Saturday, December 24, 2016

Partisanship is a Powerful Drug

Ezra Klein details the signs of GOP addiction on

We are about to learn whether Republicans are more addicted to power or to ideas. This is, it’s worth noting, a live debate. In the Bush years, the GOP cut taxes, expanded Medicare, and started two wars without paying for a dime of it. Then after Barack Obama took office, Republicans became very worried about budget discipline.
Fiscal conservatism, liberals complained, seemed to mean Republicans could rack up debt for any reason while Democrats couldn’t even borrow to save the economy during a financial collapse (which is, for the record, exactly the time you would want to debt finance).
But the GOP swore otherwise. The Tea Party, they said, was a correction to the regrettable excesses of the aughts. Bush-era Republicans had gone Washington and become addicted to power rather than conservatism. They had betrayed their own ideas and were now being punished by their own voters. It wouldn’t happen again. The opposition to Obama’s debt financing was the principled stand of a chastened GOP, not a cynical ploy to trip up a Democratic president.
If House Republicans — and particularly the House Freedom Caucus, the most debt-obsessed of all House Republicans — decide that Trump only needs to pay half the cost of his plans, then there’ll be no more mystery. Partisanship and power, not ideas and ideology, will have proven the GOP’s real addiction.
It’s not just fiscal policy, of course. During the Obama years, Republicans focused on the dangers of “crony capitalism” — government decisions that warp the normal functioning of the marketplace to reward politically powerful or ideologically aligned incumbents.
“Like a black hole, cronyism bends the economy toward the state, inexorably shifting wealth and opportunity from the public to policymakers,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) warned in a 2014 speech before the Heritage Foundation. “The more power government amasses, the more privileges are bestowed on the government’s friends, the more businesses invest in influence instead of innovation, the more advantages accrue to the biggest special interests with the most to spend on politics and the most to lose from fair competition.”
Since winning election, Trump has made clear that he intends to bend the economy inexorably toward the will of the state — and towards his own interests, both political and personal. He has refused to sell off his businesses, instead entrusting them to his children, who remain his closest advisers. He’s named Exxon’s CEO Rex Tillerson, who has spent years negotiating business deals with foreign governments, to serve as his secretary of state. He’s asked investor Carl Icahn to serve as a top adviser on regulations without demanding he step down from his businesses.
Nor is it just personnel. Republicans regularly slammed Obama for picking “winners and losers” in the economy, but Trump has taken this to a new level — he brags about shaming companies into retaining plants they intended to close, and has made clear that companies that align with his agenda will receive his favor and those that don’t will feel his fury. Whether you admire Trump’s focus on keeping jobs in America or not, it’s undeniably crony capitalism. But after Trump announced these coups, Alberta notes that “the response from Republican leaders, including [Paul] Ryan, who for years has warned that the government should not pick winners and losers, was to celebrate.”
Klein goes on to discuss how the saying that "partisanship stops at the water's edge" is being disproven by Trump and the Republican party's relationship with their new best buddy, Vladimir Putin. Governing while high on partisanship will make this administration a train wreck of corruption and incompetence.

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