David Frum, ostensibly a Republican, asks in New York Magazine "When did the GOP lose touch with reality?" Judging by his composition it's a fair question to turn back on the inquisitor.
He starts out by trying to emphasize his Republican street cred.
I’ve been a Republican all my adult life. I have worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, at Forbes magazine, at the Manhattan and American Enterprise Institutes, as a speechwriter in the George W. Bush administration. I believe in free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and limited government. I voted for John McCain in 2008, and I have strongly criticized the major policy decisions of the Obama administration.
Believes in free markets? Check. Low Taxes? Check. "Reasonable" regulation. Well, one man's reasonble is another man's unreasonable. Let's just file this one under "less regulation than Mr. Obama wants" and move on. Limited government? Check. Voted for McCain in '08? Given the other choice you'd kind of have to, so check. Criticized the major policy decisions of the Obama administration? Haven't we all, Mr. Frum.
So it's all good. Until we hit the next paragraph.
America desperately needs a responsible and compassionate alternative to the Obama administration’s path of bigger government at higher cost. And yet: This past summer, the GOP nearly forced America to the verge of default just to score a point in a budget debate. In the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, Republican politicians demand massive budget cuts and shrug off the concerns of the unemployed. In the face of evidence of dwindling upward mobility and long-stagnating middle-class wages, my party’s economic ideas sometimes seem to have shrunk to just one: more tax cuts for the very highest earners.
Let's take these one at a time, and see how the square with his assertions of his limited government/low tax/free market declarations. First up: "the GOP nearly forced America to the verge of default just to score a point in a budget debate." The GOP did nothing of the kind. What the GOP did do was to insist on substantial budget cuts (limited government) and no tax increases (low tax) in exchange for increasing the debt ceiling. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, wanted a blank check. He was looking for a way to avoid any spending cuts while raising taxes on the upper earners - which analyses have shown is not enough to pay for such spending anyway, and which Mr. Obama himself admitted is the wrong medicine in a sluggish economy.
Next we have this: "In the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, Republican politicians demand massive budget cuts and shrug off the concerns of the unemployed." Okay, I think we're in agreement about the economy. Where your reality testing is suspect, Mr. Frum, is in what follows that generally supportable statement. Republican politicians have never demanded "massive budget cuts," only a reduction in the growth of future spending. You've fallen into the baseline budgeting trap. "Massive cuts" to beltway insiders and liberal journalists means decreasing the rate of growth of government spending from 10% to 4%. To those of us in the real world that's a 4% increase in spending that would be a lot more affordable and reasonable than 10%.
I'm also concerned that you think Republicans "shrug off concerns of the unemployed". I suspect you are referring to those politicians resisting the call to provide endlessly flowing unemployment benefits. Already they've been extended to nearly 2 years, and Republicans are cruel to want to stop them there? Studies show that extending unemployment benefits extends unemployment. Or perhaps you're referring to the Republicans' insistance that Democrats who want this live by their "pay-go" standard and cut spending elsewhere to fund it. Or maybe you're living in pure fantasy land, and you believe, as apparently the president does, that extending unemployment benefits "creates jobs." Regardless, this is not "shrugging off concerns of the unemployed," and putting it that way is pure demagoguery of the sort I'd expect from Sen. Harry Reid, among others.
Let's move to your final preposterous assertion in that section, that Republicans simply want "more tax cuts for the very highest earners." Aside from presidential candidates and their proposals for various flat, flatter, and flattest tax reforms (which would help the struggling private economy, many believe), is there anyone in Congress who has proposed cutting only the top marginal rate? By the way, if you're going to suggest that preventing the rates from rising with expiration of the Bush cuts is a cut in marginal rates then you misunderstand the concept. That is preventing an increase, not pushing for a cut. Let's assume you really are for "low taxes," as you state. Then wouldn't blocking a tax increase be desireable?
But there are more puzzling assertions in this essay.
It was not so long ago that Texas governor Bush denounced attempts to cut the earned-income tax credit as “balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.” By 2011, Republican commentators were noisily complaining that the poorer half of society are “lucky duckies” because the EITC offsets their federal tax obligations—or because the recession had left them with such meager incomes that they had no tax to pay in the first place. In 2000, candidate Bush routinely invoked “churches, synagogues, and mosques.” By 2010, prominent Republicans were denouncing the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan as an outrageous insult. In 2003, President Bush and a Republican majority in Congress enacted a new prescription-drug program in Medicare. By 2011, all but four Republicans in the House and five in the Senate were voting to withdraw the Medicare guarantee from everybody under age 55.
I'll have to move swiftly though this miasma, in order not to bore the readers, but this is nonsense.
- The push to reform Medicare (by making it a grant program to buy insurance rather than a government provided insurance benefit) shows allegiance to private enterprise, to individual freedom of choice, but mostly to the principle of fixing future problems before they are unfixable. Medicare's future unfunded liability is nearly $100 Trillion. That's Trillion, with a T. Those under 55 are ten years away from qualifying for Medicare. Ten years.
- The mosque in "lower Manhattan" was to be 2 blocks from Ground Zero of the 9-11 attacks, an understandably sensitive location. Rather than an example of Americans being insensitive to Muslim sensibilities, it is instead an example of Muslims being insensitive to non-Muslim sensibilities.
- And Democrats (among others) have now so bastardized and warped the tax code that half of Americans pay no federal income tax. That's not good for America, and in particular it's not good, for those who want a growing and vibrant economy, to stifle those who would provide jobs and economic growth with a steadily heavier burden of taxation. You know what's at the end of the road of steadily more progressive taxation, don't you?
So Mr. Frum, what we have here is a non sequitur. You assert that you want limited governnment, less regulation, low taxes and that you oppose Mr. Obama's policies. Your objections show us, however, that you don't really want those things. You ask in this article whether you're crazy. You're not. You are, however, deluding yourself if you think that Republicans should and will support Democrat, or even Democrat-lite policies of centralized control, bigger government, higher taxes, more regulation and balkanization, all of which stifle economic growth and freedom.
The question isn't "when did the GOP lose touch with reality?" The question, Mr. Frum, is when did you become a Democrat?
*no time now, I hope to be adding some links later for reference.
11/21/11 2020: A ha! I got the links added - and a few grammatical corrections as well.