Faith-based policy

I'm teaching Public Policy this semester, so I've been thinking more than usual about the pathologies of policy-making in this country.  What I think Congressional Republicans have indisputably demonstrated with the stimulus bill is that their fundamental approach to public policy is "faith-based" not evidence-based.  They simply take it as a matter of faith that tax cuts are the solutions to all economic problems when elementary policy analysis quite obviously shows this not to be the case.  The evidence is simply overwhelming that government spending targeted towards those with low incomes and towards infrastructure is far more stimulative than tax cuts for the well-off (e.g., "fixing" the alternative minimum tax, which benefits wholly the upper middle class and above).  Yet, all we hear is tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts.  Harold Meyerson had a great take on this in the Post on-line yesterday:

 The current form of Republican inflexibility dates to the
dissolution of the Soviet Union: With the end of the Cold War, the
GOP’s signature issue — anti-communism — was no more. Republicans
quickly discovered that the only other issue they all agreed on was
cutting taxes.

So George W. Bush called for tax cuts to deal with the dangerous
budget surpluses that Bill Clinton had been running, and then called
for tax cuts to close the deficit his earlier tax cuts had created. He
proposed tax cuts to finance his war in Iraq. And in that same spirit,
defeated presidential nominee John McCain, in his Republican
alternative to the Democrats’ stimulus bill, called for nothing but tax
cuts to remedy the current meltdown and complained that the Democrats
were calling for spending, not stimulus. Never mind that no reputable
economist believes that tax cuts get money into circulation as
effectively as government spending does. The Republicans’ belief in tax
cuts is beyond the realm of empirical argument. Data do not daunt them,
nor facts compel reflection.

Of course, there are many other areas of policy where Republicans are not interested in letting facts or data get in their way (e.g., global warming, health care, everything), too, but this is certainly the most obvious case right now.  

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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