Saturday, August 13, 2011


I do like looking at current political issues and crises, but I don't like tying crises to meta-analysis. For example, as appalling as Dick Cheney's comment to Pat Leahy was, or Joe Wilson's shouted "You lie" to Obama during a healthcare legislation speech were, I won't say that politics is getting less civil than ever before. I remember, for example, that one Congressman attacked another with a cane in the run up to the Civil War. The same with polarization of politics, we have seemed pretty polarized for as long as I can remember (maybe a lot of people really did like Eisenhower, since then ....

Still, as a piece of meta-analysis I was impressed by this blog post by Paul Krugman. I have certainly seen conservative commenters, local and national, claim that Democrats simply want to raise taxes and spend money as ends in themselves, not for any particular purposes. Now I suppose you might get kind of close to the idea of tax and spend if Democrats propose raising taxes on the rich and using money specifically for programs for the poor (essentially close to income redistribution). But even then the taxing and spending do have a goal, related to leveling the playing field or redressing past injustices or something.

Do I fall into the same trap Krugman suggests conservatives are in, if I think that all Republican politicians want to reduce taxes only for the wealthy, reduce government spending for the poor and indeed if possible raise taxes on the poor and middle class while reducing them for the rich? Maybe, but Republicans make it pretty easy to fall into that trap. Among the Republican candidates running for their parties nomination to run for President, there seem to be conservatives (Bachmann, Santorm, Perry, Cain and Palin's shadow) and moderates (Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman) and other fringes (Gingerich, Ron Paul). But Pawlenty was on Meet The Press a few weeks ago and boasted about allowing his own state government to shut down rather than accept a Democratic legislature's budget. And Huntsman and Romney both raised their hands (along with all the other candidates) pledging not to raise taxes ... ever. There are some ideas like never raising taxes, only slashing spending and ending support programs for the elderly that they all parrot. How are we supposed to look at that?

I like the way Krugman discusses Keynesian ideas for the economy. Krugman has talked in the past about how Keynes had fallen out of favor in DC as Republicans embraced economic theories that supported policies they favor. Even still/now the idea that the wealthy are "job creators" is presented as the default position on taxes. But Keynesian economics has gained clear traction in the Great Recession, even if only for conservatives to claim that Keynesian ideas such as economic stimulus have been discredited by the "failure" of the current stimulus. Certainly it would be hard to portray the stimulus as a success, but it did keep us from going into a full blown depression. However, with the current budget cuts, there is the real possibility that we will fall into depression. Apparently in the twisted reality of conservatives, if we do slide into economic depression, it will be because we didn't cut enough.

But there is hope. The debt ceiling debate/debacle made Congress as a whole but particularly the Tea Party look so bad that Tea Party support has dropped by a third, and people with an unfavorable view of the Tea Party have increased by a third. It turns out that maybe you can't just ignore that 10 million Americans are officially out of work, millions more have either given up looking, or are working only part time (when they want full time work) and that as a whole roughly 200 million Americans feel the anxiety of economic insecurity, while only 30 million or so are actually doing well.

Occasionally some meta-analysis is a good thing.

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