• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

The Unfortunate State of the Congressional GOP

republicans-democrats-capitol-hill

Norm Ornstein has a column at The Atlantic that is worth a read:  Why Can’t House GOP Leaders Stand Up to Radical Members of Their Party?  Keep in mind that Ornstein is a scholarly expert on Congress and works at the American Enterprise Institute, which is a conservative-leaning think tank.

The money graf:

As we focus on how a junior private contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton could gain access to and then leak the most sensitive intelligence information we have, keep this destructive mindset at the fore. Why have we privatized and subcontracted the lions’ share of our national security intelligence apparatus? Because mindless budget cuts, a long-standing zeal to privatize reflexively, along with multiyear pay freezes for all civilian government employees and other efforts to undercut and demoralize those who work for government, have made it nearly impossible for government security agencies to compete with the private sector for top-flight electrical engineers and computer scientists. So we have turned to the back door, relying more and more on less-secure private contractors. This is the consequence of moving from a commendable focus on lean, efficient, and functional government in areas where we need it to an unthinking hatred of all government that is transcendent in the new GOP, and unchallenged by those who know better.

The issue at hand at the moment (and this has been the case for a while) is not a debate over more liberal or more conservative vision of governance.  The debate is between taking governance seriously and not taking it seriously.  Indeed, one of the grand ironies of the current era is that the ideas that are in ascendancy in terms of actual policy (e.g., tax rates, the sequester, drones, surveillance, even the fundamental architecture of the PPACA) are all center-right, which underscore that we really aren’t fighting over liberal/conservative policies as much as we are fighting the governance/no governance fight.

As Ornstein notes:

The only logical explanation is a frightening one: They are all intimidated by the more extreme and radical forces in their party. That the driving forces in today’s GOP — the ones who can say “Jump” and have the party leaders respond “How high?” — are the likes of Steve King and Ted Cruz is deeply unsettling.

It is, in fact, quite unsettling.  Cruz, in general, has not exactly demonstrated a great deal of understanding and insight into governing to date.  The King issue is an example from the column (that again, I commend in full).

I recognize that none of this is not a startling revelation.  However, I think it bears repeating until those who are enabling this behavior either a) admit that yes, in fact, their goal is break government and not fix it (at least that would be honest), or b) come to the realization that their team is not serious about playing the game (and perhaps then try to change that fact).  Of course, a major difficulty in our system is that the practical choices at the ballot box is a binary one at best (sometimes, dues to lack of competiveness, it isn’t even that).  Binary choices mean that defecting to the other team is the only option that many voters think that they have (there is also, of course, abstention or the third party route).  Many don’t want to defect so, instead, end of rationalizing their vote or the behavior of their team.

If “conservatism” is supposed to be a governing philosophy, then let’s see some attempts at governing conservatively  (and the scare quotes are intentional, because I think a) we lack a shared definition of that term, and b) much of what passes for conservatism these days is either radical or reactionary in nature).   I am hard pressed to say who the leaders are in the GOP, or the conservative movement writ large, who are interested in governance.  Indeed, those who attempt to play that role tend to either be ostracized or end up going into self-imposed exile (I am actually surprised, to a degree, that Ornstein still has a job at AEI given his ongoing critique over the last several years of the Republicans in congress).

And, I would note, the answer to this problem is not to ignore the issue on the table and then list the deficiencies of the Democrats, which certainly exist.

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Hans Bader says:

    Norm Ornstein is not a conservative, and has never pretended to be. Just as there are a few conservatives at the mostly-liberal Brookings Institution, so, too, there are a few liberals (and a larger number of libertarians) at the mostly-conservative American Enterprise Institute.

    AEI knew when they hired Orstein that he was not a conservative, although they probably did not realize just how liberal he is. But, apparently, there is no ideological litmus test to keep working there.

    Government policy over the last four years has been anything but conservative, with vast expansion of government control over healthcare, finance, etc.

    While the concept of an individual mandate contained in PPACA was originally supported by SOME conservatives (at Heritage Foundation), it was always opposed by a greater number of conservatives (like Competitive Enterprise Institute) and all Libertarians (like the Cato Institute), and much of PPACA is not in any sense conservative, such as its attack on actuarially-sound insurance pricing and practices, and the income-cliffs contained in it that are massive disincentives for certain people to work (and red tape in it that wipes out jobs and turns full-time jobs into part-time jobs).

    The fact that the GOP signed off on the sequester despite the fact that it took a slice of out of the Pentagon — the GOP’s traditional sacred cow — in order to reduce the staggering budget deficit was a sign of new flexibility and willingness to govern, even at a political price of ticking off its political base. Frankly, as a former moderate Democrat turned moderate Republican, I find the GOP much more rational and responsible today than they were under the younger Bush or under Reagan, who made the deficit skyrocket.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 47

  2. Fog says:

    About 40 years ago, I thought a conservative attitude meant being results oriented. To use welfare as an example, I thought the winning argument was supposed to be “Your compassion and ideology don’t matter because your actions are counterproductive.”
    By that standard, the modern GOP has abandoned conservatism entirely.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 3

  3. mantis says:

    This phenomenon hurts the country and the GOP, but it keeps the base more or less mollified, so nothing will change. The only thing that could push the party to actual governance quickly would be a full scale revolt by the money men. Unfortunately, a large portion of them agree with the base. As such, I fear that it will take some truly disastrous events to knock some sense into the party, and that’s no good for anybody.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 3

  4. john personna says:

    Norm Ornstein:

    As we focus on how a junior private contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton could gain access to and then leak the most sensitive intelligence information we have, keep this destructive mindset at the fore. Why have we privatized and subcontracted the lions’ share of our national security intelligence apparatus? Because mindless budget cuts, a long-standing zeal to privatize reflexively, along with multiyear pay freezes for all civilian government employees and other efforts to undercut and demoralize those who work for government, have made it nearly impossible for government security agencies to compete with the private sector for top-flight electrical engineers and computer scientists.

    Remember that “a junior private contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton” claims $200K salary.

    Obviously Booz Allen Hamilton is hosed down with government money, and there is no way that raising the pay of civil servants will ever balance that out.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 1

  5. Andre Kenji says:

    @Hans Bader:

    The fact that the GOP signed off on the sequester despite the fact that it took a slice of out of the Pentagon — the GOP’s traditional sacred cow — in order to reduce the staggering budget deficit

    No. The sequester was a last hour solution to the Debt impasse, because the back benchers of the GOP did not want to raise the Debt Limit and they did not want to increase taxes It´s easy to stand against raising the Debt Limit, but that´s not governing.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 5

  6. EddieInCA says:

    @Hans Bader:

    Frankly, as a former moderate Democrat turned moderate Republican, I find the GOP much more rational and responsible today than they were under the younger Bush or under Reagan, who made the deficit skyrocket.

    With all due respect, there is absolutely nothing rational or responsible about the current GOP. Tax rates are at historical lows. Wage stagnation is at historic highs. The stock market is at historic highs. Our nationwide infrastructure is at decrepit beyond all historical norms.

    Yet the GOP keeps insisting on Tax Cuts, Spending Cuts, and screw infrastructure.

    Show me one policy the GOP – as a party -has embraced recently that is both rational and responsible. One. Not one person, but a policy the party as a whole has fully embraced and attempted to pass.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 46 Thumb down 5

  7. @Hans Bader:

    The fact that the GOP signed off on the sequester despite the fact that it took a slice of out of the Pentagon — the GOP’s traditional sacred cow — in order to reduce the staggering budget deficit was a sign of new flexibility and willingness to govern,

    I must confess, I find this a puzzling assessment. The sequester, by definition, was an imprecise tool used due to the lack of an ability to cut an actual deal (which is what comes about when the actors involved are flexible and willing to govern). I would be more on board with your position if the GOP had actually been willing to make some real choices regarding the defense budget.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 41 Thumb down 2

  8. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    Remember that “a junior private contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton” claims $200K salary.

    Remember that particular junior private contractor was lying his ass off. He inflated his salary, his responsibilities, his accesses, and the capabilities of the programs about which he stole information. He’s a narcissistic gas-bag who will probably end up defecting to China.

    I know a lot more people who’ve made the move from the contractor side to government employee than vice-versa. Something to do with job security and a guaranteed pension, neither of which exist where I sit.

    Also, the push to replace certain government positions with contractors began long before the current GOP majority in the House.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  9. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The sequester has been quite the hot potato, with both parties alternately grabbing it and tossing it away.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  10. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Are you sure?

    Chart: How Booz Allen Hamilton Swallowed Washington

    Let’s check on the back of an envelope:

    $5.8B revenue divided by 24,500 employees allows (but certainly does not guarantee) an average compensation of $236,735

    As I say, hosed down.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  11. john personna says:

    Let’s note that this is a serious issue. There can be a false economy in privatization of what were military services. Sure, you save lifetime benefits of military signals personnel who might have been manning these intelligence databases, but suddenly the costs enter a different domain entirely.

    Booz Allen Hamilton is a Washington animal, with compensation set in … twilight at least.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  12. @john personna:

    The sequester has been quite the hot potato, with both parties alternately grabbing it and tossing it away.

    Quite true.

    I find it a ridiculous, to be honest. Members of a legislature ought to be able to sit down and hammer out something more rational than across-the-board cuts.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  13. Davebo says:

    @john personna:

    I think “claims” is the operative word here. Is there any reason to believe him? And 200k is a nice round number.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  14. john personna says:

    @Davebo:

    It’s quite a reasonable number for someone in a tech field under high demand.

    The people who can work computers and have security clearances is not huge. They came under great and sudden demand when the “big data” consulting firms started to build out.

    So no, $200K is not shocking, nor that a company like Booz Allen Hamilton would pass it along as “cost plus”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  15. Davebo says:

    @john personna:

    If even 80% of the companies revenue went toward employee compensation that would be a staggering figure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  16. john personna says:

    @Davebo:

    Let’s not forget that the guy worked in Hawaii … sweetheart deal all around.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  17. john personna says:

    @Davebo:

    That was just back of the envelope. If it had come out much less we’d be able to use it to rule out high compensation. If say the company made $2B and had 50K employees …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  18. becca says:

    Privatization. Deregulation. STABILIZATION.

    The Washington Consensus has turned into an American Nightmare.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  19. Davebo says:

    @john personna:

    Let’s just agree to disagree on this one. 200k per year for a self taught high school drop out is unheard of in my experience with or without a security clearance. And getting a secret clearance is not that big of a deal. Also lets remember that the only evidence we have regarding what level of clearance he had is his own words.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  20. john personna says:

    Wanted: Those with top secret clearances

    Private companies tend to pay more than government agencies. Contractor employees with clearances in the D.C. region earn, on average, $99,174 – an 8 percent premium over their government counterparts, according to ClearanceJobs, which surveyed 3,600 security-cleared workers.

    So … combine that with computer skills also in high demand.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  21. john personna says:

    “It’s a small pool of people who have the high-level clearances,” said Christina Thomas, a senior technical recruiter for FGM, a Reston-based defense contractor seeking 20 to 25 software engineers and developers for homeland security work. “We’re all trying to fight for the same people. It’s like battle.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  22. Mikey says:

    @john personna: BAH says they paid Snowden $122K. A decent sum by any measure, although I’m sure it’s adjusted for the expense of living in Hawaii.

    $5.8B revenue divided by 24,500 employees allows (but certainly does not guarantee) an average compensation of $236,735

    That’s gross revenue. Gross income after COGS, depreciation and amortization is about $1.3 billion. After the rest of what goes out (SG&A, taxes, interest, etc) the company nets $209 million.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    If Booz Allen Hamilton have released salary information, of course I’ll accept it.

    But do you suppose it is base, before overtime?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Mikey says:

    @john personna: Depends on whether he was overtime eligible, and that I don’t know. I work in a pretty similar scenario to his, and I’m not. But it depends on the conditions of the contract and how they fit into the legal definitions of exempt/non-exempt.

    Having a TS/SCI certainly commands a premium, because as you noted in another comment there is a limited number of IT guys who have it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. Hans Bader says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Economists at Wells Fargo and elsewhere have concluded that the sequester would be good for the economy in the long run, while being only a modest drag on it in the short run (Harvard’s Jeffrey Miron says that the sequester will be good for the economy both in the short run and the long run):

    http://www.openmarket.org/2013/03/04/harvards-jeffrey-miron-sequestration-will-help-national-economy/

    Across-the-board cuts (like the sequester) are not ideal, but they are often not AS bad as the likely alternative (cuts ONLY to useful programs that the general public benefits from, but NOT cuts to wasteful programs that are favored by powerful, better-organized special interest groups, that have successfully lobbied to put them into the budget).

    Absent the sequester, wasteful programs might have escaped the cuts imposed on useful programs. Many of the programs cut by the sequester are wasteful or affirmatively harmful to the economy.

    The sequester, while not ideal, was an “actual deal,” and I explain at the following link why it should be allowed to go into effect, and how many categories of spending it affects should be cut further (it will cut the staggeringly large budget deficit, and help the economy in the long run, at modest cost to the economy in the short run, which continued to grow despite the end of the payroll tax cut — which was much more economically significant than the sequester — and the sequester):

    http://www.openmarket.org/2012/12/20/fear-the-regulatory-cliff-not-the-fiscal-cliff/

    I am happy about the Pentagon cuts contained in the sequester (the Pentagon’s bloated budget needs to be trimmed), and the cuts to many bureaucratic agencies, such as those that bring lawsuits and create new job-killing red tape (as well as the cuts to Head Start, which has more money even after the sequester than it did several years ago; Head Start fails to improve student educational achievement over the long run).

    For more of my thoughts on barriers to economic growth, see here:

    http://www.openmarket.org/2013/02/12/sequester-budget-cuts-would-increase-long-term-economic-growth/

    Not all spending is bad. Perhaps the gas tax should be increased to pay for overdue road and bridge repairs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 14

  26. john personna says:

    Aaanyway, my comment was never geared toward Snowden in isolation, it was about the growth of defense spending (esp via contracting firms) in this security age:

    The defense industry has continued to enjoy this prosperity during a recession that has had a devastating effect on both businesses and families across the country. For example, median household income, a broad indicator of economic prosperity, was hit hard by the recession, with more than a decade of growth being wiped out between late 2007 and 2011. Defense profits dipped slightly at the recession’s start, but unlike household income, they rapidly recovered, rising over 40% between 2008 and 2011 and nearly returning to their 2007 peak.

    Why the heck is defense spending in 2011 back “nearly returning to their 2007 peak?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  27. john personna says:

    @Hans Bader:

    That is definitely cherry-picking your economist. Austerity died a big death in 2013.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

  28. @Hans Bader: Yes, but the ultimate results of the sequester are not an indicator of the maturity or seriousness of the parties involved in the process.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

  29. Mikey says:

    @john personna: One thing the post-9/11 security buildup did for the D. C. area: turned it from a semi-boring collection of gray-faced bureaucrats and bedroom communities into something like a happening place to be. Things have changed a great deal in just the 10 years I’ve lived here. Not to mention we were essentially insulated from the recent recession.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I would be more on board with your position if the GOP had actually been willing to make some real choices regarding the defense budget.

    Not to mention the fact that almost immediately, a large section of the GOP attempted a “we actually had our fingers crossed on that entire Defense Department gets cuts” part of the Sequester.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3

  31. @Matt Bernius: Indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  32. Caj says:

    Unfortunate state! It’s a hell of a lot more than an unfortunate state. Congress is an embarrassment to the country! The approval rating will soon be zero! Yet, it bothers them not one iota. The peoples business be damned, we are not here to work for them. We’ve crackpots who spread the message of sheer idiocy and that’s what will win us the next election. All in their minds of course. Oops, what am I saying? Not sure their minds work at all!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  33. Matt Bernius says:

    @Hans Bader:

    Perhaps the gas tax should be increased to pay for overdue road and bridge repairs.

    But this immediately speaks to Steven’s point. The fact is that the current GOP has taken the extremist position that there is no such thing a “good tax.” In other words, its an environment that shuts down the serious consideration of an idea like that on ideological grounds.

    Further, its created an environment where the goal is to *get the administration* versus actually attempt to reform the system. One need look no further than the way they are handling the IRS EO investigations. These could have been used as an opportunity to push for a simplification of the tax code — and all the evidence points to the fact that the real cause of the problems was the fact the 501(c)(4) form is fundamentally broken. Instead we get an investigation that is going to serve up a huge nothing-burger (but it will bring in donors for Issa and company).

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

  34. : @Matt Bernius (and @Hans Bader): Exactly what Matt said.

    Further, if the only way that Congress can achieve anything is through brinksmanship that ends in a simplistic across-the-board cut, how does that demonstrate “rational and responsible” policy-making?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  35. Matt Bernius says:

    Josh Barro really captured the GOP problem pretty succinctly when he wrote:

    Basically, [Erick] Erickson is derpy. And Erickson has big appeal to conservatives because lots of them are derpy. But the country is getting less derpy, and in time the Republican party will have to get less derpy, too.

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/erick-erickson-shows-the-worst-in-gop-2013-6#ixzz2WCyyiEg5

    The GOP is currently the far more “populist” party in many respects. And, for the moment, they are doing things that line up with the interests of some moderate republicans like @Hans Badar. And so the moderate republicans will continue to provide cover/ignore the excesses of the populist wing.

    The problem is that the populists are not necessarily doing those things for the same reasons or with the same rational as those moderate republicans.

    And at some point — and I suspect we’ll see it on immigration or gay marriage — we’re going to hit an issue where the populist/reactionary wing scuttles something that the moderates think is critical for the future of the party or the country.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  36. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Further, if the only way that Congress can achieve anything is through brinksmanship that ends in a simplistic across-the-board cut, how does that demonstrate “rational and responsible” policy-making?

    Right, we all acknowledge that crisis rarely produce good law. But when one party has dedicated itself to creating crisis as a negotiation strategy then its hard to see how good law/policy emerges.

    Without a doubt both parties are guilty of this at different times. But the objective fact, when we look at any number of issues, is that the Republicans have vastly expanded the use of “crisis” tactics since Obama took office. So at this point, they are the far more guilty party.

    This could easily switch at some point. If the Democrats lose control of the senate, it’s hard to see them not giving back as good as they got. And when that happens in the future I will be critical of them.

    But for the moment, this is a fundamental problem with the Republican party and moderate Republicans (and folks who ultimately end up voting Republican) really need to come to terms with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  37. john personna says:

    I guess it depends on your individual outlook whether the sequester ends up cutting more things you hate than it cuts things you love.

    We’d all be better off though if the call was for program-by-program review.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. stonetools says:

    At this point,I’m convinced that at the level of national domestic politics,we will continue to see nothing but gridlock due to Republican obstructionism until enough of them are voted out of office that they can longer obstruct. I’m hoping that happens in 2014.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  39. Matt Bernius says:

    @stonetools:
    The best bet is 2016 and even then it may not happen. The fact is that unless there’s major frustration among the Republican base (see 2006), the structure of districts and the tough reality of incumbency mean that the Republicans will continue to control the House.

    Plus, if any serious scandal hits between now and the Dems will have problems.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  40. michael reynolds says:

    I think the problem here is that conservatism has imploded as a philosophy. It’s outdated. Like geocentrism. It has fallen and it can’t get back up. All the kings horses, ably assisted by all the king’s men, still can’t push the yolk back into the crushed eggshell that is conservatism.

    The GOP has (as we know) three wings: Money, Bombs and Jesus. All three of whom rather amusingly think they are conservative.

    The Jesus wing is devoted to hatred, as you might expect from followers of Christ. Hate women, hate gays, hate black people, hate Mexicans.

    The Bombs wing is very into blowing sh!t up.

    And of course there’s the Money wing, which secretly laughs at the Jesus wing and has only just begun to figure out that they’ve let those people into the country club and now they’re on the board of directors.

    Each of the three wings has been objectively proven to be completely full of sh!t. The Jesus wing has lost everyone over IQ 80 or under age 80. The Bombs wing, well: Iraq. And the Money wing? Recession, bank failures, criminal rate fixing, I mean, you name it.

    So, if we were to imagine the GOP as a single individual, that person is busy trying to punch gays while bombing a foreign country while simultaneously blowing a billionaire. It was never easy, even before they were so utterly discredited. But now they have to do their job of punching, bombing and blowing with the secret knowledge that everything they’re doing is actually self-destructive.

    When you’re busy doing something impossibly but challengingly stupid it’s hard to focus on doing anything useful.

    Tough. Yep, very tough. Feel so very sorry for them.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 6

  41. JohnMcC says:

    @Matt Bernius: Thank you for directing us to Mr Josh Barro in this context, Mr Bernius. I think he contributed a lot when he defined ‘conservatism’ as “whatever ideology is shared by most of the people who call themselves conservatives…”

    Which brings me to our friend, Herr Bader. I suggest a brief sojourn into the quandry that Gov. McDonnell found himself in trying to improve the road-and-bridge infrastructure of Virginia without violating the sacred tenets of conservatism would be of interest to him. In short, it cannot be done. I read Herr B’s comments and found not a single reference that would make it seem he is aware that a huge financial and economic catastrophe happened to many Americans very recently. All one can glean from them is his belief that the federal budget is bloated and the government work force is excessive.

    Before hitting the 10-ring, it helps to sight on the right target. Apparently Herr B. draws a bead on Head Start as our problem. Most Americans think inadequate jobs & income are our problems.

    In fact, the federal deficit is shrinking quickly. From a high of $1,413 Billion in the ’09 budget (which of course belonged to the previous administration) to about 1/2 that ($744B) in the ’14 budget. The federal civilian workforce is essentially unchanged over the past decade if considered as a percentage of the total civilian labor force (between 1.25 and 1.5%).

    It is a very very minority opinion in America, that the best response to these facts is to cut spending on nutrition for poor and elderly people, to name one project of a decently run national government.

    But I’m sure that Herr B is an honorable man. He cites Harvard economists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  42. Console says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Hans is pretty much a picture perfect example of what Taylor is talking about. He presents a ridiculously superficial analysis that has no bearing on what it is that governments actually do. It’s just a bunch of nonsense about waste and bureaucracy. The tell-tale sign is the one comment he makes referring to an actual program, Head Start. As if it’s strange that a program that is impacted by population growth might need increased funding to maintain a status quo.

    Like I said, there is no interrogation into what government programs actually do on the part of people like Hans. Just ideology in search of evidence. And that’s why it’s hard for me to blame things on “extremists” and such. It’s something that really is ingrained in the thinking of the party as a whole ever since Reagan said the magic words about government and help.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  43. Coldfan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I would be more on board with your position if the GOP had actually been willing to make some real choices regarding the defense budget.

    Apparently you haven’t been paying attention. We don’t have a defense budget, nor do we have a budget for any other federal department. We haven’t had a federal budget in 4 years. The Serious Party in the Senate didn’t even introduce a budget for three straight years. The Serious Party in the White House introduced a budget that was so serious that it didn’t get a single vote in favor of it. Normally, the way it works when you have divided government is that the Republican controlled chamber introduces and passes a budget and the Serious controlled chamber introduces and passes a budget and the President introduces a budget and then there are negotiations and a final budget is passed that the GOP and the Serious Party can live with and the President can sign. When you have no budget, you have to fund the government throught continuing resolutions and stop-gap measures, like last-minute debt ceiling increases.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 16

  44. Bob in Youngstown says:

    @john personna:
    He claimed a 200K, Booz says it was 122K. Regardless, Requesting a couple of weeks off (even without pay) after just having started a job (couple of months??) seems rather unusual.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  45. @Coldfan: You are correct in one sense. However, we have been continuing to operate under the last approved budget.

    We have a budget, we just had a new version of it in some time, which I agree is a problem.

    It is, however, a tad more complicated that just blaming the Senate, although I agree that they should have a new set of budget resolutions some time back.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  46. (But, of course, that is a side issue to the rather concrete issue of the negotiations that failed to produce real policy, but instead produced the sequester).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  47. David M says:

    @Coldfan:

    Simply put, that’s a load of nonsense. You’re referring to the non-binding budget resolution as if it controlled spending, which it does not. You’re incorrectly conflating the debt ceiling with the budget resolution, when the two are unrelated. In fact, I’m pretty sure not a single thing you wrote there is factually true.

    All in all, the charitable conclusion is that you don’t understand the issue enough to realize how wrong you are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  48. @David M: Indeed, the budget process is a lot more complicated than most people think. It is my impression that people think that there is a single vote on a single document that is “The Budget” but, of course, this is rather far from the true.

    And, further, whether or not we have a “budget” or not, the money still flows in and out (i.e., fiscal policy does not stop).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  49. @Coldfan:

    When you have no budget, you have to fund the government throught continuing resolutions and stop-gap measures, like last-minute debt ceiling increases.

    I missed this initially. This is simply wrong. The debt ceiling increase has nothing to do with the continuing resolutions nor the budget process in terms of the budget resolutions and the appropriations bills. Even if the entire budget process had been followed each year the debt ceiling vote would have had to have taken place. The debt ceiling vote had nothing to do with setting how much money we commit to spend.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  50. Here’s a good post explaining what the debt ceiling is: Debt Ceiling 101

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  51. David M says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The budget resolution is basically a symptom of the problem you described in the original post. Focusing on the lack of a budget resolution is part of how the GOP does not take governance seriously. It’s taking a minor issue, pretending it’s much more important than it really is, and using it to distract people from things that actually matter.

    The budget resolution has been brought up for years now, with never an explanation of how passing it would have made things different. And the Senate did pass it this year, and now the House is ignoring it. Which doesn’t really even matter, as they’ll still have to negotiate the appropriations bills that actually authorize any spending. It does show how fake the GOP concern over the issue was though.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  52. @David M: I totally agree.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  53. andrew says:

    “Norm Ornstein is not a conservative, and has never pretended to be.”

    Yep. It was rather dishonest, but not surprising, of Steven Taylor to imply that he was.

    It’s also amusing to see how the hardline Left doesn’t see it as a big deal that the Democrats in the Senate intentionally refuse to pass a budget, while accusing others of not being serious about governance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 13

  54. David M says:

    @andrew:

    It’s also amusing to see how the hardline Left doesn’t see it as a big deal that the Democrats in the Senate did not pass a non-binding budget resolution

    You are welcome.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  55. @andrew:

    Yep. It was rather dishonest, but not surprising, of Steven Taylor to imply that he was.

    I wrote:

    Keep in mind that Ornstein is a scholarly expert on Congress and works at the American Enterprise Institute, which is a conservative-leaning think tank.

    What is factually incorrect, let alone dishonest, about that sentence?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  56. @andrew: Also, out of curiosity, what is your definition of “the hardline Left”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  57. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Well you know that any “realz conservative” think tank, like the Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Thought would never actually let a liberal onto the premises. In fact, they typically have at least one endowed Bully position, responsible for weggie-ing any pencil-necked liberal geek who gets near the joint and coming up with “funny” nicknames for political opponents in their downtime.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  58. al-Ameda says:

    @Hans Bader:

    Norm Ornstein is not a conservative, and has never pretended to be. Just as there are a few conservatives at the mostly-liberal Brookings Institution, so, too, there are a few liberals (and a larger number of libertarians) at the mostly-conservative American Enterprise Institute.

    Republican conservatives have it so easy. Whenever there is a conservative that they disagree with they just redline him (or her) right out of the picture. Dissident? No problem, send him to the RINO Gulag.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  59. Hans Bader says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Your comment is ironic, given that any liberal, moderate, or libertarian who criticizes violations of civil-liberties by the Obama Administration runs the risk of being falsely depicted as “conservative” by left-wing groups like the Center for American Progress. (It depicted former ACLU Board members Wendy Kaminer and Harvey Silverglate, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, for being “conservative” merely for questioning Administration policies that undermined free speech and due process, because some conservatives also objected to those policies.)

    I didn’t send Norm Ornstein to any “RINO Gulag,” or suggest that he be fired. I merely pointed that he is not a conservative. Plenty of think-tank people are not conservatives.

    And frankly, in a sensible world, I wouldn’t be considered a “conservative,” but rather a moderate. I have not gotten any more conservative than I was in 1984, when I reluctantly supported Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan. The Democratic Party has moved radically to the left since the days of Jimmy Carter, who deregulated railroads, airlines, and trucking (policies continued by Republican Ronald Reagan). Today, by contrast, the Democratic Party views free markets as inherently suspicious, blaming problems on mythical “deregulation” under Bush (who increased regulation of business through the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which has been described as the biggest increase in corporate regulation since the demise of wage and price controls a generation earlier, yet did nothing to prevent the 2008 financial crisis). There is not much space left in the Democratic Party for people who like free markets and free speech.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  60. @Hans Bader: I think all this hits on the basic definitional problems we have, in general, on what “liberal” and “conservative” mean.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  61. Ben Wolf says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: It’s not a bad explanation of the debt ceiling, but it isn’t quite accurate, either. To be precise the debt ceiling limits the quantity of securities the Treasury can have outstanding, which is why the trillion dollar coin would be a workable solution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  62. michael reynolds says:

    @Hans Bader:

    There is not much space left in the Democratic Party for people who like free markets and free speech.

    Nonsense. Mr. Obama picks his financial advisers from among the roster of available Goldman Sachs employees. In the middle of a very bad recession he carefully avoided Rooseveltian WPA solutions. He continued the Bush tax cuts for four years and his belated tax increases are returns to earlier Clinton levels. He’s far more muscular on military matters. His hated “liberal” health care reform came straight from Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts. Democratic proposals for gun control largely involve supporting positions previously supported by the NRA and the GOP. Democrats have also given up on taxpayer-funded abortion.

    You’re just factually wrong.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

  63. Ben Wolf says:

    @Hans Bader: Your suggestion that de-regulation has not occurred completely ignores the massive $1 quadrillion shadow banking sector which is now the vast majority of finance and is completely unregulated. SarBox is a joke, not only because what it touches on is so limited, but because it is rarely even enforced.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  64. Hans Bader says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Crony capitalism to benefit Goldman Sachs is not free markets! As Adam Smith once noted, businessmen often conspire against the free market and consumers to squelch competition and enrich themselves. Appointing some crony capitalists who want government favors to government positions does not make President Obama pro-free-market.

    As Matthew Sheffield recently noted, both political parties have moved to the left in the sense of becoming more pro-big government over time — making a one-time moderate Democrat like me look like a conservative as a result. As he notes, “The truth is that both Democrats and Republicans have shifted leftward over time”:

    “As Weekly Standard writer Jay Cost notes, it’s also grossly inaccurate to say that Republicans of yore favored far more centrist positions than today.

    ‘Consider the behavior of House Republicans during the Great Society Congress of 1965-66. That Congress produced Medicare and Medicaid, federal funding for education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and more. On item after item, Republicans in the House opposed or tried to alter drastically these measures. In fact, none other than Bob Dole​—​then a representative from Kansas​—​was a regular vote against President Lyndon Johnson’s major reforms. Along with a majority of his own caucus, he voted against Medicare. He voted to reduce spending in LBJ’s war on poverty and retain state authority over funds. He voted against federal funding of elementary and secondary schools. He voted to cut spending for housing assistance. He voted to cut highway beautification programs. He voted to delay implementation of a new minimum wage floor. And so on.

    ‘History likewise suggests a skeptical verdict on another liberal complaint of the modern age​—​that Republicans used to be reliable supporters of the very sorts of programs President Barack Obama has been promulgating. Congressional Republicans opposed Harry Truman’s universal health care program after the 1948 election; Dwight Eisenhower himself disliked it. They opposed Ted Kennedy’s late-1970s proposal. They opposed Bill Clinton’s universal care plan in 1994. As for Obama’s massive 2009 stimulus, Republicans in 1993 successfully filibustered a stimulus that cost a tenth of Obama’s proposal. Leading the charge for the GOP that time? Senate minority leader Bob Dole.’

    “The truth is that both Democrats and Republicans have shifted leftward over time. Today, were a Republican to take many of the positions described above, he would be considered an extremist. Instead of trying to “destroy” the welfare state, Republicans are in many cases trying to increase spending on it or simply to make reforms to it.

    . . .

    “No longer do you hear Republicans in leadership positions talk about eliminating large bureaucracies like the Department of Education. Instead, Republicans were the ones responsible for No Child Left behind which increased federal education spending to levels never before seen. Republicans also passed the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the largest expansion of that program since its creation. It was also the GOP which created an entirely new department, the Department of Homeland Security. One also gets the distinct impression that Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower did not ever give speeches advocating for gay marriage.”

    In fact, Reagan, who everyone now claims was a sunny, thrifty, tolerant moderate Republican, signed a law recriminalizing gay sex in the District of Columbia, and supported a massive Defense build-up that increased government spending and drove up the budget deficit to record levels. He was way to the right of today’s GOP on social issues, supporting an amendment to define one-day old embyros as “persons” for purposes of the Constitution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  65. David M says:

    @Hans Bader:

    You’re changing the subject back to “liberal” vs “conservative”, but as the original post says

    The issue at hand at the moment (and this has been the case for a while) is not a debate over more liberal or more conservative vision of governance. The debate is between taking governance seriously and not taking it seriously.

    As an example, when the GOP chose not participate in the debate and passage of health care reform, they were not treating the issue seriously.

    When the GOP chose to add the costs for Medicare Part D (among other things) to the deficit, they were not treating the deficit as a serious issue.

    When the GOP threatened to not raise the debt ceiling they were not taking their job seriously.

    Etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  66. Dave D says:

    @Hans Bader: I believe Bob Dole the man you champion, recently has come out against the current GOP and not for being leftists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  67. Dave D says:

    Steven my links seem to not be working and getting lost in limbo. If I use the link button.

    http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/270843-bob-dole-returns-to-senate-to-watch-vote-on-disability-treaty

    http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/bob-dole-lambastes-the-gop/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  68. steve s says:

    here’s yer state of the congressional GOP:

    A key Republican said Thursday he’ll propose cutting cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security recipients and military and federal civilian retirees in an effort to find more money for defense programs.
    Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s ranking Republican, said passing the 2014 defense budget may be impossible unless the bill undoes sequestration, and one way to do that is to make a controversial revision in how cost-of-living adjustments are made.

    Throw in jesus and ‘bortion and cutting Mitt’s taxes and you’ve summed up the GOP.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  69. steve s says:

    I never have to watch the sunday shows to know what the GOP talking points are. I just think, if it’s not a scientific issue, “what would a Major League Assho1e’s position be on this subject”, or if its a scientific issue, “what would a Major League Dumbass’s position be on this subject” and my guess is generally close enough to win a game of horseshoes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  70. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @john personna:

    Just saying: revenue does not = compensation, unless they are paying 100% of revenue out in salaries, which is unheard of.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  71. al-Ameda says:

    @Hans Bader:

    Your comment is ironic, given that any liberal, moderate, or libertarian who criticizes violations of civil-liberties by the Obama Administration runs the risk of being falsely depicted as “conservative” by left-wing groups like the Center for American Progress.

    Ironic? Hardly. None of that comes anywhere near what Republicans are doing to their own party these days. Democrats went through some this in the 70s and early 80’s. It’s good to see Republicans having the problem these days.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  72. jukeboxgrad says:

    People familiar with Bader’s track record understand that it’s a mistake to take him seriously. Link, link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  73. jukeboxgrad says:

    Bader:

    While the concept of an individual mandate contained in PPACA was originally supported by SOME conservatives

    Wrong (link):

    Many prominent Republicans and conservatives supported the mandate.

    Hopefully I don’t need to tell you about Avik Roy’s credentials. You are promoting fiction, as usual.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  74. @jukeboxgrad: Ah yes, I had forgotten about that interchange–it was in a post about some pretty well-regarded social science on the liberal/conservative question and Bader engaged in the same assertions about what liberal and conservative should mean (i.e., it was linked to spending and deregulation, which is wholly insufficient way to define the terms).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1