Lots of commentators have been referencing a report from Democracy Corps about focus-group meetings with Republicans, and with good reason: Stanley Greenberg, the organization’s co-founder, has basically provided a unified theory of the craziness that has enveloped American politics in the last few years.
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What the report makes clear is that the current Republican obsession with attacking programs that benefit Americans in need, ranging from food stamps to health care reform, isn’t about some philosophical commitment to small government. It’s about anxiety over a changing America – the multiracial, multicultural society we’re becoming – and anger that Democrats are taking Their Money and giving it to Those People. In other words, it’s still race after all these years.
One irony here is that at this point it’s the liberals who believe in America, while the conservatives don’t. I believe in our ability to change while retaining our essential nature; I believe that today’s immigrants will be incorporated into the fabric of our society, just as Italian and Jewish immigrants – once regarded as fundamentally incompatible with American ways – became “white” by the middle of the 20th century.
Another irony is that the great right-wing fear that social insurance programs will in effect buy minority votes for Democrats, leading to further change, is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The G.O.P. could have tried to reach out to immigrants, moderated its stances on Obamacare, and staked out a position as the restrained, sensible party. Instead, it’s alienating all the people it needs to win over, and quite possibly setting the stage for the very liberal dominance it fears.
Meanwhile, a key takeaway for us wonks is that none of the ostensible debates we’re having – say, the debate over rising disability rolls – can be taken at face value. Yes, we need to crunch the numbers, but in the end the other side doesn’t care about the evidence.
The G.O.P. Tax
The research firm Macroeconomic Advisers has a new report out about the effects of bad fiscal policy since 2010 – that is, since the G.O.P. takeover of the House of Representatives. The way it’s written, however, might confuse some people. They say that the combined effects of uncertainty in the bond market and cuts in discretionary spending have subtracted 1 percent from gross domestic product growth. That’s not 1 percent off G.D.P. – it’s the annualized rate of growth, so we’re talking about almost 3 percent of G.D.P. at this point; cumulatively, the losses come to around $700 billion of wasted economic potential.
This is in the same ballpark as my own estimates. And they also estimate that the current unemployment rate is 1.4 points higher than it would have been without those policies (a number consistent with almost 3 percent lower G.D.P.); so, we’d have unemployment below 6 percent if not for these lawmakers. Great work all around, guys.