What Republicans Do, Not What They Say

Ezra KleinEzra Klein hosted The Last Word last night and he said that he didn’t understand what the Republicans were doing regarding the Sequester negotiations (or lack thereof). As he understands it, the Republicans have five basic policy goals in the budget discussion: (1) cut the deficit; (2) cut entitlement spending; (3) protect defense spending; (4) simplify the tax code; and (5) lower tax rates. He notes that by compromising with the White House, Republicans can attain the first four of these five goals. So why aren’t they?

As I wrote about yesterday and the day before, the Republicans don’t care about the deficit. So they don’t care about policy goal number one. They do care about entitlement cuts, but hurting the poor is not nearly as important as helping the rich. What’s more, they know that entitlement cuts are unpopular so they are very careful about them, even as they constantly call for entitlement “reform.” So policy goal number two is out. Sure, they don’t like defense spending cuts, but one must have one’s priorities. And they don’t care at all about simplifying the tax code. There goes policy goals three and four!

Of the five policy goals Klein lists, number five is by far the biggest priority. And that’s the one they don’t get with the White House deal. So on the surface, it looks like such a deal is an 80% winner (4 out of 5). But if you weight the list correctly, you see it is more like a 90% loser. For the umteenth time: funneling money to the rich trumps all else for Republicans.

This morning, Jonathan Chait notes in a longish article about the Republican plans for the Sequester, he notes something important about policy goal four, simplifying the tax code:

Republicans in Congress never actually wanted to raise revenue by tax reform. The temporary support for tax reform was just a hand-wavy way of deflecting Obama’s popular campaign plan to expire the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Conservative economists in academia may care about the distinction between marginal tax rates and effective tax rates. But Republicans in Congress just want rich people to pay less, period. I can state this rule confidently because there is literally not a single example since 1990 of any meaningful bloc of Republicans defying it.

This is the same thing that happened with the individual mandate that became Obamacare. The Republicans were never actually for it. They were only offering it up as a policy they hated less than some of the good policies liberals were then pushing like a single-payer system. Once they didn’t have to worry about any liberal plan being enacted, they were against the conservative plan.

I can’t call what Ezra and Matt are doing false equivalence. But it is related. They are scratching their heads trying to figure out why Republicans are behaving so strangely. It doesn’t equate them to the Democrats, but it does give them more credit than they deserve. The reason why some of us see this more clearly is that we don’t listen to what Republicans claim; we watch what they do. And that is painfully clear.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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