mexico, his racist and xenophobic views, his trashing and obvious lack of understanding of our Constitution, his admiration of Putin, his lack of knowledge of world affairs, his promise to commit war crimes on our enemies, and his expanded of Guantanamo were okay, but some sex talk was a bridge too far.  And it is not like we did not know who he was with his bevy of trophy wives, much less affairs.  This is the Republican Party people want to hang on to?

Tonight is the “big debate”.  James Kwak of the Baseline Scenario made an interesting observation and suggestion.  I think we can all agree the moderators might as well not be there.  So he recognized this reality and then suggested a debate without moderators where the whole thing is based on microphone time.  Each candidate gets 45 minutes to say whatever they want.  Then he threw in a few penalties on time:

  1. If neither microphone is on, and you turn yours on, you are the Talker. When you are the Talker, time counts against you second-for-second: If you talk for 30 seconds, your counter goes down by 30 seconds.
  2. If your opponent is the Talker, and you turn your microphone on to talk at the same time, you are the Interruptor. When you are the Interruptor, your time counts against you two-for-one: If you interrupt for 30 seconds, your counter goes down by 1 minute. During that time, your opponent’s counter goes down only 30 seconds, if she continues talking. If your opponent turns off her microphone, you become the Talker.
  3. Your microphone cannot be on continuously for more than 3 minutes. When you turn it off (or when it shuts off automatically after 3 minutes), you cannot turn it on for 10 seconds. This is to eliminate the trick of quickly turning your microphone off and on to reclaim the status of Talker.
  4. Rules 1 and 2 give an advantage to whoever turns her microphone on first. To avoid a race, the debate is divided into 15-minute segments, and the candidates alternate who gets to begin each segment. The other candidate can interrupt immediately, but would then be the Interruptor (and lose time at twice the rate of the Talker).
  5. At any time, either candidate can press an override button that disables the other person’s microphone. You can hold down the override button for up to 1 minute, after which it becomes unusable for 1 minute. While you are holding the override button down, your time counts against you three-for-one: If you override for 1 minute, your counter goes down by 3 minutes. (You can use the override button to extend your microphone’s life beyond the ordinary 3-minute limit.)

I like it.  My guess is we would only have about 60 minutes debates because the Donald would so abuse his time he would be timed out. If I had my way the questions would be focused on the major issues below.  I would give each candidate 5 minutes to present their plans and policies, push back if they don’t have any or misrepresent the known facts (like there is no herd trying to cross our borders or point out the the federal government is smaller than at any time since 1965), and then give each candidate a 2 minute rebuttal.  

  1. Please present your plans and strategies to address climate change.
  2. Please present your plans and strategies to address economic inequality
  3. Please present your plans and strategies to address immigration
  4. Please present your plans and strategies to address global terrorism
  5. Please present your plans and strategies to address repairing our infrastructure
  6. Please present your plans and strategies to address women’s choice and equal pay for equal work
  7. Please summarize your vision for our country (no rebuttal and 3 minutes each)

I turned on the news this morning to get a summary of the Matthew Damage.  That was a joke as the talking heads tell us what to think about the debate, what the Donald has to do, what Hillary has to do, and on and on.  Did we have a Hurricane Matthew?  See you Monday.

Conservatism is the Problem

I have argued that conservatism has morphed into a faith-based belief that cannot be rationally addressed.  We like to think about conservatism as pre-Newt Gingrich when conservatism was about moderation and protection against revolutionary changes that could have unintended consequence.  That conservatism does not exist any more.  Conservatism morphed into a rigid philosophy (flow down, all government is bad, cut taxes) that in fact is now being rejected by the Republican base because it has not worked for them.  But, this morning I wanted to maybe give you some of this from other voices or an example of the level of denial the Republican Establishment is in.

First Fareed Zakaria, who is appalled watching Donald Trump rise to the top of a very bad Republican ticket and knowing the parallels with Europe and Fascism, wrote this (Where were Republican Moderates 20 Years Ago):

Here is a much simpler explanation for Donald Trump: Republicans have fed the country ideas about decline, betrayal and treason. They have encouraged the forces of anti-intellectualism, obstructionism and populism. They have flirted with bigotry and racism. Trump merely chose to unashamedly embrace all of it, saying plainly what they were hinting at for years. In doing so, he hit a jackpot.

The problem is not that Republican leaders should have begun to condemn Trump last year. It is that they should have condemned the ideas and tactics that led to his rise when they began to flourish 20 years ago.

I would argue that ideology as a faith drove them to it.  Winning became paramount because the other side is just plain wrong (infallible faith) and the ends justify the means.  In effect they jettisoned what the Constitution is based upon, rational argument, debate, and compromise.  All that was important was winning because they have the only right answer.  Jihad anyone?

But it gets richer.  After Fareed opined this, he had two guests on to discuss this, a conservative, a Wall Street Journal columnist, Bret Stephens, and Paul Krugman*.  It was painful to watch because Mr. Stephens interrupted and controlled the conversation.  See the problem from Mr. Stephen’s point of view is Obama’s lack luster economic performance giving rise to populism, and that Trump does not represent real conservatism. And of course Not acknowledging their own guilt in pushing candidates or looking the other way when these kinds of racist (birther anyone?) attacks were made by their favored conservatives (Remember even Mitt went for the birther vote).

Now what is funny about this is that it tells you everything you need to know about conservatives.  They are in denial and in a defensive crouch.  First, no acceptance of how Bush crashed the economy, or that conservatives have blocked everything the President has tried to do to stimulate it.  In fact this is all Obama’s fault.  Do we see a theme here?  But the best is yet to come.

“Trump is not a real conservative.”  Of course he is not because for most of the base conservatism has failed to help them.  We have the largest economic inequality in the history of the nation and this is primarily due to conservative economic ideas in action. The base understands that real conservatives are into flow down (supply side economics), small government, less regulation, which helps corporations and the rich, but not them.  So while they still buy into the racism and blame they have been fed (“anti-intellectualism, obstructionism and populism”), they want someone who is free from establishment conservatism if it helps them.

Conservatism is crumbling because it does not work for the average American.  The Republican party is in chaos because they cannot come to grips with this failure or adjust their ideology to take in reality.  But to stay in power they have created a base who has rejected reality and embraced racism, xenophobia, and hatred of government to distract them from rational thought.  Now that base is rejecting them because conservatism hasn’t worked for them and this releases a very powerful, irrational, and negative force in American Democracy.  Yet they are in denial about it all.  But not to worry.  If Trump doesn’t win the nomination, they have Ted Cruz the other “true” conservative.  Just amazing.

*Fareed kept Paul on to talk about what to do to get the economy going and it is basically what we all know.  Austerity does not work, we need to be spending now on public works and creating demand in our economy.  All things these conservatives would fight and even the Donald is for.  Interesting isn’t it?

More on the Republican Problem

Moderate Republicans like Senator Olympia Snowe from Maine are upset about Arlen Specter’s move to the Democratic Party.  She wrote this in the New York Times on Wednesday:

It is for this reason that we should heed the words of President Ronald Reagan, who urged, “We should emphasize the things that unite us and make these the only ‘litmus test’ of what constitutes a Republican: our belief in restraining government spending, pro-growth policies, tax reduction, sound national defense, and maximum individual liberty.” He continued, “As to the other issues that draw on the deep springs of morality and emotion, let us decide that we can disagree among ourselves as Republicans and tolerate the disagreement.””

Said more plainly, lose the social issues, and focus on fiscal restraint.  I still think this approach loses.  How does restraining government spending help each child have an opportunity for a college education, provide us with an energy policy and way forward to free us from oil, or solve our healthcare crisis?  How does tax reduction address the money needed for investment in research for the innovation in the future, not to mention fixing the infrastructure?  And of course how does the torture policies of the Republicans and their suspension of habeas corpus defend individual liberty?  The basic flaw here is that what was good policy in the 19th century does not address the complex world we live in the 21st century.  Small town values are quaint, but don’t deal with the complexities of the world around us.

Nobody wants wasteful spending, but the Republicans are famous for labeling wasteful spending any investment in our future.  It would seem their horizons are limited by the short-term impact and they can do no long term planning or investing.  A prime example is to wonder why in the early 2000s, did they not raise taxes to retire the deficit when everyone was flush?  Their underlying philosophy is that the private sector, once the incentives are right, will solve all problems. They have been tinkering with the health care system for years with this philosophy and it is a mess.  The business model for health insurance companies is counterproductive to providing universal healthcare (insure the healthy, deny claims) and can only be modified by requiring them to take on all comers.  But that would entail regulation and government interference.  So tinkering with the private insurers and placing all your bets on the private sector is going nowhere and most people understand that today.

Take our energy problems, which are in abeyance now in our suppressed economy, but will come back with a vengeance just as we start to recover.  History tells us that our automobile companies cannot plan for the future and are focused on the short-term, high return automobiles that will make them totally unprepared for the eventual high price of oil.  Well actually they are already going under.  It is government’s role to protect all of the people by raising fuel standards and forcing the industries to do some long term planning.  The fact that they have been so successful in the past lobbying Washington to keep that from happening tells you all you need to know about the free market solving these problems.  The free market is made up of very powerful vested interests who do not want to lose their piece of the pie.  If you doubt this ask yourself what just happened in our financial industry.  They made a ton of money and the rest of us are screwed.  Worked okay for them.

Probably the biggest indicator that the Republican philosophy no longer applies is that they have no solutions for our future other than to cut taxes and reduce government.  Reducing the deficit when government is the only thing keeping people employed is madness.  Once again long-term thinking applies (spend now, save later, or during good  times, raising taxes to prepare for rainy days) and they just can’t manage it.  Pundits decry the lack of Republicans stepping to the plate with Republican solutions for the massive problems that face us.  That is because their underlying conservative philosophy offers no solutions.

The way forward is to lose the philosophy altogether.  The important thing is not how a policy complies with our dogma, but does it work.  Sometimes big government is a good thing and sometimes it isn’t.  Sometimes taxes are required, and sometimes they are constricting our economy.  Sometimes regulation is essential, and sometimes it chokes innovation.  Sometimes the government must provide services, and sometimes the private sector is better equipped.  The key here is sometimes.  Moderates of either party and Progressives believe in sometimes.   In the conservative dogma, sometimes doesn’t exist and is why we are in the mess we are in today.   There is a reason that this conservative right wing dogma appeals so to the religious nuts.  It is a religion and is therefore uninformed by reality.  It doesn’t require thinking. It is very unlikely that they will ever compromise and see the sometimes.  They certainly haven’t so far.