Does a well-functioning capitalist economic system need good political governance? Yes. Does the United States currently have a political party skilled at managing its capitalist economic system? I’d argue, no. Of the two main parties, the GOP is clearly the bigger problem. I don’t want to turn off GOP supporters from this blog, or from other arguments I might make. But the contradictions between the Republican view of themselves and their actual interaction with the world must be pointed out if we are to retain any semblance of objectivity. For starters: a party of deficit hawks that will not raise tax revenues, under any circumstances, is not a party of deficit hawks. They are a party of pretenders.
Anyway, I bring this up because there’s a great article in the NY Review of Books, by Sam Tanenhaus, that raises these kinds of contradictions, one of which is anti-government ideology in theory and in practice:
This, in turn, points to the larger problem for the GOP. Its leading figures, in office and in the media, continue to espouse an antigovernment ideology that in reality attracts very few voters, even on the right. More accurately, today’s self-identified conservatives embrace movement rhetoric but not movement ideology—at least not when it is cast as policy. In The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism, Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson, Harvard scholars who have interviewed adherents of the new insurgency in different regions of the country, report that
“fully 83% of South Dakota Tea Party supporters said they would prefer to “leave alone” or “increase” Social Security benefits, while 78% opposed cuts to Medicare prescription drug coverage, and 79% opposed cuts in Medicare payments to physicians and hospitals…. 56% of the Tea Party supporters surveyed did express support for “raising income taxes by 5% for everyone whose income is over a million dollars a year.”
These views, which are aligned with those of moderate Republicans and Democrats, corroborate the findings in a 2010 New York Times poll of Tea Partiers, which concluded: “Despite their push for smaller government, they think that Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers.”11 Such opinions reflect those of the broader public, and as much as two thirds of that public favors in principle much of Obama’s program, including his plan to increases taxes on the wealthy12—an idea derided on the right as “class warfare.” Meanwhile approval for the Tea Party–aligned House of Representatives has sunk to historic depths.
I don’t know if Tanenhaus agrees or not, but to me it is obvious that the GOP will not be the party that pulls America out of the Great Contraction. The economic problems we face now and into the near future are too complex for the Republican’s simplistic ideologies. It is more likely, at this point, that the GOP gameplan will remain preventing Obama and the Democrats from doing what the GOP is unable and unwilling to do. This remarkable story is the end of the GOP as we knew it.
Mark Austen Whipple