Thursday, February 23, 2012

Policy and Incentives

The United States' Federal Budget has many problems. They are compounded by Republican party's a priori allergy towards taxes, irrespective of context. On that note, Ezra Klein talks some sense about budget policy, and the radicalism of the current state of the Republican party's fiscal proposals:

You can’t look at that and say revenues have nothing to do with our current deficits.

Which isn’t to say it’s not difficult for elected Republicans to admit that taxes need to rise. The Club for Growth might primary you. Grover Norquist will come after you. But being responsible is difficult. No Democrat who says Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security can’t be cut can be considered fiscally responsible. And no Republican who pledges to oppose all tax increases, regardless of circumstances, can be considered fiscally responsible. There’s no curve here. There’s only math. And politicians who want to be applauded as “responsible” can’t be permitted to ignore it. (emphasis mine - JMG)
The kind of policy "flat-earthism" that Klein is talking about permeates the the Republican party so much right now because the party's constituents are demanding it. I think this is the real tragedy of the Republican party these days. Perhaps even a tragedy of our politics in general.

Ideally, elected representatives and they constituents they represent would work in concert. People have policy preferences and vote accordingly. In turn, paid representatives of the state have a responsibility to the people they represent, to be clear about the realities of the state's finances. To me the problem is coming from both ends; GOP voters want to hear strident re-confirmations of preconceived conclusions about spending and taxes. Republican officials are not responsibly trying to cultivate a discussion of what are budget problems are, and what possible solutions might be.

Intellectual curiosity is a tricky thing. But without it, I think, we are worse off as a nation.

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