How Republicans Intend to Destroy Congress

Doug ElmendorfIt has begun. One of my biggest concerns about Republican control of Congress was that they would turn the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) into a partisan outfit. And now the process has begun. The idea of the CBO has always been that Congress ought to have access to real economic analysis. If they don’t have it, they will just do what they do in every other area: depend upon lobbyists. That’s not to say that the CBO has been perfect since its creation in 1974, but it has done a better job than I would have expected. And that is all about to change.

Yesterday, Dave Weigel reported, Republicans Block Reappointment of CBO Chief Doug Elmendorf. While it’s true that Elmendorf was appointed by Democrats, he’s never shown any preference toward them. In fact, he has acted the way anyone heading the office is supposed to: as a boring bean counter who drives pretty much everyone crazy. But it isn’t that the Republicans really care about him. It is just that they want to replace him with a partisan hack who will do “dynamic scoring.” This is the idea that tax cuts will so stimulate the economy that they will at least be partially paid for.

The CBO has never done dynamic scoring for a really good reason: by and large the economy doesn’t really work that way. One of the reasons that the 2009 stimulus worker poorer than it needed to was because it a good chunk of money was spent on tax cuts (much of which wasn’t spent) instead of direct spending. Once the Republicans get a partisan hack installed at the CBO, then they can propose Paul Ryan’s tax cutting rich-guy giveaway “budget.” And the CBO will say that it will reduce the budget because it will cause 6% growth from now until the second coming of Reagan.

Jonathan Bernstein is not a man to make outlandish claims, but even he wrote today, Republicans’ Latest War on Facts. He made three points. First, the Republican obsession with the budget deficit is “phony.” See how careful he is? This one could have been called in the early 1980s under Reagan. So: of course these mendacious jerks don’t care about the deficit. They only care about it in as much as it allows them to hurt the poor. Money given to the rich is sacred, and no sacrifice is too great to do that holy work.

Bernstein’s second point is that the Republicans have no interest in facts. He’s particularly focused on the supply side garbage thinking and the idea that tax cuts pay for themselves:

Few theories have had more real-world testing than supply-siders’ claims that tax cuts pay for themselves. The outcome is conclusive: They don’t. Instead of accepting the results, Republicans choose to get rid of neutral expertise.

What do facts matter when they get in the way of things you simply want to believe? Want to cut food stamps? Scream about the budget deficit! Want to fund a war? Scream about how Reagan proved budget deficits don’t matter! Want Tinker Bell to come back to life? Appoint a Director of the Congressional Budget Office who really, really believes in fairies!

And his third point is perhaps the most damning, “Republicans in Congress don’t care about Congress.” Like most political scientists, Bernstein really cares about political institutions. And the Republicans don’t. They are just trying to push their ideological agenda by any means necessary. It reminds me of the Nazis when they took power in the legislature: they abolished it. If there were a way to do that in the United States, I have little doubt that the Republicans would have done it in January of 2003.

This entry was posted in Politics by Frank Moraes. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

Leave a Reply