Friday, May 30, 2008

Who is this 'we,' Kemosabe?

I had never heard of Josh Kahn -- a Republican campaign operative -- until about 15 minutes ago when I saw a post at The New Republic, linking his blog at Next Right, in which he says:
Republican voters like the Democrat’s message more than their own party’s message by a large 14% margin when they don’t know which party it comes from. Just as disturbing, numbers among independents drop by another 10%... giving the Democrats a massive 28% advantage. Even our horrifically damaged image is better than our message on the economy.
"Our message"? OK, so what is "our message" according to the NPR survey Josh cites?
[F]ixing the economy requires both immediate action and longer term action to keep and create jobs. To start, we need stop all federal taxes on gasoline from Memorial Day to Labor Day to make gas more affordable, provide new guaranteed federal mortgages for people facing foreclosure and new funds to protect student loans. In the long term, we need to cut middle class taxes, double the federal tax credit for children, and make permanent the research and development tax incentives needed to create the new ideas and technology that will help keep and create jobs in America.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? New guaranteed federal mortages? More money for student loans? How the hell did this become "our message"?

The problem with the economy is simple: GOVERNMENT. To the extent that the economy is screwed up -- and one can argue that most of what's going bad right now is just cyclical correction -- it is the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT that screwed it up.

The Federal Reserve Board is especially due blame for its undisciplined monetary policies, but the Bush administration and Congress either did nothing (e.g., not drilling ANWAR) or did the wrong thing (e.g., mandatory ethanol) in terms of the biggest problems people are complaining about.

The reason "our message" is unpopular is because it is wrong. It is not a conservative message. It is not a free-market message. It is nothing that Hayek or Mises or Friedman would recognize as sound policy. Cal Coolidge would laugh himself silly if he were to imagine that this gobbledygook could ever be the Republican Party's economic message.

If this NPR survey question accurately characterizes the current GOP position on major economic issues, then it's not hard to see why the GOP's image is in the toilet. Oh, and let's examine what NPR uses as the Democrats' message in this survey:

[T]his economy has worked well for CEOs but not for the middle class, and we need a big change in direction. Income is down, but the cost for food, gas, health care and college are through the roof. We should repeal the special tax breaks for companies moving jobs overseas and for the oil companies. We need to cut middle class taxes across the board, limit drug prices and make health care affordable. We should partner with business to rebuild our highways and transportation infrastructure, and invest in clean alternative energy to create the jobs of the future.
Notice that this "position" begins with a series of specific complaints. Complaints are not policies. Class warfare rhetoric is not a policy. And to the extent that policies are stated, they're fictional or utopian.
What are these "special tax breaks" that Democrats propose to repeal, how much revenue would the repeal produce, and how would the repeal of such tax breaks (assuming they actually exist) improve the economy? Is it not a cold fact of economics that government price-fixing ("limit drug prices") inevitably causes shortages/rationoning? And if government can "make health care affordable," why can't they make everything affordable? I'd like a new computer and my wife might want a Jaguar -- can the Democrats make those "affordable," too?

And don't even get me started on Democrats and middle-class tax cuts. Bill Clinton promised middle-class tax cuts in 1992 and left office in 2001 never having cut any tax, anywhere, for anybody.

Democrats lie through their teeth, rhetorically conjure a fictional economy where government has a magic wand and pixie dust to fix every problem and complaint, and this "message" gets high ratings from voters -- and is anybody surprised?

Whatever happened to the limited-government, free-market rhetoric of Reagan/Gingrich Republicans? How is it that the GOP message on economics has departed from message of Jack Kemp and Phil Gramm and Dick Armey, so that it's now the kind of muddled mess it's become?

Josh says that Glen Bolger (another person I never heard of until 15 minutes ago) actually urges Republicans to steal the Democrats' rhetoric of economic ignorance. Please, can someone tell me why people will vote for a dishonest class-warfare Republican over a dishonest class-warfare Democrat? I didn't think so.

Bolger's memo is a white flag, an admission that the GOP has fumbled away all that conservatives have fought for since the Goldwater era. It's disguesting.

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