The 1% Propaganda Echo Chamber reverberates… a microcosm: Matt Kibbe tweets an article by Tyler Cowen, see The Hideous and Insidious – A Glimpse at the Sinuous 1% (Part One). Tyler Cowen tweets an article by Libertarian faux-populist extraordinaire, Ross Douthat: A Bad Way to Bash Republicans.
And to continue from The Hideous and Insidious Part One – what might 1% proposals in the upcoming budget conference “negotiation” process look like? If the GOP is crafty it will do what it does so well- shift and twist its talking points along with its attrition trajectory to change the “face” of its position. As we move closer to the Budget negotiations, a little background on the development of the faux-populism fobbed by the distorting and dissembling Kibbe-Cowen-Mercatus-Koch rhetoric, and what some of those faux-populism ideas might look like:
…. the basic “reform conservative” agenda looks something like this:
a. A tax reform that caps deductions and lowers rates, but also reduces the burden on working parents and the lower middle class, whether through an expanded child tax credit or some other means of reducing payroll tax liability. (Other measures that might improve the prospects of low-skilled men, ranging from a larger earned income tax credit to criminal justice reforms that reduce the incarceration rate, should also be part of the conversation.)
b. A repeal or revision of Obamacare that aims to ease us toward a system of near-universal catastrophic health insurance, and includes some kind of flat tax credit or voucher explicitly designed for that purpose.
c. A Medicare reform along the lines of the Wyden-Ryan premium support proposal, and a Social Security reform focused on means testing and extending work lives rather than a renewed push for private accounts.
d. An immigration reform that tilts much more toward Canadian-style recruitment of high-skilled workers, and that doesn’t necessarily seek to accelerate the pace of low-skilled immigration. (Any amnesty should follow the implementation of E-Verify rather than the other way around, guest worker programs should not be expanded, etc.)
e. A “market monetarist” monetary policy as an alternative both to further fiscal stimulus and to the tight money/fiscal austerity combination advanced by many Republicans today.
f. An attack not only on explicit subsidies for powerful incumbents (farm subsidies, etc.) but also other protections and implicit guarantees, in arenas ranging from copyright law to the problem of “Too Big To Fail.”
A necessary digression to navigate the maze:
Remember this mantra on taxes… “Lowering the rates and broadening the base?”
And just who is it that has recently lobbied against the Farm Bill and promulgated its faux-populist propaganda in the process? — Heritage Action. And who just recently supplied Heritage Action coffers with another half mil? The Koch Brothers. Or was it Freedom Partners that gave Heritage Action the half mil as Needham insists? Perhaps Needham forgot to mention that Freedom Partners is yet another manifestation of the Koch Brothers and their retinue.
Might Market Monetarist theory also be a favored policy of the insidious 1%? As it happens, it is. Scott Sumner of Koch-funded Mercatus Center is an avid proponent.
You’ll notice, in what I’ve included and what I’ve left out above, that there are also things that a G.O.P. reformed along these lines wouldn’t do. It wouldn’t embrace (or re-embrace) a cap-and-trade bill, or any sweeping regulatory response to climate change. (The influence of Jim Manzi is strong here.) It wouldn’t endorse further tax increases — or not unless something like the Wyden-Ryan Medicare plan was actually on the table. It would remain skeptical of many of the major features of Obamanomics — the design of the stimulus bill, the individual mandate, forays into industrial policy. It would be reality-based regarding the likely outcome of the gay marriage debate and non-Akinist on abortion, but it wouldn’t try to jettison social conservatives or sideline their concerns; instead, it would mostly work to broaden the pro-family message into the realm of economic policy. And it wouldn’t make immigration reform central to the party’s “rebranding” effort.
Retreating to a federalist, relatively-latitudinarian stance on gay marriage and marijuana, for instance, would take the party a step closer to the emerging millennial-generation consensus on those issues. Doubting the wisdom of foreign aid and foreign interventions places the libertarian populists squarely in the center of post-Iraq War public opinion. And the libertarian enthusiasm for criminal-justice reform offers a potential bridge to minority communities that have sound historical reasons to distrust Republicans. Given his background and recent associations, a leading lib-pop figure like Rand Paul is a poor messenger to those communities, but the Paul message on drug laws and sentencing reform — and, for that matter, on foreign policy, where blacks and Hispanics tend to be relatively anti-interventionist — could serve a Republican Party interested in outreach pretty well.
The conservative movement soldiers on — as any political movement should to some extent — in the belief that it can and will achieve a complete and ultimate triumph over liberalism. This is best observed in Grover Norquist’s slogan that the goal of conservatism should be to shrink government down small enough to “drown it in the bathtub.” The self-conscious “Progressive movement” believes in the reciprocal version of this goal of ultimate and complete triumph, as expressed by Ruy Teixeira and John Judis’s thesis that demographic trends alone should eventually swamp conservatives and produce a durable liberal majority that will enable a more sweeping redistributionist agenda.6
While the activists and political strategists must think and act in terms of victory as a practical matter, conservative and liberal intellectual leaders should not. There are three dominant political facts of our age that conservative thinkers (and also liberals) need to acknowledge. The first is the plain fact that neither ideological camp will ever defeat the other so decisively as to be able to govern without the consent of the other side. This is not merely my political judgment; it is sewn into the nature of America’s basic institutions and political culture.
Without Conservative “consent” – what do you get? Deadlock. Shutdown. “Compromise” of the most unconscionable variety.
…the third major political fact of our age: the welfare state, or entitlement state, is here to stay. It is a central feature of modernity itself. We are simply not going back to a system of “rugged individualism” in a minimalist “night watchman” state; there is not even a plurality in favor of this position. A spectrum of conservative and libertarian thinkers acknowledge this, though this perception has not penetrated the activist ranks. Back in 1993, Irving Kristol called for a “conservative welfare state” on the pragmatic grounds that “the welfare state is with us, for better or worse, and that conservatives should try to make it better rather than worse.”7National Review‘s Ramesh Ponnuru noted in 2006, “there is no imaginable political coalition in America capable of sustaining a majority that takes a reduction of the scope of the federal government as one of its central tasks.”8William Voegeli, author of the most trenchant critique of the welfare state (Never Enough) since at least Charles Murray, concludes, “No conservative, either in the trenches or the commentariat, has yet devised a strategy for politicians to kick deep dents in the side of the middle-class entitlement programs without forfeiting a presidency or a congressional majority.”9 And libertarian economist Tyler Cowen faces the reality squarely: “The welfare state is here to stay, whether we like it or not.”10
Given these realities, how must conservatism revive itself for the 21st century? For starters, we must admit that starve-the-beast has been a spectacular flop. Reagan argued, both as governor and as president, for constitutional amendments requiring a balanced budget, limiting spending to a fixed proportion of personal income, and imposing a two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes.11 These reforms — even if they could be passed through the difficult amendment process — might have some effect, but their record on the state level suggests conservatives will be disappointed. The two-thirds vote requirement for budgets and taxes, along with the balanced budget requirement, has not kept California’s welfare state from slipping into the abyss. Colorado’s constitutional spending limit was breached and amended by the most conservative governor in the state’s history, Bill Owens, because it proved defective in ways important to conservatives.
Requiring the American people to actually pay for all of the government they receive is, as Niskanen and others have convincingly argued, the most effective way to limit its growth. Right now the anti-tax bias of the Right results in shifting costs onto future generations who do not vote in today’s elections, and enables liberals to defend against spending restraints very cheaply. Instead of starving the beast, conservatives should serve the check.
As the Tea Party brand becomes more toxic, and surely it is growing in toxicity as it is inducing revulsion among a large sector of the American electorate, keep an eye on how the 1% sheds its Tea Party skin for its more palatable faux-populist integument.