Quote of the day

I think Ezra’s got it pretty well figured out when it comes to understanding the policy positions of the contemporary Republican party:

I’ve come to think of this as the reverse-Obamaization of the Republican Party. Much as the Democratic Party is now defined by Obama’s agenda, the Republican Party is now defined by opposition to his agenda. That must be a real bummer for the GOP senators who entered public life to actually do things.

There’s probably some little test you could come up with and try and determine whether a Republican position was determined by true ideological first principles or simply the opposite of whatever Obama wants.  I’m pretty sure most all positions on the major issues of the day would fall into that latter category.

Why U.S. health care is so expensive (in one really long chart)

Via Ezra:

Turning NC into Alabama

You never actually hear about people wanting to move to Alabama, it’s fine institutions of Higher Education, or any such thing.  It’s a poor state and it’s always been a poor state, but it doesn’t have to be that way– these are policy choices.  90 years ago, NC wasn’t that different from Alabama, and now it is, due to very conscious policy choices to invest in the people and resources of the state– especially higher education.  The N&O’s Rob Christensen, who probably knows more about the history of NC politics had a really nice column yesterday on how our newly Republican-led state legislature is doing its best to take the state backward (Christensen is a reporter who has always played it very much down the middle, so it’s really interesting to see how he’s unwilling to just sit back and not say anything as all this goes on).  Anyway:

In the 1920s the rest of the South watched in amazement as North Carolina went on a spending and borrowing spree to build new roads and to make the University of North Carolina the leading school in Dixie.

North Carolina must be “crazy” to undertake such a large debt, U.S. Sen. Carter Glass of Virginia remarked to a friend and Tar Heel native, Edwin Alderman.

“Maybe as you say, North Carolina is going to the poor house,” replied Alderman, who was then president of the University of Virginia. “But it is riding there cheerfully and gaily on the best roads in the South.”

The debate raging in North Carolina’s legislature – lower taxes versus higher services – has been going on in one form or another since the 1920s.

It was in the 1920s that North Carolina stepped on the gas pedal. It was a push driven by the state’s business community, which was looking for a way for a poor, rural state to pull itself up through industrialization. The policy throughout much of the South was to offer industry low wages, low taxes and no unions.

North Carolina did some of that, especially the anti-union part of the equation. But it also had a more sophisticated approach. The Tar Heel State decided to spend more than its Southern sisters on education, roads and, later, cultural amenities as a sounder way to attract industry…

The late Chapel Hill historian George Tindall called this era “business progressivism,” and it has dominated the state’s political ethos ever since – under both Democratic and Republican governors. It led to a first-class university system, a first-rate community college system, major investments in the arts and the Research Triangle Park. It has helped make North Carolina distinctive from the rest of the South.

That philosophy is once again being debated on Jones Street, as the question is being asked: Are the higher services worth the higher taxes?

Actually, he pulls back from anything that could be soon as too overtly partisan at the end, but the implications are quite clear.  The better question is: continue with NC being among the most desired states to live and work in the South, or put us a path to fall back to the level of Alabama and Mississippi?

Democrats get smart

I’d love to see more stuff like this:

WASHINGTON — Linking two of the politically volatile issues of the moment, Senate Democrats say they will move forward this week with a plan that would eliminate tax breaks for big oil companies and divert the savings to offset the deficit.

With high gas prices and rising federal deficits in the political spotlight, senior Democrats believe that tying the two together will put pressure on Senate Republicans to support the measure or face a difficult time explaining their opposition to voters whose family budgets are being strained by fuel prices…

Democrats say they tailored their bill to make it harder for Republicans to reject after Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, and Mr. Menendez wrote to colleagues last weekthat their goal was to “proceed with a bill that maximizes our chances of garnering bipartisan appeal.”

As currently written, the bill would apply only to what Democrats have identified as the five largest and most profitable oil companies: BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and Conoco Phillips. Those involved in writing the measure said they restricted it to those firms by using a definition that applied to major oil companies with certain levels of revenue. Democrats say they believe that approach thwarts Republican arguments that eliminating the tax breaks could affect more than just the major oil firms.

Republicans have their counter-arguments, of course, “backdoor tax!” but hard to see how the Democrats don’t win the day politically on this one.

Blog survey– take two

If you didn’t participate in my blog survey last week, here’s your last chance.  Please do so.  It only takes a few minutes and you’ll have my everlasting gratitude.  Plus, all the cool kids are doing it.

The missing referrees

Recently had a post and some good discussion in comments about the failure of the media to actually call things as they are.  Ezra had a nice post last week talking about how much the Republicans have moved on cap and trade in just a few years.  Here’s a bit:

As I wrote in the original piece, nothing between 2007 and 2011 transformed an individual mandate from “making freedom work for everyone” into a “stunning assault on liberty.” There was no reason for cap-and-trade to go from a policy George H.W. Bush had proposed as an alternative to “the command and control approaches of the past” and that John McCain and Sarah Palin had championed in their campaign into cap-and-tax.

Nothing, that is, except for the election of Barack Obama, and the polarization around the policies he and the Democrats supported. And that’s politics, I guess. But too often, we pretend that it’s policy — that there’s something tucked inside the mechanics of the individual mandate that make it a policy only Democrats could support, or that cap-and-trade was invented by Al Gore and Barbara Streisand and is clearly some socialist invention from the planet Marx.

Of course, hypocrisy is a natural part of politics that is truly prevalent on both sides of the aisle.  That said, there’s hypocrisy and there’s shamelessly contradicting and changing your own positions on issues for the most obvious political expediency. Of course, if you can get away from the latter with no negative repercussions, you have every reason to do it more and more.  The only way to prevent politicians from getting away with it?  The media holding them accountable. Fancy that happening.  Ezra:

It’s important that people realize how fake many of the policy arguments that go on in this town really are, and that the media is there to call out politicians who continually move the goalposts. Because if there are no referees on the field, anything can be made to sound like a policy argument, and it’s very hard for voters to tell when the players are being straight with them.

Amen. In their zeal to be “objective” and “unbiased,” what we get is a bias of never holding politicians accountable for even the most dramatic (and analytically untenable) changes in their policy positions.  Surely, that’s a bias we could do with less of, but I’m not exactly holding my breath.

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