Monday, February 18, 2013

More on the Policy Gap

Political Scientist Jonathan Bernstein made a great point on the Washington Post's Plumline Blog in response to something Ramesh Ponnaru wrote in the New York Times.  Ponnaru argued that the GOP should stop focusing on rekindling the glories of the 1980's and instead focus on economic and tax policies that make sense for today.  Bernstein argues, in my view correctly, that the problem is even worse than that:
The problem with Republicans today on public policy isn’t that they’re stuck in the 1980s; it’s that they’ve given up entirely. More often than not, what passes for Republican “policy” is just symbolic, not substantive.
And you can see this all the time right now.  Bernstein points out the major gaps; the missing replace side of "repeal and replace Obamacare," the fact that John McCain can't even explain what the "coverup" of Benghazi even is and the 20 year obsession with passing a balanced budget Constitutional Amendment to name a few. 

Increasingly "conservative" policy proposals are coming from liberals who bring up their ideas in occasional "here's what the GOP should be doing" type pieces.  In response to Obama's proposal to raise the minimum wage, Matt Yglesias pointed out that the sensible path would be for the GOP to oppose the increase and purpose their own substitute policies.  Alas, as Yglesias points out, that's just not going to happen:
So something else they could do is take up one of several alternative policies that economists tend to like better. They could embrace a larger Earned Income Tax Credit. They could embrace a Guaranteed Basic Income. They could target their assistance at families with a bigger refundable child tax credit. But they're not going to do any of those things either. Nor are they going to say that the real solution is expansionary monetary policy to create tight labor markets and the chance for workers to obtain higher market wages without government intervention. They're just going to offer nothing, until at some point Democrats have enough seats to pass the minimum wage hike or a handful of Republicans defect and join them.
Exactly.  Yglesias goes on to point out that this is because the GOP is opposed in principle to policies with the goals like raising the minimum wage because they are oppose in principle to the idea of the government regulating "market outcomes" with things like minimum wage bills.  As he puts it:
This isn't because there are no conservative thinkers with better ideas than a minimum wage hike, but because none of those ideas will be embraced in practice by Republican politicians or deployed by the conservative movement in any way other than as a smokescreen.
Which I would say is true.  But as Bernstein pointed out, the problem is even worse than that.  Even if a Marco Rubio wanted to find policies to promote instead of a minimum wage hike there aren't even any out there for him to go to in think tanks or with other GOP allied party actors.  Making the problem even worse than we think it is.

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