One of those things that disappeared from collective memory is the conservative call for economic stimulus through deficit spending…in 2001. I guess you could they were for deficit spending before they were against it (to use a phrase). Ezra Klein naively attributes this to motivated skepticism, something Chris Mooney has written about (boldface mine):
Some say the explanation for all this is obvious: Republicans want the economy to fail because that is how they will defeat President Obama. After all, didn’t Sen. Mitch McConnell say, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”? How much clearer can it be?
I don’t believe this sort of behavior is quite that cynical. Psychologists and political scientists talk often of a phenomenon known as motivated skepticism. The idea, basically, is that we believe the evidence and arguments we want to believe, and reject ideas and information that undercut our preferences….
I tend to think there’s much more motivated skepticism in politics than outright cynicism, much less economic sabotage. But it’s a distinction without a difference, at least so far as policy outcomes go.
Clearly, Klein has not only drank the DC Pundit Kool-Aid, he’s undergone full immersion baptism in it.
It’s very simple. In terms of economics, there have been three guiding priorities–everything else, as Rav Hillel said, is commentary:
1) Preventing Baby Jesus from having to shed a tear every time a federal dollar is spent, especially if it’s spent on those people.
2) Creating labor conditions such that the great mass of people feel fortunate to have any job. I’ve called it neo-feudalism. The facade occasionally slips, and it’s always ugly.
3) Cutting taxes on the wealthy.
This supposed flip-flop falls under priority #3. Taking at face value Grover Norquist’s or any other movement conservative’s commitment to fiscal stimulus is like taking at face value a creationist’s claim that all he’s interested in is ‘teaching the controversy.’ It’s absurd, although not surprising in light of the considerable overlap between many of the leading lights of the conservative movement, such as they are, and creationism (just watch any Republican presidential debate).
This is no flip-flop, as movement conservatives have demonstrated repeatedly that words are as weapons to them. They are simple utterances designed to trigger a base response in the intended target. Words have no meaning. Had the economy been booming in 2001, movement conservatives would have called for tax cuts on the wealthy to keep the economy strong. If they link male pattern baldness to high marginal tax rates, they would.
I really don’t understand why Klein is so naïve. Perhaps it’s the four years spending at an elite finishing school.
These are the lineal descendents of Lee Atwater. They are liars. Don’t waste time overthinking this.