Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Republicans aren't normal, says David Brooks, who can't see just how deranged and dangerous they really are

David Brooks is getting some credit for writing, in his July 4 column in the Times, that the GOP "may no longer be a normal party":

Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.

The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.

The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation's honor.

The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name. Economists have identified many factors that contribute to economic growth, ranging from the productivity of the work force to the share of private savings that is available for private investment. Tax levels matter, but they are far from the only or even the most important factor.

But to members of this movement, tax levels are everything. Members of this tendency have taken a small piece of economic policy and turned it into a sacred fixation.

In other words, the GOP has been taken over by Grover Norquist and his anti-tax and essentially anti-government agenda. Rather than seek compromise, working with President Obama and the Democrats to achieve some sort of bipartisan deal on the debt ceiling and more generally on the budget, even a deal that actually gives them a lot of what they want (what with Obama playing the old-fashioned moderate Republican and Democrats unwilling (or unable) to stand firm, they dig themselves ever deeper into their extremist right-wing ideology.
Brooks is right about this.

But he is wrong -- and he writes this in the very first paragraph -- that "Republicans have changed American politics since they took control of the House of Representatives," "[putting] spending restraint and debt reduction at the top of the national agenda, "[sparking] a discussion on entitlement reform," and "[turning] a bill to raise the debt limit into an opportunity to put the U.S. on a stable fiscal course."

He's wrong on all three counts.

First, Republicans are only pretending to talk about fiscal restraint and debt reduction. They aren't serious about either, which is why they reject compromise. What they really want is to lower taxes, and specifically taxes on the wealthy, both individual and corporate. Wunderkind Paul Ryan, who has become, with the media's enabling/blessing, the voice of this supposed sanity, is actually little more than a a plutocratic libertarian, an Ayn Rand devotee who is all about tax cuts, and hence all about continued, and worsened, fiscal insanity.

Second, Republicans aren't serious about entitlement reform unless what that means is chopping entitlement programs into oblivion. Ryan isn't proposing Medicare reform, he's proposing the end of Medicare as we know it, the end of Medicare as the American people want it to be. Americans clearly reject Social Security privatization, another key item on the Republican agenda, and they reject Ryan's Medicare plan as well.

Third, Republicans aren't using the debt ceiling debate, such as there is one, to put the country on the path to fiscal stability, they're essentially holding the American economy hostage in order to get what they want. There is no debate about the debt ceiling. It must be raised. If not, we might just as well sit back and watch the apocalypse unfold. Much of the economy would collapse, as the country would no longer be able to pay off its debts. It would be incredibly irresponsible, but Republicans prefer to play political chicken. And they're not serious about fiscal stability, which requires bipartisan effort. We know this because they don't even want to be at the bargaining table.

So, yes, fine, Republicans aren't normal anymore. Most of us knew that a long, long time ago -- Brooks is hardly saying anything new. But Brooks himself refuses to see or just can't see Republicans for what they really are. They're not just abnormal, they're deranged and dangerous, descending deeper and deeper into madness. And they're trying to take America down with them.


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