I like Ross Douthat. He’s the sole conservative voice on the NY Times Opinion pages (David Brooks has gone off the reservation and doesn’t count anymore: no one wants to listen to an old white man whine the ills of a changing society), and for the most part, he does a pretty good job. I mean, at least he doesn’t tell outright lies, like 99% of the rest of conservatives in the media.
But being that he’s such a smart, well thought-out guy, I’m surprised he makes what amounts to a pretty dumb mistake. He still takes the Republican Party seriously.
Now before I get into my rant about why that’s completely ridiculous, let’s get one thing straight. I don’t hate the Republican Party like I hate a rival sports team: blindly and without any reason other than regional/historical allegiance. I actually wish I didn’t hate the Republicans. I wish they had serious candidates that I could vote for. I wish they were coherent enough to push back against the Democratic tendency to solve social problems with massive, complex laws, that federalize things the states should be doing. And I wish they were rational enough to propose solutions to the very real problems our nation faces, and reasonable enough to strike compromises with their political opposition.
But they’re not. That’s why I hate them. And it’s why no one in their right mind should take them seriously.
For example, in Douthat’s recent column, he claims, rhetorically, that the Republicans could take back the populist vote–that they could somehow go from the Party of the Rich to the Party of the Poor and Middle Class. OK, that’d be great, because it would mean that they’d actually have to sponsor legislation that would make life better for ordinary Americans, something they haven’t done in at least 30 years.
OK, Ross, so how are they going to do it? His answer… wait for it… cutting taxes. That’s right. Douthat suggests that “reform conservatism” will lead to “upward mobility” through “larger wages subsidies, bigger child tax credits, and “a substantial clearing out of the insider-friendly subsidies and tax breaks and regulations that drive up costs in health care, real estate, energy, and higher education.”
Here’s the problem Ross–and the rest of the idiots who believe in supply-side economics better listen up as well: 80% of the people in this country don’t make enough money for tax breaks to matter. Remember, dummies, the richest 0.1% of Americans control 22% of our wealth; the top 1% control 40%. And the poorest 80%–four out of every five Americans? We control 7%. Sorry, but cutting our taxes ain’t gonna cut it.
And, as for those “insider-friendly subsidies and tax breaks and regulations,” yeah, it’d be great if they went away, but Republicans have refused, time and again, to do anything about them. After all, when you’re used to getting massive campaign contributions from guys like the Koch brothers who benefit directly from those subsidies, it’s awfully hard to turn around and take them away. That’s a sure way to lose your sugar daddy.
But apart from the fact that the magical Republican solution for everything–cutting taxes and regulations–won’t solve any of our problems, the bigger issue is that Republicans can’t govern. They’ve created a situation where Obama and the Democrats are anti-Christs in the eyes of their Tea Party base, and thus, any compromise, any cooperation–even acknowledging that problems like climate change, wage inequality, or student debt exist–will be met with hostility and rejection. Automatically.
In other words, unless Republicans control the Senate, the House, and the Presidency, nothing gets done. Even then, only laws that either: A) benefit their donors, or B) stir-up the crazy base, would be under consideration. We’d end up with an 80-foot fence along the entirety of our southern border, a ban on the use of green energy, a top marginal tax rate of 9%, and a complete privatization of our health care system. Seriously. And no, that wouldn’t make anyone’s life better–not even the super rich.
So why does anyone in the press–including Douthat–take the Republican Party seriously? Indeed, why does anyone take them seriously? We’re talking about people that don’t even hold genuine beliefs–everything they do is a knee-jerk reaction to oppose Obama and/or the Democrats.
Take two HUGE issues: tax reform and healthcare. Remember in 2012 when Mitt Romney and the Republicans were saying they’d cut taxes across the board and pay for it by getting rid of subsidies and loopholes. Well, just one year ago in the summer of 2013, Obama said he’d do exactly that. He proposed cutting the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 28%, while at the same time limiting subsidies and loopholes. No deal. Suddenly, Republican didn’t like the idea their presidential candidate was touting just six months earlier.
Speaking of Romney, the health reform he delivered for Massachusetts–Romneycare–well, that suddenly wasn’t any good either. Obamacare, or the ACA, was patterned off of Romney’s health reform while governor, which itself was the brain child of the conservative Heritage Foundation. But once Obama did it and passed it with a Democratic Congress, it became so toxic that House Republicans have spent over $70 million voting to repeal it 50 times.
Thus, Republicans either don’t seriously mean what they say, or they do, but they’d rather play politics than put forth serious policies. So why would we take the GOP seriously when they aren’t serious about governing our country?
That’s a question I guess Douthat and the rest of the wonks will have to answer, because I have no clue. What I do know, is that as long as we take the Republican Party seriously, we’re screwed. Because they don’t take us seriously at all.