What Politicians Should Respond To

Dylan MatthewsRemember yesterday when I reported on Ezra Klein’s most recent false equivalence? He rightly noted that the Republicans are not changing their position on the budget deficit even though the situation has changed substantially. But since he attacked the Republicans, he had to attack the Democrats. So he said that the Democrats have not come to terms with the fact that the Republicans are fine with the Sequester. According to Klein, the Democrats should be negotiating with the Republicans to make the law work better rather than holding out for a deal to replace it.

But then, just this morning, Klein’s own subordinate at Wonk Blog, Dylan Matthews reported, Will a Fight Over Defense Spending Blow Up the Sequester? He started the article almost taunting Klein, “Turns out Republicans aren’t willing to cut defense down to sequestration levels after all.” Of course, the Republicans just want to get rid of the defense Sequester cuts and keep everything else. That’s the usual way: Republicans think compromise is where they get everything they want and the Democrats get nothing. Hence the phrase: fair and balanced.

The point of all of this is that false equivalence is a tricky maneuver. It is really easy to be shown wrong. Yesterday, I called it, “I think he’s stretching here. The Republicans have had years to adjust to falling deficits and the Democrats have had just two months from the very beginning of the Sequester.” This doesn’t mean that the Democrats really can hammer out a deal with the Republicans. But it is simply wrong to state that the Republicans are perfectly happy with the Sequester. In fact, they are anything but; unfortunately, Klein is being naive, taking them at their word about it when we always knew most of them were just positioning themselves.

Whether Klein’s broader point is true, I can’t say. I already argued that if we really look at what the Republicans and Democrats want, they are acting rationally and are in no way ignoring new information. But fundamentally, this doesn’t even matter. Politicians aren’t supposed to respond to facts about the economy. They are supposed to react to us, their constituencies. We are the ones who are supposed to respond to the facts. And in general, I think we do an alright jobs of that. The problem is that the politicians don’t so much respond to us.

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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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