The Wrath of Taft

(Well, maybe just the admonition of Taft, but “wrath” makes for a a better title).

John G. Taft:

Watching the Republican Party use the full faith and credit of the United States to try to roll back Obamacare, watching its members threaten not to raise the debt limit — which Warren Buffett rightly called a “political weapon of mass destruction” — to repeal a tax on medical devices, I so wanted to ask a similar question: “Have you no sense of responsibility? At long last, have you left no sense of responsibility?”

The whole thing is worth a read.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Yes, this is one of those Tafts. At the end he says of the Republican Party

    What a long way we have yet to go.

    (To become again a party of responsibility and decency.)
    Have they started? In which direction?

  2. JKB says:

    Have you no sense of responsibility?

    Yes, it is now irresponsible to try to control your credit card spending. Or to even speak of putting a limit on it even as you know that limit will slip.

    Granted, just talking about cutting back will become useless, but, as they say, the first step is acknowledging you have a problem. Even if that problem isn’t one you can quit cold-turkey.

    Here’s the “new normal” in cartoon form.

  3. @JKB: You don’t control spending in this fashion. it is that simple and pretending otherwise is either intellectual laziness or plain denial.

    I know this is blunt, but it is the bottom line.

  4. DrDaveT says:

    @JKB:

    Yes, it is now irresponsible to try to control your credit card spending.

    It is responsible, and laudable, to try to control your credit card spending.

    It is irresponsible to run up your credit card, then refuse to make the payments.

    It is contemptible to threaten to stick your family with the resulting credit rating and liens unless they let you make all of the household decisions.

    It is beyond contemptible to do that to an entire nation.

  5. Kylopod says:

    Mr. Taft writes:

    “Throughout my family’s more than 170-year legacy of public service, Republicans have represented the voice of fiscal conservatism.”

    If he’s implying that they represented fiscal conservatism up until the recent debt ceiling fiasco, then I have to disagree with him. The GOP left fiscal conservatism behind when Reagan became president and they adopted the supply-side fairy tale as their official economic philosophy. Since that time, fiscal conservatism has become a mere code for low taxes on the rich, attacking the social safety net, and spending recklessly on defense, while claiming against all available evidence to care about reducing the deficit. A more accurate assessment of the GOP’s guiding philosophy would be Cheney’s “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter” remark. (And yes, I’m aware he was talking specifically about the political impact of high deficits, but his indifference to the policy consequences spoke volumes about where his party was at.) In fact, I have long refused to use the term “fiscal conservative,” because simply uttering that phrase helps perpetuate the myth that there is a connection between fiscal prudence and conservatism, something that hasn’t been the case in over 30 years.

    In the past few years the GOP has entered a level of crazy-ville never seen before, but it didn’t spring up overnight: it was a process that’s been in development for several decades. To attribute their recent debt ceiling stunt to an abandonment of fiscal conservatism is sort of like calling Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant during his DUI arrest a lapse in sobriety.

  6. James Pearce says:

    @JKB:

    Yes, it is now irresponsible to try to control your credit card spending.

    The credit card thing is just a metaphor. Colorful, thought-provoking, and ultimately imperfect.

    As DrDaveT says:

    It is irresponsible to run up your credit card, then refuse to make the payments.

    It’s the definition of irresponsible.

  7. john personna says:

    I just found this by another path. I agree that it is one of the great reads of the week.

    @JKB:

    You definitely delivered “responsibility” in cartoon form.

    I mean #$%^& … credit card analogies?

  8. john personna says:

    @Kylopod:

    As I’ve said, I see a shift between the Reagan years and the Bush II years. The Reagan team tried to make it work IMO, and failing suffered deficits they did not want. The Bush team just didn’t care. They took the lesson from Reagan that failing was fine.

  9. Moosebreath says:

    The Wrath of Taft Comes from New Voter Math

    (with apologies to Lerner and Loewe)

  10. rudderpedals says:

    @James Pearce: It’s the definition of irresponsible.

    It’s a pretty good example of a fraud too.

  11. Rob in CT says:

    http://crookedtimber.org/2013/10/23/the-moderate-and-the-mccarthyite/

    As usual, the moderate who is shocked, SHOCKED to find immoderation going on here! has some ‘splainin’ to do.

  12. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I’m not sure I’m convinced by that. It seems like Robin is saying “sure McCarthy was a firebrand populist like Cruz, manipulating the base, but LOOK Taft was a conservative!”

    Taft-Hartley was mostly just conservative, the affidavit bit aside.

  13. john personna says:

    (And remember that in 1947, actual communists had an actual plan to infiltrate trade unions:

    As the Cold War took effect around 1947, the Kremlin set up new international coordination bodies including the World Federation of Democratic Youth, International Union of Students, World Federation of Trade Unions, Women’s International Democratic Federation and the World Peace Council. Kennedy says the, “Communist ‘front’ system included such international organizations as the WFTU, WFDY, IUS, WIDF and WPC, besides a host of lesser bodies bringing journalists, lawyers, scientists, doctors and others into the widespread net.”[44]
    The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) was established in 1945 to unite trade union confederations across the world; it was based in Prague. While it had non-Communist unions it was largely dominated by the Soviets. In 1949 the British, American and other non-Communist unions broke away to form the rival International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. The labor movement in Europe became so polarized between the Communists unions and the and Social Democratic and Christian labor unions, and front operations could no longer hide the sponsorship and they became less important.[45]

    Different times.)

  14. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    Yes, it is now irresponsible to try to control your credit card spending. Or to even speak of putting a limit on it even as you know that limit will slip.

    It is also somewhat irresponsible to inform your credit card company or your mortgage bank, that you are strongly considering not making further payments on your consumer debt or on your mortgage despite the fact that you have sufficient income to make those payments.

  15. Kylopod says:

    @john personna:

    The Reagan team tried to make it work IMO, and failing suffered deficits they did not want.

    But it was Reagan who gave us supply-side economics, providing Republicans with their rationale for prioritizing tax cuts over deficit reduction. Reagan didn’t always stick to this philosophy (hence his 1982 tax increases), but he did introduce it on a national level, and it wouldn’t be long before it hardened into GOP dogma.

  16. john personna says:

    @Kylopod:

    Sure, but my point is that Reagan believed this advice:

    An example of fad economics occurred in 1980, when a small group of economists advised Presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan, that an across-the-board cut in income tax rates would raise tax revenue. They argued that if people could keep a higher fraction of their income, people would work harder to earn more income.

    In retrospect we know the increase in revenues did not come, and Bush II certainly knew they would not come.

    [IOW, Reagan did not knowingly say “deficits don’t matter.” That stuff came later.]

  17. Rob in CT says:

    @john personna:

    Fair enough. I find myself between you and Robin. I think Robin makes a solid case that Taft was just fine with McCarthy for the most part. Only when McCarthy did something that was obvious overreach did he disagree with him, and only partly. So, as Taft was to McCarthy, Boehner/McConnell are to Cruz.

    I think that holds pretty well.

  18. Rob in CT says:

    One more thing about the credit card analogy (which is, of course, not a great analogy): the GOP acts as if the only people to run up the credit card were Democrats. This is obviously ridiculous, and I really don’t think enough GOP base voters understand the non-GOP voter response to this (derision). The GOP has no credibility on fiscal responsibility. None.

    If the GOP got back into power and actually brought the budget into balance (which, to be clear, may or may not be good policy, depending on the situation), THEN they might have some right to claim to be fiscally responsible. The party as it currently exists will not – CANNOT – do this.

    Historically, they have proven – twice now – that when they get into power their objectives are:

    1) Tax cuts, particularly for the affluent;
    2) Military spending increases;
    3) Deregulation (either by actually changing the regs or by not really caring to enforce them)

    In the 80s, there were also tax increases, but unless I’ve missed something they were: 1) increases to SS tax (which is flat and capped); and 2) otherwise designed to shift the tax burden downward. The GOP isn’t really against taxation, full stop, so much as progressive taxation.

    Also, recent years at the state level indicate they might try and do something about abortion (this likely has to wait on SCOTUS, but GOP-in-power means GOP-appointed judges and there you go).

    So now anyone with a sense of history and not blinded by partisanship or ideology knows what will come if the GOP gets back into power: taxes will be cut, regulations will be cut, and spending will likely increase, but the spending will probably be on guns rather than butter (Medicare Part D was butter, to be fair. Then again, it was even more of a corporate giveaway than the PPACA). The fiscal picture will actually worsen. The pressure on the working and middle classes will worsen (though I don’t see improvement around the corner under Dem rule either). And then Democrats will get elected and the GOP will suddenly claim to be fiscal conservatives again.

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Rob in CT: Thank you. That Crooked Timber piece by Corey Robin is very good. Hope John Taft reads it. I went ahead and bought Robin’s The Reactionary Mind ebook. Sounds like a well researched version of my line that, “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be; conservatism is about protecting and enhancing the wealth and power of the currently wealthy and powerful.

  20. JKB says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But raising the debt limit should be a painful, public and disconcerting experience. It should not be routine or quiet.

  21. @JKB: Actually no, it shouldn’t. It serves no purpose except to cause a great deal of anxiety in domestic and global financial markets.

    It is especially ridiculous because we have already authorized the spending.

  22. JKB says:

    @al-Ameda: It is also somewhat irresponsible to inform your credit card company or your mortgage bank, that you are strongly considering not making further payments on your consumer debt or on your mortgage despite the fact that you have sufficient income to make those payments.

    Obama was the one threatening not to pay the interest on the debt. We have plenty to pay if we cut back on spending. So, yes, it is unreasonable to threaten not to pay your credit card debt all the while continuing to spend your income on discretionary spending. Not raising debt ceiling simply meant that hard choices would have to be made, now, while the interest payment are a small part of overall expenditures.

  23. @JKB: It doesn’t work like that. There are legal obligations to pay more than just the interest on the debt.

    Perhaps you simply don’t understand the situation?

  24. john personna says:

    JKB will not turn around the binoculars, and look through them the right way, not if the backwards view gives him some claim he can use in “discussion.”

  25. (Seriously, by professional inclination I find myself trying to explain and be reasonable and just assume persons who think not raising the debt ceiling is a viable option are just misinformed. Still, at some point one has to assume willful ignorance and/or an utter lack of comprehension).

  26. Rob in CT says:

    @JKB:

    No. If you believe deficit spending is always or mostly bad, the thing that should be painful should be voting for the appropriations/budget/continuing resolutions (which should come with debt ceiling increases attached, as they were for ~20 years, until Newt Gingrich thought it would be useful to decouple them again for grandstanding purposes).

    edit: also, if you think deficits are always or mostly bad, it should also be painful to vote for taxation levels that you know will result in a revenue shortfall.

  27. Here’s the problem: even if Taft Senior really was a McCarthy supporter, this guy is, to the Tea Party, the enemy: a generational Republican who believes in The System. To the Tea Party, anyone who was a Republican before 2010 and doesn’t worship at the teat of destroying Obamacare and other federal programs* at all costs are subservient and should be eliminated.

    * I notice most TP guys are just fine with weapons programs. And religious programs where state funds are funneled into private Christian schools. Never Islamic schools! NEVER ISLAM! ISLAM BAD! They’re not interested in saving money, they’re interested in screwing “liberals”.

  28. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: JBK understands. He simply prefers to live in delusional world of We-have-enough-waste-fraud-and-abuse-to-eliminate-the-deficit-istan.

  29. superdestroyer says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    OK, then how do the Republicans try to control spending. Also, are you implying that Democrats have zero interest in controlling policy. When was the last time the Democrats spent political capital trying to control spending.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    @superdestroyer: They could re-institute the PAYGO rule (see WIKI), which expired in 2002, shortly before the W Bush tax cuts and the unfunded Medicare Part D. Pelosi and the Dem House did re-institute the rule in 2007.

  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @superdestroyer:

    When was the last time the Democrats spent political capital trying to control spending.

    See Nancy Pelosi- Pay Go.

  32. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: beat me to it…. I should not be surprised. Arguing with SD or JKB is easier than shooting fish in a barrel.

  33. Rob in CT says:

    When was the last time the Democrats spent political capital trying to control spending.

    In addition to PAYGO, there was also the bit about taking $500 billion out of medicare and shifting it over to the PPACA, for which he was attacked by Republicans (!). The idea behind taking the $500B out of Medicare is that Medicare was over-paying providers, which was a waste of public funds. The reform effort includes cost-control measures. We’ll see if they work, but I do believe that “political capital” was expended passing the PPACA.

    Also, too: Obama has repeatedly offered up SS and Medicare cuts in “grand bargain” offers to the GOP. Those haven’t come to fruition, but they have cost him political support to his left.

    Whine, whine, whine, all the time, eh supe?

    As for how the GOP should try to restrain spending: by negotiating with the Dems in committee over the budget. Then maybe they could try winning more elections.

  34. wr says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “I should not be surprised. Arguing with SD or JKB is easier than shooting fish in a barrel. ”

    Except that when you shoot fish in a barrel, they stay dead. SD and JKB are perpetual zombie fish — it doesn’t how many times you prove their points wrong, they come back with exactly the same claims over and over and over…

  35. Ernieyeball says:

    @wr: It is also pointless as you end up with a barrel full of holes that will not hold water (like their arguments).

  36. john personna says:

    Another good one:

    The Science of Tea Party Wrath

    “For the first time in our history,” says Haidt, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, “the parties are not agglomerations of financial or material interest groups, they’re agglomerations of personality styles and lifestyles. And this is really dangerous. Because if it’s just that you have different interests, that doesn’t mean I’m going to hate you. It just means that we’ve got to negotiate, I want to win, but we can negotiate. If it’s now that ‘You people on the other side, you’re really different from me, you live in a different way, you pray in a different way, you eat different foods than I do,’ it’s much easier to hate those people. And that’s where we are.”

    Mood affiliation.

  37. grumpy realist says:

    @JKB: And what spending do you plan to cut, pray tell? The bulk of our spending is on the military, Medicare, and Social Security.

    Yes, please go ahead and loudly beat on a platform that we need to balance our budget by cutting the excess out of those three programs….