GOP Special Forces Muzzle Rand Paul; Take Their Eye Off Mitch McConnell

Matt Yglesias made an important point the other day when he observed that ‘conservatives’ never remotely earned their reputation as deficit hawks. What really got my attention was how weak the pushback to Matt’s post was: some people said that the movement cares about deficits even if elected conservatives don’t (…so why elect conservatives?), and Jonah Goldberg basically pled guilty. Kevin Drum pointily observed that even Tea Partiers care more about cutting taxes than reducing the deficit.

I think that most people don’t yet realize how John Kyl and Mitch McConnell stepped in it. No intelligent person – not even conservative economists who worked for George W. Bush – would simply say that they still care more about tax cuts than the deficit during a deficit crisis, or deny that massive tax cuts diminish revenue. Normally I would consider that kind of sweeping generalization to be a risk, but Jonah Goldberg makes me feel pretty good about it.

I think that Matt is on to something. Conservatives have the deficit ingrained too deep to toss away like their skepticism about unprovoked foreign wars or detaining US citizens without trial. John Kyl’s artless rhetoric just crystallized a point that conservatives artfully danced around for at least the twenty-some years that I’ve paid attention. Their economic message during good times is tax cuts, and their agenda for bad times is tax cuts. Their “new ideas” are tax cuts for wealthy people, even though vast majorities favor taxing top earners to fix the budget. This seems like a ripe topic to bring up with conservative friends. Do they stand with their party or do they supporting reducing the deficit? As Matt noted conservatives who have grappled with this question in the past, Douthat and Greg Mankiw for example, have gone suspiciously silent. Coinkydink? I imagine that they want to feed Kyl and McConnell’s message mistake like Sharron Angle wants to chat with Rachel Maddow about Social Security, “second amendment solutions” rape.

Why do media figures treat conservative deficit hawkery like given truth? I’d wager that it mostly gets repeated because nobody has made them defend it. Writing a blog that links to Matt Yglesias via Kevin Drum barely registers. This could become the biggest meme on whatever meme aggregator kids use nowadays and most beat reporters still wouldn’t know. Drudge could rock the world with an unsourced rumor, of course, but nobody said that life is fair. You work with what you got, and I believe that it would do some good if news outlets got more pushback from their readers and if TV and radio stations started getting calls from listeners. Think of it as a service to give ombudsmen and ombudswomen something to do besides parry enraged, screeching wails from Glenn Beck fans.

Sitemeter tells me that we get a bit over 40k visitors a day. If four hundred of you (that’s one in a hundred) makes a measly phone call or pens a letter to the editor, a couple of small-market ombudspeople would probably answer right away. If you make a habit of it or if several of you reach the same reporter or ombudsperson then we might hear a more substantial response. Even Pittsburgh’s arch-rightwing Tribune Review (both Malkin and Goldberg syndicated) runs one or a few liberal letters on a given day.

IMO an effective place to start is the local newspaper. A good percentage of papers have editorial staff who lean right or right-ish, and these have run a more or less nonstop reel of deficits and immigrant hate since the healthcare issue faded. You therefore ought to find plenty of local grist for a reply.

If you’ve never written a LTE, check out this basic primer at eHow and pick up some style/stragtegy tips here.






30 replies
  1. 1
    Corner Stone says:

    Tim F. Lives!

  2. 2
    Karmakin says:

    The reason Movement Conservatives harp about the deficit is because the entire point of the deficit is to handcuff non-Conservative governments from actually fixing shit.

  3. 3
    demo woman says:

    Thank you Doug for this post. MSM is funded by big corps that want tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts but it is worth a try.

    EDIT Sorry Tim…
    THANK YOU FOR THE POST

  4. 4
    beltane says:

    It’s times like this when I miss my grandfather. He could be a mean SOB, but he was also a staunch liberal who made a hobby of writing scathing LTEs. He would have relished taking on this insanity.

  5. 5
    Allison W. says:

    I like this. I’ll do one myself.

    Really. this is good. a post that challenges the voters to do something.

  6. 6
    Tim F. says:

    @Corner Stone: Yeah, not dead yet. Trying to focus on work for now. This is a bit of a quiet moment while Nature sends a paper out for review (woohoo) and I really do think that Matt has hit on a goldmine of an issue, but I probably will not be a regular blogger.

  7. 7
    Fitzwili says:

    Sounds like a great idea! It always makes me less frustrated to do even small things – I agree with you that Yglasias has made an excellent point/ line of attack. It is up to us to run with it.

  8. 8
    Cat Lady says:

    Back when I used to get newspapers and magazines, and therefore write letters to the editor, I had 5 out of 5 letters submitted and published, for an acceptance rate of 100% – in the Boston Globe (twice), Hartford Courant (once), my regional local paper (once) and Vogue magazine – Sandy Pittman of Into Thin Air fame wrote a crap filled tall tale of her heroism on Everest which just begged me to take her down (I only read Vogue for the articles). FWIW, it’s all about word choice and the ability to be concise and sharply on point. Drop adverbs and adjectives, and above all, be factually correct. It’s very satisfying to see your words in black and white, and read all over. We can do this – great suggestion Tim F.

  9. 9
    El Cid says:

    Apparently at Peter Orszag’s request, the Business Roundtable has come up with a list of regulations that businesses would appreciate the Obama administration lifting or lightening. (PDF of document here.)

    In short, don’t tax foreign earnings; we don’t like financial reform; health care reform is scary and threatening; sign pending ‘free’ trade agreements; block EFCA, and don’t follow up with any more of this Lily Ledbetter pay equality shit; don’t dare expand Davis-Bacon; cut your damn moratorium on drilling because there ain’t no damn accidents when companies do shit right…

    Same standard bullshit about how our corporate tax rates are ‘higher’ than the OECD nations (oh, did we forget to mention that we don’t actually get that collected ’cause of all the fucking tax breaks, so we’re in reality much lower? Oh, must’ve slipped our minds…)

    And they also give their game away with this utterly dishonest piece of economic disinformation bullshit.

    At the same time, the government must reduce spending to manage down deficit and debt. The current levels of U.S. debt, as well as those required to finance the forecast deficits, will crowd out private capital. If less capital is available for corporate borrowers, it will retard future growth and investment, erode the value of the U.S. dollar, accelerate inflation and, eventually, reduce consumer spending power.

    FUUUUUUUCK! CONSUMER SPENDING POWER IS GOD-DAMNED REDUCED BECAUSE OF THE MOTHER FUCKING RECESSION YOU JACKASSES!

    And federal debt doesn’t ‘crowd out’ private capital — BUSINESSES AREN’T INVESTING BECAUSE OF THAT GOD-DAMNED FUCKING COLLAPSED DEMAND, YOU JACKASSES!

    And why the fuck should an exporting nation give a shit about the value of the U.S. dollar ‘eroding’? You think we should always favor imports?

    So, you know, hey, federal government, you got to fix all this deficit and debt, but, you know, don’t like get more revenues by helping the economy, and, you know, cut some of our damn taxes, so, we can, um, you know, reduce the deficit, by magic or something.

    Assholes. I

  10. 10
    danimal says:

    Thanks for the post. This issue has potential (finally!) to really strain some GOPer’s stale, rote talking points. It’s time to go on the offensive. The key is going to be repetition. Because they don’t care about deficits. The GOP doesn’t care about deficits. Republicans don’t care about deficits.

    Rinse and repeat. By the way, they really don’t care about deficits.

  11. 11

    The Senate just passed the Finreg bill, time to celebr……Flog ourselves fifty hundred times for Obama Fail. Who wants to go first?

  12. 12
    Nylund says:

    Here is the point about taxes that I wish someone would ask teabaggers about:

    The 1% of Americans who make the most money, over half of their “income” is from dividends and capital gains. Thus, it is not taxed as income, but as gains. When Bush cut capital gains taxes to 15%, we had a situation where the 400 richest people had an effective tax rate of 20%. These people, on average, made $338 MILLION a year.

    I don’t have hard numbers, but I’d bet you anything that most teabaggers have an effective tax rate higher than 20%. What I want to ask them is if they really and truly believe that its correct for people who make $338 million a year to pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than they do?

    Teabaggers have this inflated sense that THEY are the producers, and that when liberals talk about “taxing the rich” we mean THEM. I think its safe to say that we’re much more likely to be talking about the people that make $338 million a year who only pay 20% in taxes.

    In general though, the rich have gotten so much richer that our top income bracket is just silly. Add more at 500,000, 1 million, 10 million, 100 million.

    I forget the details, but at one point in the early 20th century, the US government added a top bracket so high that the joke was that it only applied to Rockefeller (and in some ways, it was meant to). The fact that, to the IRS, someone who makes 250 thousand is the same as someone that makes 250 million is absurd. In one case, I’d feel bad about taking 50%, but for the other, heck, I’d take 90% without any remorse and tell the person, “hey, if you can’t live off the 25 million you get to keep, you got problems.”

  13. 13
    mclaren says:

    No intelligent person – not even conservative economists who worked for George W. Bush – would simply say that they still care more about tax cuts than the deficit during a deficit crisis…

    Sure they would. It’s a demonstration of power.

    So-called “conservatives” openly admit they don’t give a damn about the deficits for the same reason U.S. interrogators openly admit they don’t give a damn about getting information when they torture people.

    The purpose of torture is to spread terror and intimidation. Let an American army base like Bagram torture a thousand people, and they can keep a million people under control.

    Likewise, the purpose of tax cuts is to enrich the wealthy. Nothing else matters. Enrich the top 1% and they get wealthy enough to keep everyone else under control. Nothing else matters.

    The open admission that the so-called “conservatives” don’t give a damn about deficits is what you get when the rich win the class war. They don’t have to hide their real agenda anymore.

  14. 14
    El Cid says:

    @General Stuck: This was a Big Fucking Deal.

  15. 15
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

     

    Their economic message during good times is tax cuts, and their agenda for bad times is tax cuts.

    Alex, I’ll take “Why is movement conservatism like a postmodern cargo cult” for $500

  16. 16
    KG says:

    Do they stand with their party or do they supporting reducing the deficit?

    From my time on the fringe of the movement, I’ll tell you what their response would be: they want to reduce the deficit by cutting spending, not by raising taxes. A lot of movement conservatives really do think we’d be better off if the federal government was about the size that it was circa 1926. Some would go further and argue for 1794 (though I think Victor David Hanson, who I’ve met, would probably go as far back as 3500 BC or so).

    A lot of them are anti-modernists, they really just can’t come to grips with modernity. They can’t come to grips with the fact that technology, the Industrial Revolution (as I learned while earning my BA in political science, when in doubt blame the Industrial Revolution), or the fact that we live in a completely different world than what the Founders/Framers could have possibly imagined. And they fall into the old trap of harking back to a time that never really existed.

    Sorry, that got a bit sidetracked: the point is, they see the best way of cutting the deficit to be cutting spending not raising revenues to pay for programs that people actually want/need. The problem for elected officials on the GOP side is that they know what the numbers actually say, and that cutting spending is a great way to see you don’t get re-elected. Remember when they had to create a commission to recommend closing down military bases in the early-90s? And then the commission came back with the proposal everything knew they would?

  17. 17
    Midnight Marauder says:

    Why do media figures treat conservative deficit hawkery like given truth? I’d wager that it mostly gets repeated because nobody has made them defend it.

    This is pretty much the formula for almost every noxious position the Republican Party/conservative movement has. The reason they’ve gained such traction over the years in the fertile wasteland that is the American citizenry, is because no real entity has ever vigorously challenged them to defend and articulate the logical outcomes of their “policies.” They can run around claiming “TAX CUTS FIX EVERYTHING!” year after year, decade after decade, because no one has ever vehemently gone after them as lying liars who lie on this point. In a just world, this role would be fulfilled by a robust Fourth Estate, but that is not something that will exist in any meaningful way anytime soon.

    So the only real option is for the citizenry to find whatever outlets they can to make these Obstructionist Assholes own their patently illogical arguments. That’s the thing, really. Once you actually engage these know-nothings on the real world ramifications of their ideas and policies, they quickly start to unravel in their justifications because the positions they’re advocating are based almost entirely on egregious lies and deluded fantasyland thinking. It just so happens that they are rarely pushed to the point where this is revealed.

    Unless you are Rand Paul, in which case, you take a certain pride in inflicting the wound on yourself.

  18. 18
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @mclaren:

    The open admission that the so-called “conservatives” don’t give a damn about deficits is what you get when the rich win the class war. They don’t have to hide their real agenda anymore.

    I would presume that this will serve as quite the shock to their system, then:

    Greenspan Says Lawmakers Should Let All Bush’s Tax Cuts Lapse

    Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, whose endorsement of George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts helped persuade Congress to pass them, said lawmakers should allow the cuts to expire at the end of the year.
    __
    “They should follow the law and let them lapse,” Greenspan said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff,” citing a need for the tax revenue to reduce the federal budget deficit.
    __
    […]
    __
    Greenspan, in a telephone conversation after his Bloomberg TV interview was taped, said his position is that all the expiring Bush tax cuts should end, for middle-class and high- income families alike.
    __
    Ending the cuts “probably will” slow growth, Greenspan, 84, said in the TV interview. The risk posed by inaction on the deficit is greater, he said.
    __
    “Unless we start to come to grips with this long-term outlook, we are going to have major problems,” said Greenspan, who led the U.S. central bank from 1987 to 2006. “I think we misunderstand the momentum of this deficit going forward.”
    __
    Greenspan said reducing the deficit is “going to be far more difficult than anybody imagines” after “a decade of major increases in federal spending and major tax cuts.”

  19. 19
    JCT says:

    @Midnight Marauder:

    Greenspan to be thrown under the bus and backed over repeatedly in three-two-one….

    JT

  20. 20
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Nylund:

    What I want to ask them is if they really and truly believe that its correct for people who make $338 million a year to pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than they do?

    Yes, but the question would have to be framed in such a way that the “flat tax” would not be a solution. If that’s even possible.

  21. 21
    Chad N Freude says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: Excellent!

  22. 22
    Steve says:

    No one seems to appreciate that Kyl and McConnell actually disagreed with one another.

    Kyl said that you don’t offset tax cuts because the goal is to shrink the government, i.e. “starve the beast.”

    McConnell said that you don’t offset tax cuts because tax cuts increase revenue, so the government actually ends up with more money at the end of the day.

    Obviously you can’t shrink government by increasing its revenues!

    Their position is more incoherent than most people realize.

  23. 23
    Midnight Marauder says:

    @Steve:

    No one seems to appreciate that Kyl and McConnell actually disagreed with one another.
    __
    Kyl said that you don’t offset tax cuts because the goal is to shrink the government, i.e. “starve the beast.”
    __
    McConnell said that you don’t offset tax cuts because tax cuts increase revenue, so the government actually ends up with more money at the end of the day.
    __
    Obviously you can’t shrink government by increasing its revenues!
    __
    Their position is more incoherent than most people realize.

    @Midnight Marauder:

    That’s the thing, really. Once you actually engage these know-nothings on the real world ramifications of their ideas and policies, they quickly start to unravel in their justifications because the positions they’re advocating are based almost entirely on egregious lies and deluded fantasyland thinking. It just so happens that they are rarely pushed to the point where this is revealed.

    My point exactly. Thank you.

  24. 24
    Chad N Freude says:

    @Midnight Marauder: And what effect will this incoherence have on voters? Does their audience see the cognitive dissonance? I’m not very optimistic about this.

  25. 25
    Steve says:

    @Midnight Marauder: Ok, but if someone’s position is incoherent only no one realizes it’s incoherent, is it really incoherent? That’s the thing about politics. See also, Plato’s Symposium.

  26. 26
    b-psycho says:

    @El Cid: This should be someone in congress’ cue to push for repeal of Taft-Hartley. Just so when the others freak out they can say “what, the idea of less restraint only applies to corporate interests & not labor interests?”.

  27. 27
    Gabe says:

    As a writer of snide letters to the editor for many years, here are a few recent contributions – some of which are actually a little long, but you get the idea:

    “While the news that Toronto has the worst commute times of any major city made splashy headlines, the fine print in the Toronto Board of Trade’s report did not: “US commute times might be underestimated.” The report mixed commute data at the city level with transit data at the metropolitan area level and the result was, to say the least, incorrect. Nobody should be comparing 49 square mile San Francisco with metro Toronto’s 2300 square miles.”

    “W.R. Wallace (Letters, July 16) writes that on Spare the Air Day, he “will blissfully drive [his] polluting gas guzzler to the city” because the Sausalito ferry he’s been taking for 30 years will be “jammed to capacity with freeloading day trippers,” while the ferry service reaps a “taxpayer-paid windfall”. Perhaps Mr. Wallace is unaware that the taxpayer money that subsidizes his daily ferry ride depends on the Bay Area reducing automobile pollution to meet federal air quality standards. Surely having a “freeloader” sitting next to him three days a year is a small price to pay for the tens of thousands of dollars Mr. Wallace has received over the years in his own “taxpayer-paid windfall”.”

    “Nick Shinn (Letters, Aug. 27) implies that the top students profiled in The Star lack “a balance of abilities.” But most of the students played a competitive sport, half of them played a musical instrument and almost all did volunteer work. And though most of the students got their best grade in a math class, more than half of them want to attend medical school. Apparently Mr. Shinn doesn’t think it’s enough for a high school kid to be good at five things and want to help people in his or her future career…”

    “On most issues, Canadian policy sits somewhere between the United States and Europe, but Linda McQuaig [Comment, Jan. 3] is wrong to suggest that this is the case on carbon emissions. When we compare dense cities, Canada fares quite poorly: Toronto’s per capita emissions are 25% higher than New York and London’s. Toronto’s short-term Greenhouse Gas reduction target (6% below 1990 levels by 2012) is also timid compared to cities like Portland (10% by 2010) or San Francisco (20% by 2012) that recognized the need to take action on emissions long before Toronto did. McQuaig writes that “climate change hasn’t sufficiently registered as an issue” in the United States, but it’s Canada where it really hasn’t registered.”

  28. 28
    NonyNony says:

    @KG:

    From my time on the fringe of the movement, I’ll tell you what their response would be: they want to reduce the deficit by cutting spending, not by raising taxes.

    But you need to get them on the record – challenge these bozos running for office to put up or shut up on what their plans are. Flog them with the example of Bush the Lesser – he had control of Congress and the White House and what got cut? Where are these cuts going to come from? The Republicans had control of both chambers and didn’t even try – because they don’t care.

  29. 29
    wyliecoat says:

    Tim F. You the man. Please keep these posts coming. Thanks to this post, I was inspired to send a letter to the editor of San Jose Mercury news rebutting a completely ridiculous assertion that Democrats keep driving up the deficit. Hope they post it.

  30. 30
    wyliecoat says:

    Also, it would be great if you put together all the arguments against conservative deficit wankery in an easy to disseminate point form so we can ( more or less) cut, paste, and modify to suit. I want to keep bombarding my local papers as the elections approach.

    Thanks much.

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