POSTMODERN POLICYMAKING

Posted in Rants on November 28th, 2017 by Ed

Senate Republicans are promising to vote within 72 hours on a bill nobody has read but will affect every aspect of the economy from the individual to the national level for the next decade. There is a good chance that nobody has read it because it has not been written, which in turn reflects that it does not exist.

The Washington Post has a writeup of the latest "drama" and how it exposes as wholly imaginary the GOP's confident projections that the tax cuts "pay for themselves" with robust economic growth:

Several deficit-hawk senators, such as Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), are demanding that some kind of “trigger” be added to the bill, which would raise taxes later if the plan’s tax cuts end up adding to the deficit. The bill would boost the deficit by $1.4 trillion in the short term. Some Republicans have argued that the spectacular growth unleashed by the plan would offset that, but Corker and company (and many economists) are skeptical; hence the demand for a tax-hike trigger. As of now, how this trigger would work, and whose taxes would go up, are unspecified.

It offers an opportunity to put their confident predictions on the line, in other words, which means that they have no intention whatsoever of putting anything like this in the bill because every single one of the people voting to support this shitshow knows that any talk of policy or data to support their predictions is simple window dressing. Everyone knows that nothing close to these predictions will happen, but they don't especially care because they want to pass the bill anyway.

More on that in a second. But first, note the underlying flaw in this part of the same WaPo piece:

But Republicans face two challenges. The first is to sell this primarily as a middle-class tax cut, so voters accept it. They do this by front-loading a bunch of preferences for the middle class along with cuts to individual rates across the board. The second challenge is to do this while simultaneously making the case that the plan would not balloon the deficit, to hold on to deficit-hawk senators and because if it raises the deficit in the long term, procedurally it can’t pass by simple majority with only Republican votes.

It amazes me how many people in the media and political world still fail to understand that this is not chess. The GOP will sell it "primarily as a middle-class tax cut" by repeating over and over, with the assistance of its pliant media mouthpieces, that this is primarily a middle-class tax cut. That's it. There is no trick. Make it so by repeating it. They will say that's what it is and in the minds of people inclined to think anything with the phrase "tax cuts" in it is good, that will be enough. Look, here's some chart from Heritage or some interest group nobody has ever heard of. Need more proof? Have the boys at AEI whip up a white paper. Doesn't matter what's in it; nobody reads that shit anyway.

It is frustrating to watch the Democrats talk themselves in circles about policy because that word does not mean to conservatives what it means to other people. For Republicans, cutting taxes is not the means to a policy end. It is the policy. That's it. Cut taxes because cutting taxes is inherently good and right. It's not "Cut taxes to stimulate economic growth." The second half of that sentence gets tacked on to appeal to the Beltway media and certain mushy centrist intellectual types. A few Kool-Aid drinkers and dullards aside, not even the Republicans who chant the mantra believe it. They just know it's good optics to say "It will stimulate economic growth." The goal is not economic growth. The start and the end of the process for the right is cutting taxes.

This is similar to what I talked about a lot last year with public vs charter schools. The right's goal is not to fund charter schools because they believe "Charter schools are better at educating kids." They just want to shut down public schools. That is the goal, and it's a fatal mistake to go into a debate on that issue with charts and graphs and white papers on Student Outcomes and Assessment thinking that the goal is how best to educate children. They don't give a good goddamn if charter schools are better or worse or the same; they just don't want to pay for public schools and instead would like the resources of the state directed back into their own pockets.

The death of our political process is going to be a bunch of technocrats and DLC-style Liberals wonking themselves into a frenzy while the right steals or destroys everything that isn't nailed down. And they'll smile and say, sure, go do some more research and get some CBO scores or whatever, and while they're distracted the handful of interests that are returning us to the era of Robber Baron capitalism will empty the last of the till into their briefcases and laugh their asses off on the way to their offshore havens.