The 2012 re-election of President Obama indicates that the majority of voters simply no longer believe Republicans. Only those most invested in being Republican, and the ultra-wealthy, sustain the party. The recent election is a clear sign that those groups, no matter how much money they can afford to pour into Republican campaigns, are on the wrong side of the future. The political coalition Obama took into his victory is going to become stronger going forward, not weaker.
But this isn’t all about ‘angry white men,’ the Republican mainstay. The GOP has a more serious problem: The majority no longer believes Republicans really know what makes a robust economy, or how to restore a robust economy once it falters. In fact the majority is pretty sure Republican policies created the crash, and have kept the economy from recovery since the crash. Jonathan Weiler, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Global Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, explains why the public may distrust Republicans. In a Huffington Post article entitled The Republican Party Should Have Zero Credibility on Deficits, Weiler lists some reasons why the public is turning away from the GOP.
…All of this is the necessary backdrop for discussions about the current budget negotiations. Remember that in 2011 (and again in 2012), House Republicans nearly unanimously approved Paul Ryan’s budget, which has more or less become the foundational expression of the Republican view of government. The original budget, since modified to some degree, called for eliminating capital gains taxes and dramatically cutting income taxes on the wealthy, to be financed by gutting Medicaid and other social programs. Ryan knew that this plan was not, in fact, a deficit reduction plan, though he tried to pass it off as one to an embarrassingly credulous media. Ryan also knows his proposals would not reduce the deficit, which is why he refused to submit the entire plan to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for scoring, asking instead that the CBO score a bizarro version of his budget.
Amidst a series of bad faith proposals and arguments, none has more clearly illustrated the GOP’s intentions than their approach to Medicare. Republicans have long insisted that in order to reduce our long-term spending, we must get entitlements under control. This is a bogus argument (one shared by many non-Republicans, of course) on many levels, one of which is that Social Security, as President Ronald Reagan explained clearly, does not add one cent to our deficits. Concerning Medicare, it has long been clear that the program’s financial challenges are largely due to rising health care costs in general. And the GOP has repeatedly opposed serious attempts to control those costs. For example, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) included some significant cuts in Medicare spending by reducing, for example, overpayments to the Medicare privatization experiment known as Medicare Advantage. Those spending reductions, originally estimated at about half a trillion dollars over ten years, became the focal point of GOP attack ads during the 2010 mid-term election cycle. In other words, despite repeatedly insisting that entitlements must be reined in, the GOP’s response to a plausible effort to do so was to pillory Democrats for supposedly attacking seniors.
The Ryan budgets have included the same reductions to Medicare included in the ACA. But the benefits of those cuts, which in the ACA were slated to help seniors by, for example, closing the prescription drug benefit doughnut hole, were re-purposed by Ryan to pay for his tax cuts for the rich. And incredibly, once he joined the Romney ticket, Ryan’s Medicare cuts were forgotten, and Romney/Ryan relentlessly attacked Obama for cutting Medicare and hurting seniors. So, to sum up: 1) the GOP repeatedly insists that we cut entitlements; 2) at the same time, it bashed Democrats in 2010 when they actually took steps toward doing so; 3) it then embraced, dollar for dollar, the cuts for which it had just bashed Democrats, while approving shifting the savings from those cuts away from benefiting the seniors it claimed Democrats were hurting; 4) it then resumed bashing Democrats in 2012 for cutting Medicare, pretending it hadn’t already approved the same cuts 5) and now, having lost the election, it insists that Democrats aren’t serious about reducing the deficit unless they agree to cut entitlements, including Medicare….
Paul Krugman, in a New York Times editorial, says Republicans can no longer propose reality based policies because when it comes to economics ‘there is no there, there.’
No, really. While there has been a lot of bluster from the G.O.P. about how we should reduce the deficit with spending cuts, not tax increases, no leading figures on the Republican side have been able or willing to specify what, exactly, they want to cut.
And there’s a reason for this reticence. The fact is that Republican posturing on the deficit has always been a con game, a play on the innumeracy of voters and reporters. Now Mr. Obama has demanded that the G.O.P. put up or shut up — and the response is an aggrieved mumble.
Here’s where we are right now: As his opening bid in negotiations, Mr. Obama has proposed raising about $1.6 trillion in additional revenue over the next decade, with the majority coming from letting the high-end Bush tax cuts expire and the rest from measures to limit tax deductions. He would also cut spending by about $400 billion, through such measures as giving Medicare the ability to bargain for lower drug prices.
Republicans have howled in outrage. Senator Orrin Hatch, delivering the G.O.P. reply to the president’s weekly address, denounced the offer as a case of “bait and switch,” bearing no relationship to what Mr. Obama ran on in the election. In fact, however, the offer is more or less the same as Mr. Obama’s original 2013 budget proposal and also closely tracks his campaign literature.
So what are Republicans offering as an alternative? They say they want to rely mainly on spending cuts instead. Which spending cuts? Ah, that’s a mystery. In fact, until late last week, as far as I can tell, no leading Republican had been willing to say anything specific at all about how spending should be cut.
The veil lifted a bit when Senator Mitch McConnell, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, finally mentioned a few things — raising the Medicare eligibility age, increasing Medicare premiums for high-income beneficiaries and changing the inflation adjustment for Social Security. But it’s not clear whether these represent an official negotiating position — and in any case, the arithmetic just doesn’t work.
Start with raising the Medicare age. This is, as I’ve argued in the past, a terrible policy idea. But even aside from that, it’s just not a big money saver, largely because 65- and 66-year-olds have much lower health costs than the average Medicare recipient. When the Congressional Budget Office analyzed the likely fiscal effects of a rise in the eligibility age, it found that it would save only $113 billion over the next decade and have little effect on the longer-run trajectory of Medicare costs.
Increasing premiums for the affluent would yield even less; a 2010 study by the budget office put the 10-year savings at only about $20 billion.
Changing the inflation adjustment for Social Security would save a bit more — by my estimate, about $185 billion over the next decade. But put it all together, and the things Mr. McConnell was talking about would amount to only a bit over $300 billion in budget savings — a fifth of what Mr. Obama proposes in revenue gains.
The point is that when you put Republicans on the spot and demand specifics about how they’re going to make good on their posturing about spending and deficits, they come up empty. There’s no there there.
And there never was. Republicans claim to be for much smaller government, but as a political matter they have always attacked government spending in the abstract, never coming clean with voters about the reality that big cuts in government spending can happen only if we sharply curtail very popular programs. In fact, less than a month ago the Romney/Ryan campaign was attacking Mr. Obama for, yes, cutting Medicare.
Now Republicans find themselves boxed in. With taxes scheduled to rise on Jan. 1 in the absence of an agreement, they can’t play their usual game of just saying no to tax increases and pretending that they have a deficit reduction plan. And the president, by refusing to help them out by proposing G.O.P.-friendly spending cuts, has deprived them of political cover. If Republicans really want to slash popular programs, they will have to propose those cuts themselves.
So while the fiscal cliff — still a bad name for the looming austerity bomb, but I guess we’re stuck with it — is a bad thing from an economic point of view, it has had at least one salutary political effect. For it has finally laid bare the con that has always been at the core of the G.O.P.’s political strategy.
Beezer here. If you don’t understand economics then the chances are great that your policies are not going to be successful. For more than 30 years Republicans have built up an edifice based on nonsense economics. In 2007 and 2008 these policies created the biggest economic crisis in America since the Great Depression. Financial deregulation, low tax rates particularly on wealthy incomes, rampant defense spending, artificially low interest rates, regulatory forbearance across the board– all Republican economic mainstays–brought on an economic whirlwind of destruction. Yet after all this destruction, after watching their politically motivated edifice crumble in public view, the GOP didn’t change a note. And still don’t. They still threaten blackmail over the debt limit if they don’t get their way–whatever their way is if they’d only tell us. The GOP is about to collapse inward, representing a shrinking population and the uber wealthy. The sooner this happens, the better off will be the nation.