Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Broken Clock

is correct twice a day. Or so I heard before digital.

With that in mind and the vision of a shared America on Independence Day, the most holy day of the American year for all the right reasons, the anniversary of a document, not a battle, not a war, although it sparked one. An anniversary of a ideal that used to be the common knowledge of most folks, not a referendum on a divided country, as it feels in places like Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, and the House of Representatives.

I get David Brooks and why he makes sense as the conservative columnist at The New York Times, but what I've liked since 2008 is that he gets Obama, who has met with him and discussed ideas. But I can't say I've ever agreed so fully with one of his columns as today's on the unholy intransigence of the 2012 Republican Party:

If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases.

A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.

The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.

This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.

But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.

The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.

The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.

The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name. Economists have identified many factors that contribute to economic growth, ranging from the productivity of the work force to the share of private savings that is available for private investment. Tax levels matter, but they are far from the only or even the most important factor.

But to members of this movement, tax levels are everything. Members of this tendency have taken a small piece of economic policy and turned it into a sacred fixation. They are willing to cut education and research to preserve tax expenditures. Manufacturing employment is cratering even as output rises, but members of this movement somehow believe such problems can be addressed so long as they continue to worship their idol.

Praise the Lord and pay the insurance.

The President hasn't been so healthy on the Fox Twitter handle. Is this a warning sign to anybody besides me?

I spent Independence Day on the beach at at a Dodgers game (they lost to the Mets, so I had mixed emotions) with fireworks at the end. The last song was Ray Charles' "America, the Beautiful" in the bluesy genius he discovered in it. I'm a patriot and I teach my children to be patriots as well. I don't think it should be owned by some political party just because it says lower taxes = true patriotism. That's a lie.

We all want clean water and air, we all want meaningful work and the chance to build a life for ourselves and our descendants. We want our nation protected adequately. We want the state to preserve the peace, while providing opportunities. And no matter how you prioritize all that, some taxes must be paid if the people want them. Because government, when not corrupted by it, is the last check on complete corporate feudalism.

Like when the markets fail.

No comments: