Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What Do Republicans Want?

What are policies intended to accomplish? It seems a little naive to take the word of the supporters on that; and even if you aren’t completely cynical about politicians, it’s obvious that a great many proposals are floated for sheerly tactical reasons or to to advertise an attitude rather than directly seek to change the way things are done. Since different segments of political parties and movements want different things from the same policies, there won’t be a single answer in any case. It’s also true that talking about the objective intentions of a class of people in the way the old Marxists used to do is high-handed and also presumes that anonymous social processes have purposes of their own. Still, we can perform the following experiment, which might teach us something even if we understand that it wouldn’t teach us everything. What would you guess the Republicans were trying to do if you simply considered the predicable effects of their preferred policies and ignored their explanations?  In other words, let us play dumb—the other side is free to claim we aren’t actually playing at that. Anyhow, here’s the short list I came up with this rainy morning of policies and their predicable results:

1.  Lower taxes on the rich, weaken unions, oppose raising the minimum wage, etc.: Increased economic inequality
2.  Reneging on the Iran deal: A nuclear Iran and/or another war in the Middle East
3.  Destroying the ACA: Lower life expectancy among the poor
4.  Wage the drug war with increased intensity: Ensuring the profits of the drug cartels by providing price support for illegal narcotics
5.  Outlaw abortion, reduce the availability of contraception, and eliminate sex education: More teenage pregnancy and a larger number of illegal abortions
6.  Take no steps to deal with climate change: Protecting old industries while slowing the growth of new industries

Outcomes aren’t everything. I’m well aware that there are deontological justifications for many Conservative policies, i.e., they’re right just because they’re right, damn it. For example, many, especially in the rank and file, oppose progressive taxation or the whole notion of an income tax simply because they don’t think it’s fair. Overturning Roe vs Wade won’t cut down on the number of abortions, but allowing it to stand strikes makes many right wingers feel like they are complicit in a great crime. That admitted, I do think that it is telling that conservatives care enough about consequences to devise elaborate, implausible theories of how their policies will do the reverse of what it appears they were designed to do. Trickle down economics is so counter-intuitive that it shouldn’t have taken forty years of experience and Thomas Piketty’s 900 pages to discredit it. It’s still around because it’s useful, not because it's cogent. I simply don’t believe Republicans are dedicated to slopping the hogs because they want to make bacon. We know who's running Animal Farm. 

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