Let me coin a term: the Josh Barro Phenomenon. It is a special form of conservative affirmative action where just by being something other than a stupid troll, a conservative can be held in high esteem among liberals. And Barro has received more than his fair share of compliments by us on the left. For example, I haven’t written that much more about Dean Baker than I have Josh Barro, even though in terms of policy ideas Baker is many quantum states beyond Barro.
This afternoon, Barro tried to make the case that he’s a real Republican that just wants to clean up the party, How Republicans Made Both Parties Stupid On Fixing Infrastructure. But what he actually did was show that he’s a real Republican—full stop. The article starts with him defending Chris Christie’s decision to kill the new Hudson River tunnel for mass transit—an expansion that is badly needed.
Barro tries to sound very Serious by arguing that the project is “overly expensive.” But that is always always always the reasoning for a politician to kill a project. No one ever says, “I’m killing this very popular tunnel because I hate public transit.” (Christie has no problem spending money on expanding the New Jersey Turnpike.) Instead, politicians say, “I’d love to support this very popular tunnel, but I just can’t because it is too expensive.” Or whatever. So all Barro’s “reasonable” arguments about wasteful spending just allow people like Christie political cover when they make entirely ideological decisions.
Also in his sights is Obamacare, which he calls a “Rube Goldberg mess.” And he’s right! But why is it is Rube Golberg mess? Because people like Josh Barro required it! Last year, he was arguing that it was best if the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare—not because he liked it, but because it might lead to a single payer health insurance system. You know: a non-Rube Goldberg mess.
I’m really tired of all of this. Conservative obstruction causes supposedly liberal legislation to be ridiculously complicated and inefficient. Then “reasonable” Republicans like Josh Barro complain about the legislation being complicated and inefficient. It doesn’t matter that he is attacking the Republicans for their intransigence. He is still helping the modern Republican Party to ruin good legislation coming and then complain about the damage they caused afterward.
When you get right down to it, Josh Barro is a middling writer who uses most of his intellect to make conservative ideas sound palatable. Just like the less aggressive “reformers,” he believes in the conservative ideology. He just thinks that the Republicans could do a better job of getting their own way. And he’s right! But he shouldn’t be getting compliments from liberals about being a more effective advocate for vile conservative policy ideas.
Update (5 June 2013 7:53 pm>)
Josh Barro tweeted:
A liberal gets mad at me for even talking about infrastructure cost-effectiveness, proving my point from earlier. franklycurious.com/?itemid=5249
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) June 6, 2013
I’m honored he would even read me. However, I don’t see his problem. He is providing cover for the same conservative politicians that he claims to want to reform. I don’t see how I’m wrong about that. The question of infrastructure is one of compromise. Pork is often a necessary part of that. One can always find a reason to be against a policy.
But I do feel a little bad about calling him a “middling” writer. It was a rhetorical flourish. Not that it was his problem with the article.