The New Orthodoxy

Here’s the good news: Grover Norquist, of far-right “think tank” Americans for Tax Reform, agrees that letting the Bush tax cuts lapse would not count as a “tax hike,” would not violate his group’s “no taxes” pledge, and therefore needn’t be a sticking point for Republicans seeking to avoid excommunication from this particular new branch of conservative theology.

Here’s the bad news. For some reason, we care.

It’s a bizarre, nonsensical politics that finds Republican members so wedded to their base that the pronouncement of an extremist advocacy group should factor into the calculus of not just members of the party fringe, but party leadership, too. Imagine Planned Parenthood demanding  — just when the health care bill was up for passage — that Democratic members oppose Senator Baucus’ compromise bill, which largely prevented federal funding from being spent on abortions. And imagine they backed up the demand with the credible threat of a primary challenge for each and every member deviating from the party line. We’d say the Democratic Party had been coopted by interest groups, and was letting the health of the country suffer just to preserve a particular point of liberal orthodoxy.

Why won’t we say that here? The Bush tax cuts were never anything more than the product of an overly rigid orthodoxy, entered into without any semblance of concern for the larger economy, over the objections of Alan Greenspan, whose silence on the bill was procured, but never earned. If Republicans actually put “country first,” or valued a balanced budget over some absurd tenet of faith, members shouldn’t have to be off the whip to put fiscal sanity before such ideologically motivated recklessness.

But instead, here we are, with a partisan hack calling the shots as we purport to navigate back towards solvency.



  1. If the Bush tax cuts were, “…the product of an overly rigid orthodoxy, entered into without any semblance of concern for the larger economy, over the objections of Alan Greenspan..”

    …then why hasn’t the big O ended them?

  2. Oh my God. Really?

  3. Really. He has stated he only wants to end those cuts for the rich. Why not everyone?

  4. Because (1) no-one would agree to eliminate the middle class tax cuts, (2) there’s actually a case for them being plausibly economic productive, (3) it would be political suicide…

    To be clear, I was speaking to the upper-class cuts, which formed the bulk of the package. The one that Republicans have steadfastly refused to let lapse.

    1. So you are comfortable suggesting that the majority of the tax revenue lost under Bush came from the top money earners?

  5. Let it surprise nobody that I’d support Planned Parenthood in your hypothetical.

    And why shouldn’t they do it? The only reason for having parties in the first place is so that interest groups can form coalitions to make quid pro quo deals to get their interests satisfied. Seems to me that the interest groups should demand the party do what they want as often as they can, and the party do what its constituent blocs want as often as it can. Obviously, that latter part works better with copious small homogenous parties, which we don’t have, but still…

    1. It’s also kind of weird for a Democrat to complain about special interest group when their party is so dependent on them (unions, blacks, etc).

  6. Concerning Republicans being “wedded to their base”, I found this to be an interesting post:

    Hypothesis being,, people voting Republican tend to be farther right while more moderate Republicans are less likely to vote.

    It seems mixed for Democrats.

    1. With a less-diverse party a certain amount of consistency seems more likely. On the left you aren’t going to get a ton of similar thinking from a blue-collar pipe fitter in Alabama and a white color gay person in San Francisco.

  7. Funny, but James has a good take on your issues Mike :

    1. Maybe one of you killer researchers can find it but surely someone has done a study about how many of Obama’s donors are in the top tax bracket.

      Also, assuming Obama found a pair and DID get hose tax cuts removed – do all of our financial woes go away? And if they don’t AND we can’t really cut federal spending much (as you have suggested previously Phillip) then where does the rest of the money come from?

      1. Mike, we can cut federal spending as much as you want – but doing so won’t necessarily get the economic benefits that Republican politicians claim they will. If you cut discretionary spending you put people out of work; when you cut entitlements you take money out of the economy, lowering GDP. 70 or 8 or 100 million checks a month have real impact, as does the home loan programs from Fannie and Freddie – which Michelle Bachmann both benefited from and wants to can off.
        And as to your point about donors – I have long held that Democrats have sold out to the same donor pool that Republicans long ago sold out to, hence the reason that republican policies from a decade ago look like a lot of Democratic policies today. I view them as all reality deficient, economically challenged, and thus not worthy of my support. And as E. J. Dionne pointed out today in his blog post to the Washington Post, that alignment has seriously undermined real progressive economics and social policy.

        1. So then – what you are saying is that Ames is actually a Reagan Republican? Welcome aboard Ames! (Although I’m actually more of an Eisenhower Republican myself).

          1. Well, if Obama is a Reagan Republican . . .

            1. Some would say a case could be made…

        2. “when you cut entitlements you take money out of the economy,”

          Yes, but within a few months you take people out of the economy too, and the economy doesn’t need as much money in order to serve the people who remain.

          America – possibly the entire world – has held off Malthusian Catastrophe as long as it could, but it is inevitable and may be upon us. It’s going to suck, but really the sooner we go through it and get it over with, the fewer people there will be for it to harm and the sooner the survivors will emerge into utopia. So it may be for the best if America defaults.

          1. Steve,
            Never let it be said that you aren’t sure of your beliefs . . . but I really hope none of them ever comes to fruition.

          2. Oh, please. The last time anyone took Malthus seriously must have been back in the early 90’s.

            Besides, if people do start dying off, that just means fewer people to service the same amount of debt (because that doesn’t just magically go away), and at a higher interest rate and lower tax revenues, so I don’t even see how that helps… economically speaking.

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