Most people in the mainstream press claim a level of obtuseness that I just don’t buy. And that includes a lot liberal commentators. Imagine a German journalist in the lead-up to World War II. He writes, “The Nazis have really turned the economy around. Why do they continue to vilify the Jews and what’s all this about invading Poland?” The implication is that the Nazis really cared about the economy and that all that business of the supremacy of the Aryan race was just a side issue. The truth, of course, was just the opposite; Nazism was at its very core a racist movement and the rest was just piled on because you can’t spend all of your time killing “undesirables.”
Yesterday, Jonathan Chait wrote the modern equivalent of an article wondering why the Nazis were so all fired interested in annexing Poland, The Arguments of the Great Recession Are Over. Hooray. In it, he discusses the Republican economic platform and wonders why it hasn’t changed over the last 5 years. After all, it has been demonstrated that austerity—cutting government spending—really is bad for the economy. And all the concern that government debt was going to cause inflation has vanished. So why are the Republicans still trying to cut funding for food stamps?
I wonder! Could it be that the Republicans never cared about improving the economy? Could it be that they were only ever using the economic crisis to push for the same old things they always want? Could it be that these questions are unknown to Chait?
I was just looking at the 2012 Republican Platform. Their ideas on the economy are telling. The whole thing is filled with misinformation like, “American businesses now face the world’s highest corporate tax rate.” That’s technically true, but they do not face the world’s highest corporate tax. Taxes are not just determined by tax rates—our tax code have lots of deductions so American corporations really aren’t paying that much. But even setting all the distortions aside, their plan is not about improving the economy. Their plan is to cut taxes on the rich and cut spending on the poor. That’s it. There are some other things like getting rid of regulation, but that again is just a way of giving to the rich and taking from the poor.
Do you see the pattern here? Conservative “intellectuals” may write articles that argue that this or that conservative policy is good for the economy. And politicians will from time to time quote those articles. But that is not the reason that the Republican Party is for these policies. Their primary interest is to be Robin Hood in reverse. And the reason they are interested in that is that they are old school aristocrats. They think that the rich are simply better than the poor.
Look at voter ID laws. These are not just a tactical maneuver. They speak to the deeply held belief among conservatives that democracy is a bad thing. The people cannot be trusted to elect its leaders. So if we can stop “those people” from voting, so much the better! And this is why the rich side with the Republican Party, even though they make more money under Democratic administrations. They know that the Republicans think as highly of the rich as the rich think of themselves.
So it is galling to me when commentators pretend that the Republican Party cares about things like improving the economy and providing “equality of opportunity.” They don’t. They are like a traditional political party: constituency based. But in their case, their constituency is very very small. And pretending that the Republicans are looking out for the good of the nation only provides them with undeserved political cover.