Will The GOP Pay A Political Price For The DHS Shutdown Showdown?

Polling indicates that the American public opposes the GOP position on DHS funding, but that's unlikely to change many minds on Capitol Hill.

Capitol Dome

With less than 36 hours to before the current funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security expires, it remains unclear exactly how this latest Capitol Hill battle is going to resolve itself. While the Senate appears poised to pass a clean funding bill that does not include the language purporting to “defund” the deferred deportation immigration program that President Obama announced in November, known as DAPA (Deferred Action For.Parents Of Americans And Legal Permanent Residents), The Senate seems poised to pass bills largely mirroring the plan proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this week under which Congress would fully fund the Department through the end of the current fiscal year while simultaneously passing a separate bill that purports to block the DAPA program. Obviously, that second piece of legislation will be vetoed by President Obama and it’s already clear that there are not sufficient votes in either chamber of Congress to override that veto. Even if these bills do pass the Senate, it’s unclear what the House of Representatives will do given the fact that many hardcore Republicans have expressed an unwillingness to back down on the bill that they passed earlier this year which attempts to tie DHS funding to restrictions on the DAPA program. If they hold fast to that position, then funding for DHS will expire at the end of the day on Friday and tens of thousands of employees will either be furloughed or forced to work without pay because they are considered “essential” employees.

In the long run, of course, the battle over DHS will be resolved somehow. The government shutdown of October 2013 lasted for two weeks but, in the end, it too came to an end and the same will be true here. Before we get to that point, though, someone will pay a political price, and it certainly looks like it will be the GOP that does so:

Congressional Republicans are so busy this week flirting with a partial government shutdown — their target is the Department of Homeland Security and its 240,000 employees — that they may have missed fresh evidence of how badly out of step with the American public they are on the issue of illegal immigration.

It is precisely that issue that has driven the GOP to the brink of a funding cutoff for DHS, a move that would trigger furloughs for some 30,000 employees; force tens of thousands more to work without pay; freeze grants for law enforcement agencies nationwide; and further debilitate an already demoralized department that includes the Secret Service, Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection.

As it happens, 60 percent of Americans — and roughly equal segments of Republicans, Democrats and independents — oppose the GOP’s tactic of threatening homeland security funding as a means to subvert the Obama administration’s immigration policy. According to a new CBS News poll, a clear majority thinks the department’s funding “should be kept separate from immigration policy.”

Chris Cillizza contends that the GOP has made several strategic mistakes in the course of this shutdown, and this could end up harming them in the future:

Whether or not Republicans dodge the actual shutdown Friday night — and at this point, it seems to be anyone’s guess — they’ve already hurt themselves politically speaking. No, it’s not a death blow. Not even close. But it does suggest that Republicans’ previously-demonstrated inability to get out of their own way hasn’t disappeared since the party seized total control of Congress.

Simply put: At this moment in history, the more Republicans keep the focus off of them — and their internal disagreements — the better.  The country is primed to agree with them — or, at least, trust them more than Democrats — on virtually every major issue. And, yet the GOP is doing just the opposite.

A new Pew Research Center poll makes this point starkly. Pew asked which party people trusted more to deal with seven issues; on just one — healthcare — did Democrats have a statistically significant edge over Republicans. Republicans had a wide leads on handling the the threat of terrorism, foreign policy and dealing with taxes.

The problem for Republicans is that those edges on issues are almost the exact reverse of how people view the two parties. A majority of Americans believe the GOP is “too extreme”; just one in three see the Republican party as “tolerant and open to all groups of people.”

You can see then why this ongoing fight over funding the Department of Homeland Security is problematic politically for the party. The central fight, at least at the moment, is focused on whether conservatives in the House will concede to allowing separate votes on funding DHS and repealing several of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.  The parading of Republicans’ most conservative element into the public eye and the trumpeting of the storyline that they continue to control what does or doesn’t happen in Congress puts the focus almost entirely on the GOP’s biggest weaknesses.

And, as an added bonus, the issue being fought over is funding the department charged with keeping the country safe — creating at least the possibility that Republicans’ big lead on that question could be eroded by how the blame game of a shutdown plays out.

Arguments like this are unlikely to be very persuasive to the hard core conservatives that are pushing House and Senate Republicans to hold the line in the DHS funding showdown, however. Many of these people will likely point to the fact that the GOP never really suffered any repercussions from the 2013 government shutdown, and they’d unfortunately be right about that. While polling both during and immediately after the shutdown showed that the GOP in general, and Congressional Republicans in particular, were paying a heavy political price for what had happened, it didn’t take very long for those numbers to reverse themselves. To a significant degree, that was due to the fact that the rest of October 2013 and the ensuing months was consumed with stories regarding problems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act while much of 2014 ended up being consumed by news of war in Ukraine, the rise of ISIS, and other domestic and foreign political matters that pretty much pushed the memory of the GOP’s overreach of the autumn of 2013 out of the public member. By the time Election Day came around in November of last year, the political calculus had changed so significantly that the Republicans ended up winning control of the Senate in one of the biggest changes in party control in that body since the end of World War II.

As of today, we’re even further away from the 2016 elections than the October 2013 shutdown was from the midterms. Given that, and the fact that the shutdown doesn’t really seem to have hurt the GOP at all, it’s hard to see how any Republican Member of Congress is going to be convinced by Cilizza’s argument. Perhaps there will be a deal made before midnight on Friday, but even if it doesn’t happen it seems unlikely that the American people are going to care about the events of February 2015 when Election Day rolls around next year.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Borders and Immigration, Congress, Public Opinion Polls, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. gVOR08 says:

    As humanoid.panda pointed out on the last thread, it’s a collective action problem. The GOPs own 2012 post-mortem said they’re killing themselves by driving away Hispanics. But what’s good for the Party as a whole is not good for the Cruzes and the Gohmerts, and they’ll stymie this as long as they have the power to do so.

    Why the GOP leadership allows them this power escapes me. Ignore the Hastert Rule (well more of a guideline, well actually nothing) and pass a clean bill with Dem support. The way Congress used to work. Sure it’ll piss off the base. But the GOPs have always been able to schmooze, lie, and buy their way around that before. It’s not like the Texas First is going to elect a Dem no matter what happens.

  2. Hal_10000 says:

    I don’t think there will be a shutdown. A shutdown opens up the possibility of people realizing how bloated and inefficient the DHS is. In the past week, I’ve seen articles from Vox and Reason — pretty different ends of the political spectrum — arguing that creating DHS was a mistake and it should be abolished. That can not be allowed to be considered, given the amazing patronage and power DHS wields. So I expect there will be a last minute deal to keep it open.

    (Also, if something bad happens while DHS is shut down, it will be a political nightmare for the Republicans.)

  3. michael reynolds says:

    I doubt it will hurt them short-term. The damage is to the brand, especially with younger generations. They are taking a brand that used to represent green eyeshade lack of sentimentality and strong defense, and recasting it as a brand that represents instability, irresponsibility and repugnant views on race and gender. That will take a while to really bite because the old have to die and the young have to start voting.

  4. C. Clavin says:


    arguing that creating DHS was a mistake and it should be abolished.

    I agree.
    It’s a massive bureaucracy created by small Government Republicans to compensate for their massive Nat’l Security fail.
    Frankly…how great would it be to hit an undo button on the entire last Republican Administration?
    I mean…seriously…The DHS was a huge mistake…but it pales compared to all the other shit Bush and Cheney and the Republican cabal f’ed up.

  5. Modulo Myself says:

    I don’t think it matters. In several months, the GOP might be responsible for millions of Americans losing health insurance. This is small potatoes against that.

  6. C. Clavin says:


    Sure it’ll piss off the base.

    Fvck their base. Their base is a bunch of irrational idiots who need to grow up. (Except that they are all old white guys.)

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: I have never figured out how Republicans rationalize their way around the bloody disaster that was the W administration. He broke everything he touched. Except al Qaeda. And you can trace his failings directly to his country club conservatism. OK, the wingnuts do the No True Scotsman thing and say W wasn’t a true conservative. But how do reasonable Republicans get around W? James? Doug?

  8. Davebo says:


    But how do reasonable Republicans get around W? James? Doug?

    The same way the get around McConnell, Boehner and the rest of the allegedly “sane” Republicans who try so hard to prove they aren’t.

    I won’t attempt to speak for James or Doug because:

    A: James has spoken to the subject.

    B: Doug still expects everyone to believe he isn’t a Republican for some reason.

  9. SenyorDave says:

    @gVOR08: They rationalize it by making shit up, ignoring it, or pretending that its Obama’s fault. I work in finance, and it pisses me off to no end when I hear supposedly intelligent people saying the deficit is Obama’s fault, Bush took a balanced budget that was handed to him, cut revenue by $400 billion or so, increased spending by a couple hundred billion dollars, and ended up with a huge structural deficit. The run up in the national debt is entirely on BUSH and his inept administration. Add to that a GOP that refuses to work with Obama even on the few things they agree with him on, and there was no chance to refuse the deficit. But they just pound home the message that its Obama’s fault, and it works on a large portion of the people.

    I remember a few months ago seeing a comment from Doug that was something to the effect that Obama was just a bad president as Bush, and thinking WTF. Every major thing Bush did was wrong, and almost all had long-term repercussions. Iraq, Katrina, the unfunded tax cuts, the politicizing of the Justice Department (google Monica Goodling, and then try to defend the Bush administration on this).

    Obama really has spent 6 years mostly trying to undo Bush’s screw ups.

  10. Tony W says:


    Obama really has spent 6 years mostly trying to undo Bush’s screw ups.

    I quietly spent most of 2008 hoping a Republican would win the Presidential election for exactly this reason. Of course once Palin came into the fray that quickly dissipated.

  11. de stijl says:

    Will The GOP Pay A Political Price For The DHS Shutdown Showdown?

    Should they? Yes. Will they? No. Not right now, maybe later.

    Currently, Republicans get get a dickishness pass in the media. The Honey Badger pass. Why? Can you imagine the D version of Chris Christie? How would the media respond to that scenario?

    Again, why? Working the refs? Past history? The cynical version of the moral of the scorpion and the frog parable? The Rs definitely get a pass on dickish behavior.

    The corrective for them (and for the rest of us), I believe, will be the millennial generation.

    I’m an old; an early Gen X’er. But from my psychological reading of the millennials is that dickishness is anathema: way, way, way out-of-bounds. You can disagree, but you can’t be a total dick about it or you’re gonna be socially shunned.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    So far the evidence is that, with the exception of public polling (where it’s obvious that many people tell pollsters what they want to hear) there has been no disapproval or negative consequences to the Republican Party for this shutdown stuff at all.

    I have no reason to believe that this changes any time soon.

  13. Hal_10000 says:


    We don’t. Or at least I don’t. I’m not a Republican anymore; I left because of Bush. But on a lot of conservative sites, Bush is very unpopular. And a lot of commentators just pretend he never existed.

  14. Tillman says:

    To a significant degree, that was due to the fact that the rest of October 2013 and the ensuing months was consumed with stories regarding problems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act while much of 2014 ended up being consumed by news of war in Ukraine, the rise of ISIS, and other domestic and foreign political matters that pretty much pushed the memory of the GOP’s overreach of the autumn of 2013 out of the public member.

    Don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone make that argument. It makes it seem like the Republicans only won their elections because people gave a pass to their collective stupidity in deference to old memories of Reagan.

    That argument implies Republican midterm voters were idiots swayed more by emotion over current events than rationality. “Once upon a time, Republicans were known for national security, and even though today’s Republican officeholder is a chicken with its head cut off on nearly every other issue, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.” The calculus that leads to such thinking is warped, and beyond repair given the average age of a Republican voter.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    I’ll attempt an answer.

    Republicans are much more inclined to faith than they used to be. The Money Republicans no, but it’s best to think of them as tapeworms – all appetite, no brain, no morality, invulnerable to appeals to decency. The Money Republicans and the Bombs Republicans couldn’t get the job done electorally anymore, so they adopted the Jesus Republicans.

    The joke was on the Money and Bombs people, because after a few cycles of being used like pack animals, the Jesus Republicans woke up and realized they had power. The Tea Party is sort of a white slave revolt. They rose up against their masters and imposed Sharia, er, I mean, a faith-based agenda.

    This agenda had these structural elements: 1) Reality was merely entertainment, like Fox News. 2) Faith was far more important than reality. 3) All conflicts between reality and faith would be resolved in favor of faith. 4) Faith is whatever one chooses to believe at any given moment.

    Faith goes beyond the merely religious, it extends to all their thinking. “If I want it to be true, it is true, so there!” It’s intellectual self-mutilation. They cut out their eyes and cement up their ears and allow nothing in lalalalalala I can’t hear you lalalalalala, because those reality-faith conflicts seem to be piling up at an accelerating rate, so they double down on denial.

    They had faith in Mr. Bush. They had faith in trickle down economics. They had faith in a God who would punish homos. Their politics and religion and personal prejudices are one. So, yeah, in reality Mr. Bush was easily the worst president since Nixon, and arguably the worst since James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson. He was a disaster. But that’s only in reality. In their faith Mr. Obama – who is not like us – traveled through time, and as a small child, hatched a plan to take over America and establish sharia law.

    Reality has no power against the firmly-held delusions of stupid, frightened people.

    The Money Republicans know better, they can count, but since all they care about is more more more they’ll back whichever side will fill their troughs. The Bombs Republicans think they were almost right, almost. . . which is why they are desperate to get a do-over in Syria and Iran.

    But the Jesus Republicans, they no longer inhabit reality at all. They’ve moved to a different plane of existence. Greed, fear and hate mix perfectly with a schizophrenic’s capacity to inhabit an alternate reality.

  16. Tillman says:

    Frankly, it doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican anymore. Only if you’re a BlueBlack or a WhiteGold.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: I completely agree, except that I put much more weight,and blame, on the establishment Republicans. The Republican Party exists to serve the needs of the .01%. Even if they can count on the support of dependents, loyal servitors, posers and wannabes; about 49% short of a majority. So they need to buy votes. These days you do that with PR, and you have to give them a rationale. For this they use the traditional tools, religion and xenophobia.

    Yes, the Jesus Republicans “no longer inhabit reality at all”. But they didn’t just wander away, they were led. The Koch Bros (not just them, but they volunteered to be the face of it) put a lot of money and effort into the Tea Party. Rupert Murdoch (again as the face of a crowd) discovered there was a lot of money to be made in selling BS and gold to the rubes.

    I have no proof, but this Tea Party stuff smells less like a revolt than like using a mob to support a palace coup. Now that the Koch Bros are the establishment, it seems to me the establishment are now trying to damp down the TP before they do something stupid, like not bailing out banks. (While, of course, conning them into remaining the loyal base.)

    As I recall history, Madison and the boys didn’t fear the mob as such, they feared factions of the elite whipping up the mob.

  18. Kylopod says:

    I keep hearing the argument that the 2013 shutdown didn’t hurt Republicans since they went on to win big the following year. I think that really misses the point. What’s important is that they never accomplish any of the GOP’s stated policy goals, and they hinder the possibility of ever reaching those goals because they (rightly) convince the Democrats that they’re not serious about governing. And the fact that it wasn’t fatal to their 2014 electoral landslide doesn’t prove it in any way helped them achieve that landslide.

    There’s a widespread myth that the 1995 shutdown saved Clinton’s career. Of course the largest factor in Clinton’s reelection was an increasingly thriving economy, and it’s striking that the House GOP didn’t lose more than two seats. People get too hooked up on electoral outcomes more than a year after the event in question, and don’t focus enough on other ways in which these events have an impact. There wasn’t a whole lot different in the outcomes of the 1995 and 2013 shutdowns. In both cases Republicans caved, polls showed the public blaming the Republicans for the debacle, and it probably didn’t have much of an impact on the election the following year. But because the 1996 election was good for Democrats, and the 2014 one was bad for them, pundits commit the fallacy of interpreting the shutdown outcomes differently.

    My real fear about shutdowns is that even though they don’t have much upside for the GOP, Republicans may think their outcome is at least “neutral” enough that they can launch little ones just to appease the right-wing base. Of course like booze there’s no way they can ever satisfy the right-wing base with anything short of getting Obama deported to his home state of Kenya. The right always ends up hating the GOP leadership for caving, which is inevitable at some point. But the vibe I got from the 2013 shutdown was that Boehner felt compelled to dip into it for political survival, even if it carried political risks of its own. And that’s too bad, because I can tell you from experience that these shutdowns are not a whole lot of fun for government workers (like my father).

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Davebo: Mostly a rhetorical question. I recall James some time ago presenting a sincere, and actually moving, explanation of remaining a Republican. But I don’t recall him addressing W. Bush’s failings as such. Perhaps my failing memory. And skimming a lot of posts to get to the comments. I would be very interested in James explanation of why W. should be regarded as an exception to 21st century Republican governance rather than an archetype.

    This will become even more interesting if Jeb continues to prosper as a candidate while tap dancing between embracing his brother and distancing himself.

  20. Ken says:

    @gVOR08: I have never figured out how Republicans rationalize their way around the bloody disaster that was the W administration… But how do reasonable Republicans get around W?

    Though it is the obvious snarky answer, “we all know there’s no such thing as a reasonable Republican” is not all that far off the mark in this case. The typical responses to such cognitive dissonance shouldn’t surprise anyone: Denial. Dismissal. Reprioritization of problematic beliefs. Reinforcement of preferred beliefs. The “reasonable” response is also the most difficult – change your mind/behavior based on the facts.

    By that criterion, I know approximately three “reasonable Republicans”. Two of them stopped calling themselves Republicans years ago, and all of them have stopped voting Republican almost entirely

  21. michael reynolds says:


    Indeed. Those wishing to whip up mobs should read some history. Perhaps French history, 1789 to 1799. Mobs tend not to stay loyal to the Quality.

  22. Modulo Myself says:

    @michael reynolds:

    There’s really no difference between Money and Mob now in the GOP. The Money people are just as reactionary. Plus–and this is the biggie–they have the creeping sense that the Democratic Money people think they’re small fish in a smaller pond. It’s the left who have proven right on regulation, climate change, Obamacare, and Iraq. It’s the right who can’t compete in places where intelligent people gather, and it’s the right who turns to fifth-rate hacks to explain this phenomenon in flattering terms. The loss has been humiliating, and most of these people got into money because of the deference it bought them. So Money people, given a Republican victory in 2016, will be right beside the Culture War people. Right now, I would not be surprised to have the most moderate Republican to argue for a Supreme Court packing scheme while citing Obamacare as precedent. If a Republican wins, I totally expect that they will try to expand the court to 11.

  23. Pinky says:

    @Modulo Myself: Democratic fanfic?

  24. Modulo Myself says:


    Again, the loss has been humiliating, which is why none of you can handle it.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    Democratic fanfic?

    Perhaps you could explain how all of this has been a victory for the GOP…

  26. Pinky says:

    @An Interested Party: @Modulo Myself: That comment strikes me as, at best, a “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Or as they might say around here, the Democratic Party cannot fail; it can only be failed. Look at what the actual Democrats have done. The one that got me was regulation. You could argue that the Democratic Party is more eager to regulate, but can you really claim that they’re better at doing it? At finding things that should be regulated, and can be regulated successfully, and actually regulating them successfully? We’re talking about the party of Barney Frank and Kathleen Sebelius, of gun control and deinstitutionalization.

    As for packing the court, I’ll grant you that you’ve got gumption. That accusation of yours is like Germany accusing the French of wanting to plot another Holocaust. I’ve never understood the thinking behind getting mad at the other side for something they’ve never said they want to do, but because you don’t like them you can imagine them doing. In a couple of years, we’re going to hear this kind of nonsense about President Obama planning on refusing to leave office. It’ll be the 8th anniversary of the same thing said about Bush, and the 16th for Clinton. And no one ever gets called on it.

  27. Pinky says:

    But maybe I was too harsh. Now that I’ve thought about it, I can totally see the Harriet Miers wing of the party pulling it off. Because they’ve got four things: guts, brains, party unity, and the support of a lot of Senate Democrats. The only question is, why would they stop at 11 justices? Sure, today, they can’t get to 60 on votes that they campaigned on, but in 2017, when they have a supermajority, they’ll be able to sneak the entire staff of Fox News onto the Supreme Court.

  28. Modulo Myself says:


    I didn’t say the Democratic party. I meant the left, you know–the people who were attacked by Reagan for keeping big government in the way of private industry. There’s a more complicated truth than that, but the worst cheerleaders were on the right. If you traveled back in time to talk to the Laffer curve people and the Phil Gramm deregulate everything that can be sold by a broker people and told them that in 2015 wealth/income income inequality is considered an impediment to growth or about the financial crash of 2008, they would call you a dupe of Marxist propaganda. None of this was expected (or if it was, then it was lied about) by the big government/taxes/rules bad Republicans. It was totally expected by the liberals who existed in those years. Doug Henwood’s Wall Street was written in 1998, I believe, but it could be a history of where we are now and the effects of free-market capitalism.

    As for court packing, Roosevelt tried to do it in 1937. I was born in 1976. It’s history to me. There’s no gumption involved. The best part is that you laugh now but when and if it happens, you’ll go along with it.

  29. Pinky says:

    @Modulo Myself: I wasn’t around in 1937 either, which is why it seems weird to me that you’d bring it up. But look at what Court-packing was (or was intended to be). It was a push by a regulator to expand federal government even where the Constitution said it didn’t have the right to go. For a pro-regulation guy to bring it up, I have to credit it to audacity. A rightie should bring it up. It should be something that a leftie has to explain, because it illustrates the conservative argument against out-of-control regulation. You can say that an underregulated market favors power over law, but so does an overregulated market. Regulators can’t control their grasp.

    As to whether I’d support Court-packing, well, let’s be honest, that’s just bluster on your part. You have no reason to believe it would happen or that I’d support it if it did.

    You say that the left predicted the 1980’s? I remember reading An American Renaissance, a “history” of the boom of the 1980’s, written in 1978 by Jack Kemp. The Laffer Curve people were right.

  30. Modulo Myself says:


    Also: Let’s not forget the bullet dodged. Consider that in 2005 there was a widespread desire by conservatives to private Social Security. George Bush got killed by Congress over it and it went nowhere. Nonetheless, had retirement money poured into equity markets this money would have been destroyed three or four years later.

    There was not a single conservative who did not support this. In the years since 2008, has there ever been any acknowledgement that a bullet was dodged? Or that their plan stunk? No. Not even close. It’s gone from the memory bank. You guys are just as confident about your economic ideas as you were before.

  31. Modulo Myself says:


    Considering that Laffer’s ideas about the size of government being reduced were not followed, it’s pointless to bring him up. Under Reagan, the real entitlements grew. Looking back, not even Ronnie was appalling enough to think that seniors were moochers who hadn’t planned for the future. The real damage done by Reagan was in cheering on the transformation of the American worker into a fraudulent investor class. The S&L crisis was basically done in front of him. The guys who did it basically explained what they were going to do beforehand and he thought it was fantastic. Despite all of the computerized BS, Goldman Sachs is just a large-scale S&L managing risk for a chunk of capital, with insane greed thrown in.

  32. Pinky says:

    @Modulo Myself: Seriously? It’s pointless to bring up Laffer? So, why did you? It’s history to bring up Court-packing? So why did you? Could you list out all the things you don’t want to talk about that show the weaknesses of liberalism – or at least stop introducing them into the conversation, then saying they’re irrelevant?

  33. Modulo Myself says:


    Show where I brought up Laffer, please.

  34. An Interested Party says:

    Could you list out all the things you don’t want to talk about that show the weaknesses of liberalism…

    Well, if the Laffer Curve, deregulation, income equality, etc. are being discussed, we’re seeing things that show the weakness of conservatism…

  35. Modulo Myself says:

    You also don’t seem to care about my assertion that Laffer’s policies (tax cuts plus reducing the size of government) were not followed. Am I right? Wrong? Who cares. It’s this indifference to what has happened that leads me to think that your malleability is incredibly high.

  36. Modulo Myself says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Okay, apologies, I did bring them up, but as an example of being wrong. There were so many other choices to make…

    I meant that it was pointless to bring up Laffer as if his policies were being followed. They weren’t.

    Now for another glass of this cab franc…

  37. Modulo Myself says:

    And finally, I’m not pro-regulation. The assault by the right and some liberals on an idea of ‘regulation’ that in truth was a more advanced and regulated form of capital which had nothing to do with it growth made people ‘pro-regulation’ by default. Conservatives have always been happy to hitch their interests to highly-regulated organizations (i.e. corporations) with specific purposes (i.e. increasing shareholder value) derived from centralized planning while proclaiming themselves against everything they’ve been doing. Against this sort of brainlessness people have had to deal.

  38. Pinky says:

    The assault by the right and some liberals on an idea of ‘regulation’ that in truth was a more advanced and regulated form of capital which had nothing to do with it growth made people ‘pro-regulation’ by default.

    I didn’t follow that at all.

    I meant that it was pointless to bring up Laffer as if his policies were being followed. They weren’t.

    Laffer’s argument was that tax rates affect individual’s decisions. The Laffer Curve was a stylized demonstration of that. His supply-side argument was that lower tax rates would increase investment and stimulate the economy such that tax revenue would increase. Reagan cut tax rates, and tax revenue increased.

  39. Pinky says:

    @Modulo Myself: Speaking of apologies, you’re right, I said Democrat where you had said liberal.

  40. Modulo Myself says:


    The big picture of supply-side people is cut taxes on investment and capital, lower government spending, deregulate, and keep a tight money supply. From, 1980 to 2008 this was the ideal. Not only was it not followed but had it been followed, had entitlements been privatized and handed over to the ‘market’, it would have been even worse.

    But my main point was that the outcome of 2008 was never supposed to happen. Reagan said basically that if you put one hundred people in a room and the government pays them, it’s an automatic blunder. But if you put another one hundred people in another room and they make money on the private sector, it’s the magic of capitalism at work. Beyond that, for Reagan, there was no argument. Government bad, free-market good.

    That the first room might have been full of people trying to craft rules meant to keep banks from being over-leveraged and the second might have been full of people dreaming up arcane financial instruments was unthinkable. Public good, private bad, and if you had any complaints, you were just a naive leftist.

    This was just America. Russia blowing up in the 90s, the currency markets in East Asia crashing, or the draconian ‘reforms’ of the IMF were just washed away by the myth of free-market capitalism. It was a global disaster, except for the elite, and completely unnecessary, unless you wished only to distribute wealth upwards, stagnate wages, and create an overall debtor class.

    In its wake, it’s left its supporters in a daze. They’re like members of a cargo cult, but much angrier.

  41. Pinky says:

    @Modulo Myself: That’s a gross simplification of the right’s arguments, as well as of the examples you cite. Japan’s lost decade was due to overregulation. The US crash was due to poor regulation. Russia had nothing to do with capitalism.

  42. Modulo Myself says:


    What I meant was that people ended up ‘pro-regulation’ by default merely because the move towards deregulation was such an obvious power grab.

    Overall, there’s an extremely good argument that despite the growth of the 50s and 60s, America was becoming a monolithic state obsessed with control over its citizens. Has any changed? I don’t think so. We’ve actually become more obsessed with control and order.

  43. Modulo Myself says:


    Yeltsin’s Russia certainly did. It was a disaster, a playground for western capital running amok. The 2008 crisis was caused by the fact that banks were given carte blanche to do what they wanted, part of which meant write their own regulation. In the 90s, if you thought that a former Goldman Sachs exec might be as Treasury Secretary in it for the banks you were a dinosaur, a joke.

    Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan: “The most scary words in the world are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” When you get down to it, that’s what Republicans believed and still do.

  44. Pinky says:

    @Modulo Myself: I’m afraid you’re arguing against a caricature. Reagan, and everyone this side of a shack in Montana, believed that government has a role. Even the Laffer Curve model had some government. You don’t believe in 100% government, and I don’t believe in 0%. The question is, how much government should there be (or, really, how much and where). The conservative position is that government has the impulse to extend its reach beyond establishing the rule of law and into decisions it shouldn’t make, violations of the Constitution or of common sense.

    So it’s wrong to say that Russia had too much capitalism. It didn’t have much of any. The old government bullies took off their uniforms, declared themselves capitalists, and “legally” acquired the rights to all the things they used to control.

    Anyway, you should look into the conservative critique of government. I think you’ve got it way wrong, and you might find that you agree with a lot of what conservative intellectuals have to say.

  45. Modulo Myself says:


    I’ve read Hayek’s critique. Is that conservative enough? Simply pretending that conservatism is a pragmatic response to the state’s role undercuts everything that conservatives have stood for. If your ideals say that centralized planning is the enemy of freedom, what else is there to explain? There’s a pretty direct line from Road to Serfdom to Ronald Reagan.

    Anyway, if conservatives believe that government has a role in shaping financial institutions, what role is it? To allow them to become investment vehicles rather than places which hold money and lend it? What about the relationship between shareholders and corporations? Should the government be interested in trying to make corporations answerable to their employees rather than their investors? Or what about climate change? What is the government’s role regarding the emission of carbon? Or health care?

  46. Pinky says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    I’ve read Hayek’s critique.

    Yeesh. Then I have no idea what to say to you. Have a nice weekend, I guess? There’s still some sunlight left.

  47. Modulo Myself says:


    So let me get this straight–Hayek isn’t a conservative intellectual? He’s not representative of conservative economic thought?

  48. An Interested Party says:

    Laffer’s argument was that tax rates affect individual’s decisions. The Laffer Curve was a stylized demonstration of that. His supply-side argument was that lower tax rates would increase investment and stimulate the economy such that tax revenue would increase. Reagan cut tax rates, and tax revenue increased.

    Umm, not really…nice try, though…

  49. Matt says:

    @Pinky: Wait when did Reagan cut taxes? When I look I see an overall increase in taxes..

  50. HarvardLaw92 says:


    His supply-side argument was that lower tax rates would increase investment and stimulate the economy such that tax revenue would increase. Reagan cut tax rates, and tax revenue increased.

    Actually, common misconception. Laffer argued (erroneously, as it turns out), that revenue from taxation follows a normal “bell” curve (tax rate horizontal, revenue vertical), and that, accordingly, the same amount of revenue could theoretically be achieved at two different points on the same curve. He didn’t argue that cutting taxes increases revenue. Stockman, et al,made that argument.

    People mythologize Reagan, despite the fact that taxes were cut exactly once during his administration, but raised several times as revenue projections consistently proved to have been overestimated. Reagan didn’t so much cut taxes as drastically change which segment of society paid them (via increases in the SS withholding rate to make up for the lost revenue from income tax cuts). The guy’s admin single-handedly (and unintentionally) validated Keynes.

  51. HarvardLaw92 says:

    It’s also worth noting that Walker’s fiscal policies have essentially wrecked Wisconsin’s economy. The state faces a projected $2.2 billion (and growing) budget deficit, is seriously lagging in job growth AND wage growth AND unemployment.

    The contrast between GOP results in Wisconsin, and Dem results in next-door neighbor Minnesota couldn’t be any more stark.