A revived GOP is impossible without a modern economic message

Douglas Elmendorf, Paul Ryan, Tom Price

I wrote the other day that with his speech calling for a more conciliatory tone in American politics, a tone in which “we question each other’s ideas — vigorously — but we don’t question each other’s motives,” House Speaker Paul Ryan was trying to lay a foundation upon which to rebuild the Republican Party.

The speech was courageous, and those who saw it as a self-serving effort by Ryan to position himself as the GOP presidential nominee should its convention deadlock are badly misreading the mood of that party. The Republican base is not by any means prepared to rally behind Ryan’s message at the moment, and he knows it as well or better than anyone.

But as Ryan himself would stress, changing the tone will only be half the battle. In a politics of ideas, the quality of ideas matter. And the fact of the matter is that the ideas that Ryan and other establishment Republicans continue to champion are badly out of date and irrelevant to modern economic challenges. They come across as artifacts of another time, a time in which disco rocked the air waves and lava lamps and leisure suits were considered cool.

Let’s take a moment to assess where we stand today, both politically and macro-economically:

Among other things, this election cycle has forced a grudging acknowledgement in elements of both parties that the benefits of global trade have been unfairly concentrated among a relative few, in the form of huge corporate profits, a soaring stock market and increasing accumulation of wealth and income at the top. Conversely, the significant burdens of free trade — lower earning power, good-paying jobs going overseas, reduced benefits, increased economic insecurity — have been borne by a very different group of people. There’s a glaring imbalance, and it has nothing to do with how hard people work.

The unlikely successes of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have made it clear that if the nation’s political and economic elite hopes to sustain long-term public support for a global economy — and the alternative to such a system is grim for everybody — they’re going to have to accept steps in which the social compact is renegotiated and the benefits and burdens of globalization are shared more equitably. The economic trends of the past 35 years that have produced this frustration show no signs of reversing on their own and instead appear ready to accelerate, and that situation is simply no longer sustainable. One way or the other, the political system will be forced to address that fact.

So what are the economic ideas championed by Ryan and his colleagues to confront such modern-day challenges? Prior to his election as speaker, Ryan served as chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he would produce annual documents laying out his vision of how government ought to respond. Those budgets never went anywhere, but Ryan often pointed to them as a guide to what the GOP should do if given the power. His hand-picked successor as Budget Committee chair, U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, has followed in that tradition. Those documents are essentially a blueprint of the ideas and values that Ryan believes will lead to a rejuvenation of his party and his country.

Having studied those earlier budget reports, and having read the proposed 2017 budget produced by Price, I think they are fooling themselves.

In a world of disappearing pensions, inadequate 401-ks and stagnant earning power, Ryan, Price and their colleagues advocate a future in which Medicare is privatized, Medicaid is gutted, student loans are pushed toward elimination, Social Security benefits are targeted as too lush and food stamps are condemned as a crutch for the weak-willed. At a time when people are seeking help, the Ryan message is that they have been given too much help already.

When that message is paired with unspecified corporate and upper-income tax breaks, as it has been in most of the Ryan budget documents, it becomes even more unpalatable. Nothing in these documents recognizes that significant, long-term macro-economic changes driven by globalization and technology are imposing significant hardships on American communities. Instead, every problem is treated as if it is caused by government and can cured by less government, and by giving even more free rein to the very forces of destabilization that created these challenges in the first place.

I don’t believe that you can rebuild a majority political party on that message, not in this environment. Sure, it’s a message popular with the conservative intellectuals hired at the corporate-sponsored Washington “think tanks;” yes, its “more of the same, please” approach appeals to the well-heeled donors who in the past have dictated the party’s message. But its appeal to those turning out for Trump rallies has been vastly overestimated, and the party is paying the price for that mistake.

Changing that message is going to be difficult and even traumatic. At the moment, for example, the Price-Ryan budget proposal for 2017 is bogged down in the House, unable to attract enough Republican votes to be adopted. Why? Because a significant portion of the GOP House caucus believes that it does not go far enough, fast enough in cutting spending on safety-net programs.  Programs that help working people, that help alleviate the burdens imposed in a globalizing economy that has decimated their earning power and savings, aren’t being slashed deeply enough to get their support.

I don’t pretend to know how to change that mindset, or what could possibly replace it.

 

 

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3424 comments
TheCentrist
TheCentrist

Tom Price working on a federal budget? He hasn't handle his small "doctor's" office budget or his practice very well. What makes matters worse is that he and other social conservatives have a total contempt for the federal government.

They should just pass a budget for the administration of the three branches, and zero out every agency. Even the military.

That way they would be true to the second amendment by having a well regulated militia for us to have the right to bear arms.

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

Social conservatives can't agree on a budget among themselves, but blame Obama for the debt and deficit, and for not working with them.

Cupofjoe
Cupofjoe

Bush was correct at the time however there is a lower left to upper right trend of atrocities.  And before any of you fellas blow an index finger blogging your judgement against me I have wonderful, beautiful, Muslim girlfriend.  IA


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLIbDaqPXG8

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Cupofjoe 

Anyone who goes to Bill Maher for advice on what to do with Teh Moosumbz probably ought to be involuntarily sterilized.

Peachs
Peachs

I think Maher is just blind, because of his anti religious beliefs. I find myself going off on Southern Baptists with the same broad brush! Any religion, that stagnates and is blind to truth and reality, is a problem. If religion if anything, it is a search for the truth, you can't search the truth with a preassumed answer, to your question.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Cupofjoe  "And before any of you fellas blow an index finger blogging your judgement against me I have wonderful, beautiful, Muslim girlfriend."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


There are more people than "fellas" who read this blog. Moreover, why did you feel it necessary to insert the word "beautiful" regarding your girlfriend in order to impress the "fellas"?

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Cupofjoe


Cory Booker is an enlightened politician.  Good for him for being true to his vision.  Good for Maher for being an aggressive interviewer, with humor, although I disagree with Maher's contention.

Peachs
Peachs

I noticed on the CBS Sunday talk show, that a female Wall Street Journal, journalist, described ,Hillary's group ,as the pants suit brigade. She was noting that they were not with her on her latest campaign, and the smugness that she has displayed has dissipated.

skydog12
skydog12

@Peachs

All my searches for the truth are based on facts and imperial data. All organized religions are based on faith.


Faith means you believe in something that disagrees or is non provable with the facts.


PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@Peachs  Maher certainly appears to be a "militant atheist" - goes off on Christians just as much as Muslims (Dawkins would be proud).

Peachs
Peachs

That would explain the hate...

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

FOX is referencing a poll where 47% of women say they won't vote for Trump.

They did not divide between Dems and Repubs.

I hope those Repub women who don't like Trump would have the common sense to vote for him instead of Hillary should they be the two nominees.

The idea of a person putting their personal objections based on their gender ahead of what is best for the Nation is unpatriotic and just plain stupid.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@Jreb,

All the polls ,including on Foxnews, has that number at 57 percent doesn't approve of Trump. Which is why the Republican establishment is worried about general election.

Peachs
Peachs

But if the polls were 57% in favor of Trump, it would be fine for him to be a bigoted womanizer, because he has got the votes!

TheCentrist
TheCentrist

There are women who don't like Trump, or Cruz for that matter, not because of his gender, but because they have the common sense to know he is not a champion of what is best for the nation.

dreema
dreema

@JohnnyReb Other polls put it at 75% unfavorables for Trump among women.

SFM_Scootter
SFM_Scootter

VC  


Did you have any problems logging in this AM? 

Peachs
Peachs

Our plan must've worked!

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Mornin'. Something I stumbled upon from a week ago, but worth another look.

And by the way, I do think GW Bush did more than just that one thing right. But work with Atrios, here.

http://www.eschatonblog.com/2016/03/george-bush-did-one-thing-right.html

I find it rather disturbing how it's "controversial" that Obama thinks terrorist attacks mean we shouldn't blame all Muslims. Obviously white people (and people of all races) kill people with guns in this country every day, but aside from that, there was a guy who also made an attempt to diminish anti-Muslim bigotry after a major terrorist attack that actually happened in our country. You might remember it. The guy's name was George W. Bush. Sure then he decided to invade Iraq which kind of invalidated all of that, but after 9/11 he genuinely made an effort to not blame "Muslims" or "Islam" for what happened.

RandroidWillBoy
RandroidWillBoy

@Donnie_Pinko @Visual_Cortex


IMO it is easy to target Bush but projecting what any president would have done facing the historic 911 attack a mere 8 months into his  first term is silly.  (Not that you are doing so here). Despite all the liberal rhetoric to the contrary, none of the "warnings" were specific enough  to prevent incident.  Clinton administration more at fault..


He made a horrid selection of Cheney as VP for sure.  Judgement error...which I think caused most of his problems..

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@Visual_Cortex 

And by the way, I do think GW Bush did more than just that one thing right. But work with Atrios, here.   / 

Again, there's a difference between lip service and a genuine stance of principle. 

George W. Bush, like the whole ruling class, has reasons not to want to appear to antagonize ALL Muslims.
They're very practical reasons and not necessarily grounded in principle.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@RaindroidWillBoy And Ashcroft... who initially redirected the FBI to crack down on prostitution in New Orleans instead of focusing any efforts on counter-terrorism.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Visual_Cortex I don't blame all Muslims for the terrorist attacks.  However......

The Left likes to throw in domestic disturbances like a theater shootings, the Bundys, etc. but if we throw those out it is true or seems so that all the terrorist attacks have been by Muslims.

Now please don't muddy the water with small groups like the Bundys and those that were just thrown out of the bird house.

Add in the Muslim Bible calls for eliminating the infidels and there is no doubt there is a problem within the Muslims.

I keep hearing politicians say we should not offend Muslims as we need their help.

How about we see some real evidence of them helping and the offenses will go away.


JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@ByteMe @JohnnyReb there you go, doing exactly what was expected.

Why don't you enlighten us and give a few examples of those white christian terrorist attacks?

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@JohnnyReb @ByteMe 

I keep hearing politicians say we should not offend Muslims as we need their help. // 

Trust your imperial leaders on that one. They know better than you.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Donnie_Pinko @Visual_Cortex 

They're very practical reasons and not necessarily grounded in principle.

Well, I don't care about what is in a politician's heart, but rather what he actually chooses to do. But I get your point.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Donnie_Pinko @JohnnyReb @ByteMe 

So we should start offending them? 

After invading and destroying one country after another in their region? 

Seems a wise use of available resources. What could go wrong?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@SFM_Scootter @Visual_Cortex 

Well, I'll play it again! I can think of three accomplishments off the top of my head that can be called actual positive accomplishments of Team Bush. Credit-where-due and all that:

1. no call list

2. off road diesel regs

3. anti-AIDS work in Africa

 

ByteMe
ByteMe

@JohnnyReb Well, sure, if we throw out all the terrorism committed by white christians, we're going to certainly be left with terrorism NOT committed by white christians.