from Peter Radford
I was going to write about last night’s Republican presidential debate. After all it was ostensibly about the economy.
But I can’t. I won’t.
There is nothing to say other than these two observations:
First: the questions themselves were designed to allow the candidates to spout standard Republican ideology unfettered by reality. For instance, early on one question began with a meandering statement about how the national debt is unsustainable, and how the social security system is headed for bankruptcy. Neither is true. Neither is true at all. However, in the tightly controlled and hermetically sealed world of the GOP party base, both those statements are regarded as rock solid facts.
Thus the candidates were able to answer with the necessary Republican critique that we must balance the budget, slash social spending, and cut ties on the wealthy.
In other words the answers were given to questions that did not reference the real economy, but only the make-believe economy that Republicans now inhabit.
Second: this disconnect with reality gets even worse when we take a look at the various tax or economic plans on offer. They are all, without exception, based on the same supply-side twaddle that got us into the mess we are currently digging ourselves out of.
The notion that by cutting taxes on the wealthy we somehow spur investment has been so thoroughly debunked by recent experience that it defies belief that anyone still trots it out as a viable policy. Yet every single one of them does.
Not only this, they all imagine that the magic of supply-side economics will suddenly hurl the economy out of its present torpor and into an unprecedented period of growth such that the massive hole in the deficit caused by the tax cuts, and the subsequent loss in revenues, will be made up for by the lower tax rates being applied to all that new activity. We will, apparently, make it up in volume.
This is, of course, fantasy. It always has been. It always will be. But it sounds nice and plausible. Especially if the people listening focus simply on the tax cut they will receive and not on the flood of red ink it will cascade through our national finances.
At this point I must give Rand Paul some kudos: he, at least, bashed away at the idea – put forward by Rubio – that we can balance the budget and yet increase military spending simultaneously. What, Rand asked, is conservative about hiking any spending if it is not financed by taxes? Rubio blustered in response, presumably because he is unprepared for anyone asking simple questions about his math.
And that’s it.
The Republicans are stuck in a policy cut-de-sac because their base wants to hear certain things even if those things no longer relate to economic reality. So the holy trinity of tax cuts, smaller government, and deregulated business are trotted out over and over even if they are not solutions to what ails us.
They are presumed to be solutions. So we have to assume a set of problems to make them relevant. Hence the questions that were devoid of recent fact.
I doubt any of these people will get elected, but that doesn’t alleviate the problem: the entire Republican party is hiding within its alternative world. So Congress is steeped in these same solutions to the same imaginary problems. We have a Congress and a Republican party that wants to legislate for an alternative world and not the one they actually live in. So when reality and the imaginary worlds collide, and when the legislation has no bearing on what’s going on around us, nothing happens to move the lives of the voters forward.
Hence the gridlock. There will be no change in the foreseeable future. Or until someone in the Republican party returns to earth and comes up with something new.
Don’t hold your breath.