Tuesday, September 09, 2008


The End of the GOP, Pt. 1

This is the first in a series of posts I plan to make analyzing what I, and many others, see as the final death throes of the GOP and modern American conservatism. The idea to do this series originates from what started as a casual observance of Republican incompetence and intellectual emptiness to what I now clearly see as the failure of an ideology. I'd like to first set the parameters of this discussion. Firstly, I don't believe Republican or conservative ideology is dying on its own. The Republican party has effectively and very quickly killed it. My previous post of a New York Times Magazine piece on Obamanomics (The Obama Economic Doctrine) briefly touched on the failure of a central tenet of modern American conservatism: Reagonomics aka trickle-down-economics aka supply-side-economics. Whatever you want to call it, the idea that favoring economic policies that primarily favor the upper echelons of the wealthy in the hope that excess wealth will trickle down to the bottom of the income ladder enriching everyone along the way, has failed massively in the last quarter century. Of course the exponentially growing gap between the rich and the poor and the socio-economic inequality that is a result is not all to blame on simple tax policy. But it is a factor that has exasperated the effects of globalisation in the United States.

Reagonomics simply has not worked. The numbers don't lie. The economy has grown strongly over the last quarter century but real wages and purchasing power for the 98% of Americans who make up the group that was supposed to be trickled upon has remained stagnant and in some instances declined. While the socio-economic inequality between the top 2% and the rest has increased dramatically.

It's not that Reagonomics is a faulty theory of economics but rather the Republican party has taken that idea and turned it into a sort of dogma. The absolutist version of Reagonomics that doesn't take into account market failures, weakness and irregularity is really the culprit here. And now a timely quote from Barack Obama:
“I think I can tell a pretty simple story. Ronald Reagan ushered in an era that reasserted the marketplace and freedom. He made people aware of the cost involved of government regulation or at least a command-and-control-style regulation regime. Bill Clinton to some extent continued that pattern, although he may have smoothed out the edges of it. And George Bush took Ronald Reagan’s insight and ran it over a cliff."

Absolutely. What's interesting to me now, and what makes me think the GOP is dying, is that the party of ideas is now the party of dogma. Instead of addressing the fundamental problems with their economic principles the modern day Republican party has essentially "doubled-down" on it's gamble. The McCain campaign offers an even more absolutist and extreme version of Reagonomics than the Bush regime. Not only does he want to make the Bush tax policy permanent, he wants to decrease the tax burden on the super rich upper class and keep the tax burden on the rest of the population the same. It's like Wile E. Coyote still clutching the rocket before he realizes he's well off the cliff.

To tie this all together, here is a very well written and provocative analysis of why localities that have the highest degrees of income inequality vote almost exclusively for Democrats and progressive policies while those with a lesser degree of wealth segregation vote primarily for Republicans. And it's not just the bottom rungs of the ladder voting Democratic, the affluent and educated American population is as well. In fact the 10 most educated states are reliable strongholds for the Democratic Party. Here is a short excerpt from this well constructed and insightful piece written by David Frum a conservative author and fellow at the conservative think-tank the American Enterprise Institute:

In short, the trend to inequality is real, it is large and it is transforming American society and the American electoral map. Yet the conservative response to this trend verges somewhere between the obsolete and the irrelevant.

Conservatives need to stop denying reality. The stagnation of the incomes of middle-class Americans is a fact. And only by acknowledging facts can we respond effectively to the genuine difficulties of voters in the middle. We keep offering them cuts in their federal personal income taxes — even though two-thirds of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes, and even though a majority of Americans now describe their federal income tax burden as reasonable.

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