I Wish Everyone Would Read Krugman Today

From “The G.O.P.’s Existential Crisis,” Paul Krugman, NYT:

“We are not having a debt crisis.

“It’s important to make this point, because I keep seeing articles about the “fiscal cliff” that do, in fact, describe it — often in the headline — as a debt crisis. But it isn’t. The U.S. government is having no trouble borrowing to cover its deficit. In fact, its borrowing costs are near historic lows. And even the confrontation over the debt ceiling that looms a few months from now if we do somehow manage to avoid going over the fiscal cliff isn’t really about debt.

“No, what we’re having is a political crisis, born of the fact that one of our two great political parties has reached the end of a 30-year road. The modern Republican Party’s grand, radical agenda lies in ruins — but the party doesn’t know how to deal with that failure, and it retains enough power to do immense damage as it strikes out in frustration.

“Before I talk about that reality, a word about the current state of budget ‘negotiations.’

“Why the scare quotes? Because these aren’t normal negotiations in which each side presents specific proposals, and horse-trading proceeds until the two sides converge. By all accounts, Republicans have, so far, offered almost no specifics.

 “In effect, Republicans are saying to President Obama, ‘Come up with something that will make us happy.’

“Why won’t the Republicans get specific? Because they don’t know how. The truth is that, when it comes to spending, they’ve been faking it all along — not just in this election, but for decades.

“Since the 1970s, the Republican Party has fallen increasingly under the influence of radical ideologues, whose goal is nothing less than the elimination of the welfare state — that is, the whole legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society. From the beginning, however, these ideologues have had a big problem: The programs they want to kill are very popular. Americans may nod their heads when you attack big government in the abstract, but they strongly support Social Security, Medicare, and even Medicaid. So what’s a radical to do?

“The answer, for a long time, has involved two strategies. One is ‘starve the beast,’ the idea of using tax cuts to reduce government revenue, then using the resulting lack of funds to force cuts in popular social programs.

“Arguably more important in conservative thinking, however, was the notion that the G.O.P. could exploit other sources of strength — white resentment, working-class dislike of social change, tough talk on national security — to build overwhelming political dominance, at which point the dismantling of the welfare state could proceed freely.

“O.K., you see the problem: Democrats didn’t go along with the program, and refused to give up. Worse, from the Republican point of view, all of their party’s sources of strength have turned into weaknesses. Democratic dominance among Hispanics has overshadowed Republican dominance among southern whites; women’s rights have trumped the politics of abortion and antigay sentiment; and guess who finally did get Osama bin Laden.

“It’s a dangerous situation. The G.O.P. is lost and rudderless, bitter and angry, but it still controls the House and, therefore, retains the ability to do a lot of harm, as it lashes out in the death throes of the conservative dream.

Quote of the Day

There was something else that went badly missing from what, if you are a Democrat, was a wretchedly dispiriting evening — and that was the opportunity of articulating a clear, strong, unapologetic affirmation of the principles by which the Democratic Party has tried to govern America since the New Deal:  of compassion in times of hardship, of fairness when sacrifices are called for, of integrity and competence when cleaning up, the wretched mess so often left by the other side, of realism in the face of wishful thinking, of a national community rather than a collection of self-interested individuals.  Those are, in fact, the themes that were sounded loud and clear at the Democratic convention and have been reiterated by Obama himself many times on the campaign trail.  But astoundingly he allowed Governor 47 Percent, of all people, to pose as a paragon of social understanding!  that’s how staggeringly bad it was.  And it was because he and his team thought it would be a smart move just to coast along on poll numbers that were already evaporating before the debate began.

“Never has such a strong political hand been so needlessly, carelessly, calamitously thrown away.”

Simon Schama, “How Obama Threw It All Away in the Denver Debate,” The Daily Beast

After I got past wondering who was the guy pretending to be Mitt at the debate, I started wondering who was the pathetic guy pretending to be Obama.  In Seven Dwarfs terms, Mitt was Happy, and our president, I’m sorry to say, veered among Sleepy, Grumpy, and Dopey.

Losing By Saying Anything to Win

From “In the end, it’s Mitt,” Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin and Jim VandeHei, Politico:

It isn’t the chair or the ho-hum convention.  Or the leaked video.  Or Stuart Stevens.  Or the improving economy.  Or media bias.  Or distorted polls.  Or the message.  Or Mormonism.

It’s Mitt.

With Republicans everywhere wondering what has happened to the Mitt Romney campaign, people who know the candidate personally and professionally offer a simple explanation:  it’s the candidate himself.

Slowly and reluctantly, Republicans who love and work for Romney are concluding that for all his gifts as a leader, businessman and role model, he’s just not a good political candidate in this era.

It kills his admirers to say it because they know to be a far more generous and approachable man than people realize — far from the caricature of him being awkward or distant — and they feel certain he would be a very good president.

Campaign officials, in the end, think likability is the least of his issues.  The much bigger one is this sense that Romney is not comfortable in his skin, at least the conservative, no-compromise skin he had to put on to win the nomination.

His past willingness to change or shade his views for apparent political advantage resulted, over time, in one of his biggest political vulnerabilities.  One close confidant said Romney sees the process like buying a company from a reluctant seller:  Just do and say what you need to do to get the deal done, and then when it’s done, do what you know actually needs to be done to make the company a success.   Emphasis added.

And there, I think, is the bottom line why Mitt is losing.  The political consensus in this country supports programs like Social Security and Medicare.  Yes, we know they have to be fixed, but we don’t want their problems to be used as an excuse to get rid of them.  So you have a guy who’s perceived as willing to say anything to get elected, combined with a sense that he and his Ayn Rand-worshipping running mate are more radical than the vast majority of Americans, a ticket that wants to dismantle both the New Deal and the Great Society.  

Mitt’s being told to be more specific, but if you don’t trust someone to begin with, what does it matter how specific he is?  You think he’s going to do what he wants after he’s elected, and that what he wants will heavily favor the already rich.  We are reluctant sellers who are not going to turn our company over to Mitt.



The Dems Are As Bad As the GOP

I’ve been criticizing the GOP for making birth control an issue, for taking women back to when they lacked equal rights and opportunities, for appearing determined to run on a “barefoot and pregnant” platform in 2012.

But I’m not real thrilled with the Dems either.  They are just as stuck in the past when it comes to Social Security, employer-based health care, and Medicare.

We all recognize that this country became great and powerful from innovation and embracing the future, from moving west to the Pacific and out into space.

Then why stay stuck on Social Security that dates to 1932, on health insurance that originated in 1943 as a way to evade wartime wage-and-price controls, on Medicare that passed in 1965?

America and the world are different than they were in the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1960’s.  Why cling so stubbornly and rigidly to models that worked for a time, but now threaten our prosperity and our future?

When we got employer-based health care, factories were desperate to replace workers because millions of men were fighting overseas.  We’re not exactly desperate to replace workers today.  And as for factories — what factories?

The GOP is sliding backwards, the Dems are stuck in the New Deal and the Great Society.  Who will get America out of the mud and back on the road?


The GOP Has No Solutions for the Twenty-First Century, But Loves the Eighteenth

Tea Party metaphors have taken over the 2012 presidential race.  In Iowa, Chris Christie’s reps are quaintly urging activists to “keep their powder dry,” while Rudy Giuliani’s people are saying exactly the same in New Hampshire.  Does the NRA know that the GOP is nostalgic not just for pre-New Deal days, but pre-bullet days?

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin doesn’t care if your powder is wet or dry, she just keeps asking for money.

Table for Two — Newt Gingrich and His Ego

If you look at the economic data and think, “You know what we need?  A new Contract with America,” your wish is Newt Gingrich’s command.  Not only is Newtie going to present a new Contract, he promises this one will be “ten times deeper and more comprehensive” than his original Contract from 1994 that mostly never became law.

He also compares himself to Abraham Lincoln, saying his ideas are “exactly what Lincoln would have campaigned on.”  So get ready for some bold policy on slavery and building a transcontinental railroad!

Rick Perry may want to undo the New Deal and take us back to the 1920’s, but why stop there?   Newtie’s way-back machine is revved up and headed for the 1850’s.