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What Exactly Has Conservatism Accomplished Lately?

Conor Friedersdorf asks a question:

[W]hat has Fox News accomplished? What has the Tea Party accomplished? What has any movement institution accomplished in the last 15 years? Enough that the movement isn’t a failure? Is a successful entertainment channel and a short-lived protest movement enough for conservatives? Is winning the 2010 midterms enough if it doesn’t ultimately advance the agenda? If so, conservatives have chosen the right movement leaders. Think tank, talk radio and magazine pundits will keep getting paid and Fox profits will keep rolling in as Obama governs.

For them, the conservative movement is an end in itself.

When an ideological movement’s leaders stay fat and happy regardless of ideological advances, will things ever improve?

I have my doubts.

It’s a good question. Fifteen years back in time takes us to 1997 when the Republicans controlled Congress and Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office. By then, though, they’d pretty much accomplished most of the things that partnership was known for, such as welfare reform, balanced budgets that weren’t really balanced, and, unfortunately, the Defense of Marriage Act. By this time in `97, Republicans in the House were already marching down the road toward Impeachment which, in the end and quite predictably, ended up being a public relations disaster not for President Clinton but for Congressional Republicans. The remainder of the Clinton years weren’t marked by anything that I’d characterize as a conservative policy success either. For the most part, both parties just marked time until the 2000 election and the showdown between George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore.

Moving on to the Bush Administration, we once again find ourselves with very little to point to that could be characterized as a conservative policy victory. Indeed, the two premier pieces of domestic legislation that marked the Bush Era, No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D, are both massive expansions of Federal Government power that resulted in significant increases in Federal spending. Beyond that, I’m at a loss to point at a single thing that the Republican Congress accomplished that could fairly be called conservative during the time that it was in power up until the 2006 elections. The Bush Tax Cuts? Some would count those as a conservative, but what exactly is conservative about cutting taxes at the same time you’re passing two pieces of legislation that massively increase spending and  engaging in two wars that ended up having an overall price tag of nearly $1 trillion? As someone who considers themselves a fiscal conservative, I’d have to say that there was absolutely nothing “conservative” about the spending record of Republicans during the Bush Era.

That brings us to the 112th Congress and the record of the House Republicans who won control of the House in 2010. To be fair in this evaluation, one must remember that controlling only one House of Congress while the White House is controlled by the opposing party makes it difficult for a majority to accomplish much of anything. However,  it’s pretty unclear to me what they’ve done to advance conservative policy goals. Yes, they passed their bills to repeal Obamacare, thirty-three times actually, and they passed a number of bills that died in the Senate that they intended to be measures that would help stimulate job creation. However, because of the fact that the hardliners in the House GOP Caucus were utterly unwilling to compromise with the opposition, all of those bills died in the Senate rather than moving forward in a modified form. Instead of getting what might be a 70% victory, they ended up with a 100% loss. What that accomplished, especially in light of last week’s election results, is entirely beyond me.

My friends on the right might argue that I am missing something by not focusing on things at the state level, and they would have a point. Not everything important happens in Washington, D.C. In fact, we’d probably be a lot better off if fewer important things happened at the Federal level to begin with. Looking at the state level, one can find examples of policy advances for conservatism that have had a positive benefit on the states involved. When Jon Huntsman was Governor of Utah, for example, he shepherded into existence a market based health insurance program designed to cover people without insurance that didn’t rely on insurance mandates. There have been victories for school choice in many states around the country.  Governor’s from Mitch Daniels to Scott Walker to Chris Christie have done their best to introduce a renewed commitment to fiscal responsibility that, if it continues, will inure to the benefit of their states in the years to come. On the the other side of the coin, one can point to recent “conservative” victories at the state level on issues such as abortion that are likely to harm the long term interests of the Republican Party as a whole. On balance, though, one can probably say that conservative legislators and Governors have been far more productive than their Federal counterparts.

Friedersdorf’s overall argument is that the conservative pundit class seems largely uninterested in actually accomplishing anything policy related, and more interested in continuing the rhetorical fights, often for self-interested reasons such as fundraising or, in the case of Fox News and the talk radio cabal, for ratings. Listening to Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, et al one week after the election, one would hardly think that conservatism took the electoral drubbing that it actually did at the polls last week. They’re both acting as if there’s nothing to question about the strategy that they’ve been following for the past two decades or so, and the people who listen to them are likely eating it up as gospel. I’m sure the fundraising letters for all the appropriate groups have already been drafted and mailed and that, when received, they’ll result in another flood of checks into bank accounts that fund organizations that seem devoted to little more than touting their own press clippings. Meanwhile, the right continues to talk to itself and live inside its own media bubble. What that accomplishes baffles me but, judging by the past decade and a half, it’s been very little.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Geek, Esq. says:

    The Koch Brothers, Goldman Sachs, and the military industrial complex have all done very well for themselves, thank you.

    The conservative movement has always been–at its core–class warfare waged from the top down. Depress wages, boost the wealth at the top.

    Mission accomplished.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 1

  2. Well, based on the photo they appear to have taught elephants to play soccer. That’s something.

    It’s a shame it is a commie euro-sport.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 55 Thumb down 1

  3. Whitfield says:

    “No new taxes!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Jib says:

    I think you forgot the deregulation of finance with the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999. IMO, this is the number 1 cause of the 2008 crisis and it was a neo-liberal economic initiative enthusiastically supported by the Clinton administration so I understand that conservatives may not want to claim it. But given that de-regulation of the economy is a major part of the conservative platform, I think they have to count it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1

  5. Geek, Esq. says:

    Where does Doug get all of those elephant photos?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. swbarnes2 says:

    Beyond that, I’m at a loss to point at a single thing that the Republican Congress accomplished that could fairly be called conservative during the time that it was in power up until the 2006 elections.

    emphasis mine.

    Ugg. The No True Scotsman.

    On the the other side of the coin, one can point to recent “conservative” victories at the state level on issues such as abortion that are likely to harm the long term interests of the Republican Party as a whole.

    God forbid you deign to discuss how those conservative policies will affect living, breathing women.

    Friedersdorf’s overall argument is that the conservative pundit class seems largely uninterested in actually accomplishing anything policy related,

    And you and most of the front-pagers here (Steven Taylor excepted) are largely uninterested in talking about policy, so it sounds like a perfect match.

    one would hardly think that conservatism took the electoral drubbing that it actually did at the polls last week.

    Well, according to you, wasn’t it “conservatism” and not conservatism that lost?

    I’m sure the fundraising letters for all the appropriate groups have already been drafted and mailed and that, when received, they’ll result in another flood of checks into bank accounts that fund organizations that seem devoted to little more than touting their own press clippings.

    You mean, you didn’t know that conservatives care more about their stoking their feelings than talking about policies? The evidence is all over this board!

    I am not surprised that tens of thousands dead, and a million refugees, got only half a phrase’s worth of mention, and that the economic crash doesn’t even get that much.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    Oh, I don’t know that they’ve accomplished nothing. After all, they screwed up the country real good.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 0

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    Beyond that, I’m at a loss to point at a single thing that the Republican Congress accomplished that could fairly be called conservative during the time that it was in power up until the 2006 elections.

    Conservatism as a political philosophy is and always has been about the defense of the entrenched elites and status quo; it’s the philosophy the haves use to keep down the have-nots. Seems to me that pretty much everything the Republican Congress did, then, could fairly be called conservative.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  9. gVOR08 says:

    Whatever the trappings, Conservatism in practice always devolves into protecting and enhancing the wealth and power of the currently wealthy and powerful.

    From 1980 until now the U.S. has lowered the top marginal income tax rate from 70% to 34, lowered the effective corporate income tax rate from 30% to 17%, and lowered the max rate on long term capital gains from 28% to 12. Middle class incomes have stagnated while the rich got rich and the poor got poorer. In the same period we’ve relaxed regulation on banks and other financial institutions enough to allow the booms preceding the S&L crisis and the ’08 crisis and the bank bailouts following. (Numbers are eyeballed from convenient charts in Wikipedia.)

    I would say FOX and the Tea Party have facilitated a great deal of enhancing and protecting. A huge Conservative accomplishment. What else did you think they were going to do? Shrink the government or something?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  10. Rafer Janders says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It’s a shame it is a commie euro-sport.

    As an aside, it’s always funny to me that international football (or, as your people call it, soccer) is the most ruthlessly capitalistic sport on the planet, red in tooth and claw, while red-blooded American football is among the most socialist of enterprises in the way it is organized (salary caps, careful management of payroll and drafts so that one team never becomes too dominant for too long, etc.).

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 0

  11. @Rafer Janders: All true.

    (And in case my tone was unclear: I am joking about soccer–which one of my sons plays at a competitive level).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  12. stonetools says:

    Let’s see…

    Two unpaid for, futile wars.
    An unpaid for Medicare benefit.
    Regulatory malfeasance, leading to a massive financial and economic crisis.
    Hampering the economic recovery through near treasonous obstructionism.
    Passing lots of legislation restricting reproductive rights at the state level.
    33 attempts to repeal a national health insurance program later found constitutional by a conservative Supreme Court .
    Voter suppression legislation.
    Massive gerrymandering designed to ensure Republican dominance in the House till 2020.
    Putting enough conservative Justices on the Supreme Court that they are a nomination away from overturning Roe v Wade, if not Griswold v Connecticut.

    Oh, I think the conservatives have accomplished quite a lot. Its likely going to take a decade to clean up the mess they have made.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  13. Nick says:

    A lot of No True Scottsman going on with Friedersdorf (who I actually kinda like). Patriot Act, Iraq War, Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, Bush Tax Cuts are all conservative accomplishments of the past 15 years. The fact that they have proven generally unsuccessful doesn’t make them un-conservative in hindsight.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @Nick:

    Andrew Sullivan does the same thing — everything he likes becomes, as if by magic, a “conservative” position.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  15. There is, I think, a great deal of confusion as to what “conservative” actually means (and it is a moving target to boot).

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  16. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It may not map to any dictionary definition, but in the US it’s pretty easy:

    – tax cuts
    – religious fundamentalism
    – a strong and active military

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  17. Tsar Nicholas says:

    What Exactly Has Conservatism Accomplished Lately?

    This really is a good question. It deserves a cogent and sober analysis. Unfortunately the chances of that happening on the Internet nearly are the same as the chances of there not being high rates of poverty, crime, murder, unemployment, and dropouts, in big liberal cities which just voted overwhelmingly in lock step for more Obama.

    First off, let’s go back to the mid to late-1990′s, because a lot of stuff often gets missed.

    Tax reform. All those people who sold residences at huge profits from 1997 to around 2007 and didn’t have to pay a penny in capital gains taxes? Well, that’s because of the GOP’s 1997 tax reform package. It created huge exemptions for sales of residences. Without those tax exemptions millions upon millions of people would have less money, even today, and the housing market even would be more in the crapper.

    Habeas and death penalty reform. This was one of the crowning achievements of the DeLay-Armey-Gingrich years. Unless of course you’re a capital offense criminal or a liberal.

    During the Bush years there were vast numbers of significant free trade pacts and the Energy Reform Act of 2006 (we’d be producing a lot less LNG and LPG and natural gas without it; ergo a lot more people presently would be unemployed). Also keep in mind that for only half of his two terms did Bush have a Republican Congress. Right off the bat there was the Jeffords switch and the Dems took over the entire Congress in Jan. 2007.

    At the state level conservatism over the past 15 years or so has created a ton of jobs in the likes of Texas, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Florida, etc., and fostered extremely low unemployment rates in the likes of North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

    People also have voted with their feet. Compare and contrast the population growth figures and net inflows of the likes of Texas, Florida, Idaho and Utah with the stagnant populations and net outflows for the likes of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York. Which states are adding congressional seats and electoral votes and which states are losing them? None of that is coincidental.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 13

  18. Davebo says:

    Habeas and death penalty reform.

    Do tell…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Argon says:

    Scott Walker? The guy who created a fiscal problem by reducing revenues?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  20. An Interested Party says:

    This really is a good question. It deserves a cogent and sober analysis.

    Two adjectives that you know nothing about, except how to spell them correctly…

    Unfortunately the chances of that happening on the Internet nearly are the same as the chances of there not being high rates of poverty, crime, murder, unemployment, and dropouts, in big liberal cities which just voted overwhelmingly in lock step for more Obama.

    Can’t you come up with any new material? This line wasn’t funny the first time you used it, much less now after the 37th time you’ve used it…but we should thank you for serving as a stellar example of how conservatism hasn’t achieved much lately…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  21. Eric the OTB Lurker says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    This really is a good question. It deserves a cogent and sober analysis. Unfortunately the chances of that happening on the Internet…

    Yeah, right, except for all those other cogent and sober analyses of what conservatism has accomplished not just on this site, but on gads of others, there’s really no chance of that happening on the Internet.

    Sounds like a No True Internet fallacy (“Well, on the true Internet this discussion wouldn’t happen.”)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. Spartacus says:

    This is a good post, but too much of the blame is placed on the Tea Party, Fox News, Limbaugh and other far right actors. More blame should go to people like David Frum, David Brooks, James Joyner and Kathleen Parker. They are all fully aware of all the GOP/conservative failures that Doug described, yet they still loyally vote for the party and its presidential nominees.

    If the people who know better still vote for the GOP, why would anyone expect the extremists or those who don’t know any better to get it right?

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

  23. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    At the state level conservatism over the past 15 years or so has created a ton of jobs in the likes of Texas, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Florida, etc.,

    Wot now? Arizona has a higher unemployment rate than the U.S. And even the boom was built on a mirage – housing construction – and that sowed the seeds of the real estate crash.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  24. michael reynolds says:

    There’s a reason conservatives haven’t accomplished much: their ideas are dumb, outdated and completely irrelevant.

    I understand why conservatives continue to believe manifestly untrue things: greed and contempt. But reality has a certain weight to it that tends over time to crush stupid political faiths.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  25. Barry says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “There is, I think, a great deal of confusion as to what “conservative” actually means (and it is a moving target to boot). ”

    That’s the point. When using the term ‘conservative’, many things are inconsistent. When using the term ‘right wing’, things make much more sense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Doug, your question is fundamentally flawed. Conservatism isn’t supposed to accomplish anything. What it’s supposed to do is enable others to accomplish things.

    Successful conservatism isn’t flashy. Lower taxes means people get to keep more of their own money. Enhanced national security means we don’t get attacked. Reduced power of the federal government means they don’t do things like outlaw standard toilets, ordinary lightbulbs, and large drinks. Conservative energy policies don’t piss away billions and billions on “green energy” and “green jobs” that achieve exactly nothing except enrich select key political donors.

    It’s kind of like when a corrupt cop is busted. Yeah, it’s an achievement, but it’s also an acknowledgement of a failure in the first place for letting the cop go corrupt in the first place.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 18

  27. Barry says:

    Tsar Nicholas, it’s amazing the difference an election can make.

    Now, when I see people like you saying things like that, it makes me feel better, because it helps us win again………………..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @Spartacus:

    If the people who know better still vote for the GOP, why would anyone expect the extremists or those who don’t know any better to get it right?

    Yep.

    My money says nothing changes in the GOP, and the “good” Republicans fall in line and end up going down with the ship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  29. de stijl says:

    @Barry:

    When using the term ‘right wing’, things make much more sense.

    I am 100% behind Barry’s point. Republicans have not been conservative in the traditional sense of the word in a very long time. They are, by and large, a right-wing party with an undercurrent of white nationalism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  30. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @An Interested Party: @Eric the OTB Lurker: I don’t think that it is fair to pick on Tsar. If you look closely, all he can do is repeat the bumper sticker philosophy “bon mots” that he hears elsewhere. All of his commentary is based on pseudo snarky stuff that has been around since I was a kid–”if the US were a stock, I’d be selling short,” “Zombieland,” and such.

    He really just a more verbose version of Jan. Just ignore him, or read his comments for comic relief–like we do with Eric..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Spartacus: Good question. Any takers from the writing staff?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Just a quick correction. That’s Eric F. that I’m refering to not the Eric I responded to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. Hal 10000 says:

    If you think about it, almost all of the conservative achievements of the last 15 years were from Bill Clinton. Peace and prosperity. Deficit control. Regulatory reform. Welfare reform. Free trade. The GOP played a roll in that until about 1998. but by 2004, they had morphed into something that his conservative didn’t recognize any more: bitter, bereft of ideas, irresponsible, reckless, fundamentalist and unified only by their hatred of the Left. A sane conservative movement would have taken Obama’s budget deal of last year in a heartbeat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  34. al-Ameda says:

    Among other things, over the past 30 years it has accomplished a massive transfer of wealth from middle income wage earners to the top ten percent of wage earners. Also, we waged two unfunded wars in the Middle East while cutting tax rates. Oh, I forgot to add, we passed a Supplemental Medicare Prescription Drug Program without increasing the Medicare Tax to pay for it.

    Conservatism only applies to the culture wars, not to fiscal matters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  35. Scott O says:

    I know one thing they’ve accomplished. They’ve made a couple of my extended family members delusional.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  36. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Lower taxes means people get to keep more of their own money.

    Lower taxes without context is not necessarily a good thing. Today’s ‘conservatives’ pretend that lower taxes are always better, something that is definitely not true.

    Reduced power of the federal government means they don’t do things like outlaw standard toilets [or] ordinary lightbulbs

    Again, today’s ‘conservatives’ ignore the challenges our country faces with regards to energy and water and are unwilling to actually evaluate the issues enough to see that conserving our natural resources is a good thing.

    Conservative energy policies don’t piss away billions and billions on “green energy” and “green jobs”

    Only if they ignore the established science of climate change and are not interested addressing the future energy needs of the country.

    I will congratulate you on representing the radical ‘conservative’ Republican view, but it is in no way actually conservative.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  37. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @David M: The idea that tax breaks are “giving people money” is obscene. It is based on the presumption that the money in question is the government’s in the first place — it is not.

    I was very specific in my examples for a reason. The ones I cited were cases where the government perceived a problem and imposed a solution that is, to many people, worse than the problem. The low-flow toilets? Usually take a couple of flushes to work, eliminating the low-water advantages. The light bulbs? They don’t last as long as advertised, introduce toxic chemicals into the household, require special handling to dispose, and make some people sick. The large drinks? Well, you didn’t mention them, so I guess you agree with me.

    I got no problem with the three above products. But all of them weren’t put forward as alternatives, but mandated as solutions. Consumers were ordered to use them, and the old, fine-working solutions were outlawed. That’s liberalism for you in a nutshell — “we know what’s best for everyone, so you don’t get to choose.”

    As far as the green jobs and energy…. even setting aside that “the science is settled” (because it’s not)… the solutions chosen by Obama have failed miserably, for reasons that were self-evident to a lot of us. Even presuming that Obama had the best of intentions and wasn’t looking to reward his allies when his administration gave all that money to green energy companies, it didn’t achieve a damned thing. Good intentions don’t excuse miserable failure, and the Obama administration’s record on spending OUR money on companies that went belly-up is atrocious.

    Liberalism, for a while, called itself the “reality-based community.” Well, the reality is that Obama’s green-energy initiative has spent a lot of money and achieved very, very little — if anything.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

  38. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Reduced power of the federal government means they don’t do things like outlaw standard toilets, ordinary lightbulbs, and large drinks.

    You mean victories of conservationism?

    In 1992 President George H. W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act. This law made 1.6 gallons per flush toilets standard.

    In addition, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was signed by the other President George W. Bush.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  39. stonetools says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    Heh. As usual, Mr. Jones demonstrates that he doesn’t know whats happening. Conservative fact FAIL once again

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  40. stonetools says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Here’s a reality based discussion of the President’s clean energy record.It starts off:

    At last night’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney criticized the Obama administration for putting “$90 billion into green jobs,” saying the money could have been spent instead on things like teachers. Romney also claimed that half the companies funded by these energy programs have “gone out of business” — an untrue statement that was quickly rebutted by fact-checkers. (The real figure so far is less than 1 percent.)

    Honest question: do you ever fact check anything you post or do you just take in the claims on right wing blogs or Rush Limbaugh and spew them out here? Because, frankly, your approach isn’t working and makes you look like a jackass. Just sayin’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  41. sam says:

    Think tank, talk radio and magazine pundits will keep getting paid and Fox profits will keep rolling in as Obama governs.

    For them, the conservative movement is an end in itself.

    I submit that the first part only supports the conclusion that the conservative movement is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The end supported is the “getting paid ” and “profits rolling in” thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  42. sam says:

    @13:

    The idea that tax breaks are “giving people money” is obscene. It is based on the presumption that the money in question is the government’s in the first place — it is not.

    Please. Use that logic and see if you can defend all the tax provisions in Code. You can’t and you know it.

    Simpleton.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  43. george says:

    Conservatism in the US is a lot different than conservatism in the rest of the world – and I think the US model is pretty much broken.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  44. C. Clavin says:

    Indiana Jones #13 proves he/she has no conception of the meaning of Conservatism. In the process…as he/she is the Republican Party of today…proves the fundamental disconnect between Republicanism and Conservatism.
    Obama is the most Conservative President since Reagan…and considering that Reagan raised taxes, exploded the debt, and grew the Government…he may be more Conservative than Reagan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  45. mattb says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Beyond Timothy’s great points, let me just note two incorrect statements in your “facts”:

    The low-flow toilets? Usually take a couple of flushes to work, eliminating the low-water advantages.

    False. First because the majority of flushes are for liquid waste not solid. So there’s no need for those “extra” flushes. And in the case of those extra flushes, step back man, here’s someone doing science:

    The bottom line is that for practically everyone the daily ratio of (shall we say) liquid-only events (LOEs) to solid events (SEs) is greater than 1:1, and for some may be 6:1 or more. For argument’s sake let’s say a typical day on the toilet involves five LOEs and one SE. Using a 3.5 GPF unit that consistently gets the job done in a single flush, that’s six events, six flushes, for a total of 21 gallons. But the puniest low-flow model should have little problem handling the LOEs, so even if five flushes were required to bring the SE to a satisfactory conclusion, the ten flushes would use only 16 gallons. In this scenario, as long as you’re flushing fewer than eight times per SE, the low-flow toilet is saving water.
    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2754/do-low-flush-toilets-actually-save-water

    And as far as ‘climate change is not ‘settled science’, it’s not ‘settled science’ in the same way that ‘evolution’ isn’t settled science. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of climate and geological scientists (the ones who, you know, actually specialize in this area) (a) agree that climate change is happened at an accelerated rate and (b) is connected to human activities. What is less “settled” is the specific causes, but even that continues to strongly point towards the amount of additional energy and pollutants are being added into the atmosphere due to the production and burning of fossil fuels.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  46. I’m not sure this is fair. After all, the Heritage Foundation’s health insurance reform plan was just enacted a couple years ago.

    But seriously, folks, David Frum got it right when he said that “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we’re discovering we work for Fox.”

    That is, movement conservatism is a subset of the infotainment industry, with a discourse that borrows more from professional wrestling impresario Vince McMahon than from William F. Buckley.

    Conservatism, in the US today, is convincing people to sit through ads for Goldline. The mainstream media sees its role as generating “buzz” and splitting the difference between the two parties, regardless of facts, context, or consequences.

    Republican voters want to hear that cutting revenues increases revenues, that we found Saddam’s WMD, that the president’s mom secretly fled to Kenya to give birth then placed a false birth announcement in the Honolulu newspaper, that climate change is a liberal plot, that the implementation of Bob Dole & the Heritage Foundation’s health insurance reform plan is a sign of the apocalypse, and that Romney is dominating Obama in all the polls once you correct their bias.

    So, that’s what Republican-affiliated commentators tell them.

    It’s a straightforward enough business model. Rational argumentation, on public policy or electoral demographics, is not and never has been part of the Fox News equation.

    Why is anyone under the impression that the GOP rank and file care about policy issues? Pres. Bush left office with 28-34 percent approval from independents, depending on which poll you look at, and an 80-plus percent approval rating from “conservative Republicans”. It’s about having a side to root for, not about policy results.

    So it’s not fair to give folks like George Will, Michael Barone, Karl Rove, Dick Morris, Peggy Noonan, and Jennifer Rubin a hard time for their absurdly mistaken predictions. They were just doing their jobs– cheering for their side, and telling them what they wanted to hear. They should all get raises.

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  47. OzarkHillbilly says:

    What Exactly Has Conservatism Accomplished Lately?

    It has given us the Dubya List.

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  48. Jenos Idanian Who Has No Pony Tail says:

    @Timothy Watson: Since when the hell is that a compelling argument? “Bush signed it, so it must be conservative!” By that standard, all people should have had to say about gay marriage for over a decade was “Obama opposes it, so STFU.”

    Kindly argue what conservative principle is consistent with those measures.

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  49. Jenos Idanian Who Has No Pony Tail says:

    @sam: Is it too simple for you? A “tax break” means “you pay less in taxes.” “You pay less in taxes” means “you give less money to the government.” It does NOT mean “the government gives you money.”

    The only way that works is if you believe that whatever a person earns or owns is not really theirs, but the government’s, and what they have is whatever the government deigns to let them have. And while that might be a left-wing fantasy, it ain’t reality.

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  50. J-Dub says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Conservative energy policies don’t piss away billions and billions on “green energy” and “green jobs” that achieve exactly nothing except enrich select key political donors.

    You act as if there are no costs associated with coal plants that pump thousands of pounds of mercury into our air.

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  51. john personna says:

    I guess this is my blurb for the day … recommendin Clayton Christensen’s A Capitalist’s Dilemma as cross-reading. He comes at “financialization” from the angle of innovation, or lack thereof.

    America today is in a macroeconomic paradox that we might call the capitalist’s dilemma. Executives, investors and analysts are doing what is right, from their perspective and according to what they’ve been taught. Those doctrines were appropriate to the circumstances when first articulated — when capital was scarce.

    But we’ve never taught our apprentices that when capital is abundant and certain new skills are scarce, the same rules are the wrong rules. Continuing to measure the efficiency of capital prevents investment in empowering innovations that would create the new growth we need because it would drive down their RONA, ROCE and I.R.R.

    It ties I think because the GOP has that old-world, financialized, view of America. How many times have you heard that taxes kill jobs? Well, that is obviously an argument for a capital scarce society, right?

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  52. george says:

    @mattb:

    And as far as ‘climate change is not ‘settled science’, it’s not ‘settled science’ in the same way that ‘evolution’ isn’t settled science.

    Of course, no science is ever settled. “Settled” Newtonian physics with just two small clouds on the horizon in 1890 according to Lord Kelvin, had those two small clouds (Michelson-Morely drift, or lack there-of, and black body radiation) turn into relativity and quantum mechanics.

    And no doubt the same thing is going to keep happening with climate theory, the theory of evolution, and the theory of gravity (especially if we can ever get experimental verification of some of String theory) – the theories will be modified and limited, and will never be settled.

    But that’s not what the deniers mean by saying climate theory isn’t settled – they mean that its not the best theory we have at the moment, and that simply is wrong.

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  53. Pharoah Narim says:

    I hasn’t and it won’t because its not really Conservatism. Its really an ecclectic and sometimes contradictory blend of positions that appeal to white nationalism– with a Conservative label slapped on it.

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  54. Rob in CT says:

    Jenos, if there is a tax on all, and then you carve out exemptions, it’s functionally the same as a subsidy. That’s fairly obvious if you take a second to think about it.

    But you can’t take that second, because you have to launch into your rant about lefties supposedly rejecting the idea of private property. Which, aside from a tiny number of relics, they do not.

    As for the tyranny of low-flow toilets and CFL lightbulbs… you know, if we could price the pollution into the cost of the energy (say by designing a carbon tax to replace payroll taxes in whole or in part), there would be no need for mandates like those. But we cannot do those things. Why? Oh, right.

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  55. Rob in CT says:

    Bah. Sloppy on my part putting the low-flow toilet together with CFL bulbs and then going to carbon tax. Obviously, if you want to price excess water useage into the market you need something else.

    I’m all for trying to price in negative externalities and then letting the market handle the rest. All for it. Governmental mandates are a 2nd best. A fallback.

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  56. john personna says:

    @george:

    But that’s not what the deniers mean by saying climate theory isn’t settled – they mean that its not the best theory we have at the moment, and that simply is wrong.

    Their incredible argument is that “since some theories are disproved, this theory is false.”

    By minimal extension, “since some theories are disproved, no theory is true.”

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  57. john personna says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    Kevin Phillips got there first: American Theocracy.

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  58. Jr says:

    @michael reynolds: Well said. It is hilarious watching mainstream conservatives talk about how they need to make conservatism more appealing to the masses.

    Their ideas simply suck and everyone outside of old white guys realize this.

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  59. David M says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I was very specific in my examples for a reason. The ones I cited were cases where the government perceived a problem and imposed a solution that is, to many people, worse than the problem….The light bulbs? They don’t last as long as advertised, introduce toxic chemicals into the household, require special handling to dispose, and make some people sick.

    The federal government has not required anyone to use CFL light bulbs, or eliminated incandescent bulbs. The law just requires a certain level of efficiency, and the market has responded.

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  60. mattb says:

    @george:

    But that’s not what the deniers mean by saying climate theory isn’t settled – they mean that its not the best theory we have at the moment, and that simply is wrong.

    ‘zactly this!

    I don’t respond to posts like @Jenos because I think I can change his view. He’s proven time and time again that he’s not interested in a discussion or challenging his own views on this matter. My only point is not letting “settled science” lay there is to reach the people who read OTB who might have more of an open mind on these things. Or in the hopes of providing people who want to combat crap science but don’t yet understand how to counter these sorts of straw-man arguments.

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  61. Curtis says:

    Please. By far, the overwhelming policy objective of Republicans for the last 15 years has been lowering as far as possible the taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Whether or not that is conservative or not in some classical sense is irrelevent.

    The WSJ editorial page is ground zero for supply side economics. Norquist is the grand poobah. And nobody stays a part of the republican party without a strong measure of fealty to this idea.

    And at the end of the last fifteen years, tax rates on wealthy people are at levels not seen in a century, and income inequality is as high as it has been in over 80 years. I think the conservatives have been tremendously successful in their primary aim.

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  62. mattb says:

    @David M:

    The federal government has not required anyone to use CFL light bulbs, or eliminated incandescent bulbs. The law just requires a certain level of efficiency, and the market has responded.

    While the new generation of CFL are far better than previous ones, I still agree with @Jenos that, compared to traditional incandescent light, they’re still pretty crappy.

    The bigger issue is with some green measures — and this may be one of them — is the question of where the eco-cost is being extracted. I still question whether the household savings of CFL make up for the eco-cost on the production/switchover from incandescent.

    Likewise, LED lights are arguably better than either of these when it comes to home use, however the more “tech” nature of their production means that they are stressing the environment upstream and potentially downstream (as they contain lots of silicon and the current generation require a rare mineral coating to create the illusion of incandescent light).

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  63. john personna says:

    @mattb:

    I am reminded of the “special eyes” commercial

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  64. Drew 2 says:

    Conservatism isn’t supposed to accomplish anything. What it’s supposed to do is enable others to accomplish things.

    Others did indeed accomplish things. Dick Cheney’s cronies made billions off of the Iraq war. The troops paid in blood, and the taxpayers paid in national treasure.

    It’s interesting that this bothers “conservatives” not at all, while fairly trivial losses on green energy send them into near hysteria…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  65. David M says:

    @mattb:

    Whether or not the CFL/LED bulbs were the greatest thing ever wasn’t really what I was going at, just the the government hadn’t required anyone to use or buy a specific product and the manufacturers are bringing other types of more efficient light bulbs to market, including incandescents.

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  66. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @mattb: Please, don’t argue the merits of one kind of light bulb over another. That’s totally irrelevant. There’s no persuading involved here — the decision has been made, and made for everyone. You’re not trying to make us choose one type over another, you’re trying to make us not mind that we have been deprived of our choice.

    All your points boil down to “we know better, so we’re making your choices for you.” Everything else is just garnish.

    That’s it in a nutshell.

    Conservatism: “If you have a better idea, you’re free to use it and persuade others to use it.”

    Liberalism: “We have a better idea, and you WILL use it.”

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  67. Pharoah Narim says:

    Ahhh yes Jenos Idanian. Conservatives prefer the gentle, yet thorough persuasion of legislation when it comes to their ideas about what a woman does with her body or what citizens ingest into their bodies.

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  68. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Conservatism: “If you have a better idea, you’re free to use it and persuade others to use it.”

    Which is why conservatives back the right to gay marriage, the right to use whatever recreational drugs you want, and the right to have an abortion if the pregnant woman so chooses.

    This is also why conservative-leaning states, such as Alabama, Mississippi, Utah, and Georgia, are known for their carefree live and live and let live attitude, while liberal-leaning enclaves such as California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York City are known for their uniform colorless rigidity. It’s why oppressed, misunderstood, and creative kids all over the country vow to themselves “when I grow up, I’m moving to Mississippi so I can finally live free, pursue my dreams of opening an anarcho-syndicalist atheist gay collective madrassa, and do everything else I want without anybody stopping me.”

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  69. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Rafer Janders: Thanks for the reminder, I forgot the sex exception. Pretty much the only place you’re allowed to choose is in relation to sex. Everywhere else? Forget it.

    And Barack Obama opposes the legalization of drugs, so there goes your argument. It’s mainly the libertarians who support drug legalization, and they’re pretty much a subset of conservative.

    Also, if pot was legalized, do you really think a Democrat-run FDA would NOT regulate the hell out of it?

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  70. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Pharoah Narim: There’s a perfectly logical and consistent argument at the base of the pro-life crowd: if you believe that human life begins at conception, then the fetus has a right to not be murdered, and “keeping people from being murdered” is one of the valid roles of government.

    You obviously don’t agree with it, but it is a legitimate argument.

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  71. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I forgot the sex exception. Pretty much the only place you’re allowed to choose is in relation to sex.

    The fact that you reduce gay marriage to simply an issue of sex is telling. It certainly undercuts the argument you think you are making: that you are all for freedom and getting the government out of people’s lives. Beyond all of that it does not treat homosexuals are full human beings–it makes the mistake that the only thing that defines is sexual activity.

    And, really, as per my initial comment on this thread, you do really have a coherent definition of “conservative” instead you have set of current Republican policy preferences.

    One hint: conservatism, properly defined is not about liberty, it is about caution in the face of change, skepticism about the reliability of human reason, and an assumption that the current power arrangements in the society have been established by a slow, tried and true, process that cannot be quickly changed.

    It actually isn’t about liberty and freedom (that is all derived from classical liberalism).

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  72. grumpy realist says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Why does the fetus have a right to remain in the woman’s womb? We can take it out and shove it in the belly of one of those so-called “pro-life” types.

    If you insist on forced organ donation, better make certain that you volunteer first…..

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