Seriously, the Republican Party has gone insane

A couple of interesting items recently, one from The New York Times and one from The Washington Post help highlight a point I’ve been trying to make recently: Today’s GOP is in the grip of serious institutional insanity.

First, David Brooks had a column in The New York Times Tuesday pointing out that Republicans might turn down “the deal of the century,” the “mother of all no-brainers” because “the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.”

This is exactly true. The Republican Party has been taken over by reactionary conservatives more interested in adherence to a failed and utterly disproven ideology than in actually governing. The result may be a failure to increase the debt ceiling, which would lead to consequences that, as Ronald Reagan said back in the 1980s, are “impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate.” Even Republican leaders acknowledged only a few short months ago that failure to increase the debt limit would be catastrophic.

Yet they are flirting with catastrophe, even as Democrats offer, truly, a deal of the century.

Which leads to the second item, a blog post by Ezra Klein that featured a chart showing the breakdown of budget deals over the past few decades by spending cuts and revenue increases. As you can see, what Obama and the Democrats are offering is unprecedented. Fully three-fourths of the deficit-reduction would be achieved through spending cuts. Only one-quarter would come from revenue increases, and even those, as Brooks points out, would not involve increases to tax rates, but would instead work by closing loopholes that both parties have long spoken out against.

It’s an incredible deal, one that most liberals would rail against, and for good reason. But it’s not good enough for today’s GOP. Why? Because, today’s GOP is controlled by a politically insane movement.

Brooks puts it a bit more kindly, but the conclusion is the same:

The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.

The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.

The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name. Economists have identified many factors that contribute to economic growth, ranging from the productivity of the work force to the share of private savings that is available for private investment. Tax levels matter, but they are far from the only or even the most important factor.

But to members of this movement, tax levels are everything. Members of this tendency have taken a small piece of economic policy and turned it into a sacred fixation.

This is bad enough, but what makes it worse is the institutional straightjacket that has kept most of the media from reporting on this situation as it truly is: A hostage crisis. President Obama helped, when during a Twitter town hall event, he said, “The debt ceiling should not be something used as a gun against the head of the American people.” But both Democrats and the media have been too shy in calling out the Republican position as atrociously irresponsible.

It is that. Republicans are holding the American and global economies hostage in order to get a debt-reduction deal that gives them everything they want while they make no concessions whatsoever. It is unconscionable. It is wrong. It is insanity. I hope America is paying attention.

2 Responses to Seriously, the Republican Party has gone insane

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