“The opposite of conservative”

Much of today’s right is “the opposite of conservative.” Even John Podhoretz sees that.

I wonder if John Podhoretz intended his column lambasting the anti-Boehner rebels in the House to imply a critique of the debt-ceiling-hostage strategy? The implication is plainly there, whether intended or not.

Of course lots of stuff about the contemporary Right is, as Podhoretz says, “the opposite of conservative.” It’s good to know the he and his Murdochized colleagues are finally starting to notice.

Podhoretz’s father helped lead the neo-conservative revolt against the excesses (which I think they exaggerated) of 60s-70s liberalism. Who will lead the counter-revolt against the excesses of the theocrat-plutocrat-bigot coalition?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

13 thoughts on ““The opposite of conservative””

  1. I read the article differently. I don’t think he’s saying that he disagrees with the strategy the Tea Partiers/Birchers are pursuing. I think he’s actually saying the mirror image of my comments on this blog in the aftermath of the deal. Because the Bush tax cuts went away completely if there wasn’t a deal, the Republican bargaining position was extremely weak. That they walked away having sustained so little damage and without surrendering the ability to use the debt ceiling and the budget sequester as hostages bespeaks the leadership’s skillfulness in these political negotiations, rather than weakness

  2. Of course we were in much the same situation when the Bush tax cuts were originally supposed to sunset and then we had the debt ceiling crisis. The more things change the more they remain the same.

    1. That’s a fair statement. And don’t forget, we were told that Obama was just extending the Bush tax cuts until after the election at which time he was going to stand firm about the $250K and the estate tax. Because 11 dimensional chess and “meep, meep” and all that jazz.

      Now, apparently, the groundwork is being laid for saying (after Obama capitulates on the debit ceiling) that he honored his pledge not to negotiate because whatever concessions he makes to the Republicans were really for the budget sequester and not for the debt ceiling.

      1. Right. A deal that made the tax code more progressive than it has been since 1979 was a betrayal of liberal principles.

        1. Could you please explain that? My understanding is that the tax code was more progressive under Nixon, Carter, Ford and Clinton than under Bush. We didn’t return to the same marginal tax rates as we had during the Clinton administration, we didn’t reestablish the full estate tax as it was under previous administrations, we didn’t close any loopholes such as the “carried interest” loophole that allowed Mitt Romney to become fabulously wealthy, and we didn’t change the preferential treatment of debt which was also a critical factor in the rise of the hedge funds and so forth. So, in what why did we make the tax code more progressive than at anytime since 1979?

          Also, because Obama settled for a deal on just extending the Bush era tax rates, we now face a crisis on the debt ceiling in which the Republicans are holding some pretty strong cards because Obama agreed to make a deal on only the extension of the Bush tax rates without forcing them to renounce holding the nation’s economy and credit rating hostage. You can be sure that there will be a price to be paid for that, too. Yet, he now has nothing to offer the Republicans that they want except for the destruction of the social safety net. The only question is how big a piece of the social safety net is going to be lost.

          My larger point above and in previous comments wasn’t that this particular deal was a terrible betrayal of liberal principles but that it was a terrible mistake to to allow the question of extending the Bush tax cuts to become unbundled from the debt ceiling and the budget sequester. Before January 1, Obama very much held the whip hand; the Bush cuts (which the Republicans valued highly) would automatically sunset at which point Obama’s revenue and deficit needs would be resolved if no agreement was reached. At the same time, a compromise on the Bush tax cuts such as the one he ultimately settled for would be arguably worthwhile if it also defused the debt ceiling and the budget issues.

          In the event, Obama simply settle for what the Republicans were will to give on the Bush tax rates and kicked the debt ceiling and budget cans down the road—which is where we find ourselves today. That is to say, had Obama simply gone off the “fiscal cliff” on January 1st, he would have achieved the complete rollback of the Bush rates and he would be no worse off today.

          The other point I made above was that I don’t see how Obama can not negotiate on the debit ceiling and that I believe he intends to do so under the guise of negotiating on the budget sequester. That might make certain people feel better but it’s not going to change the cost of settling with the Republicans. If anything, it’s likely to significantly increase the price to be paid because Obama will not only be negotiating on merits but he’ll also be asking the Republicans to agree to some kind of public statement absolving him of having negotiated (and paid for) an increase in the debt ceiling. You can be sure that the Republicans will be demanding their pound of flesh for that, too.

        2. hi Mark! Happy New Year!!!

          I admit, I’ve been mostly ignoring the cliff. But my impression is similar — I don’t understand what the president did. It looks like he got taken to the hoop again, unless he intended to go there the whole time? What was good about this? He is sooooooo cautious. And the other side just seems to work him.

          1. I think he actually did accomplish what he set out to do: Getting the Republican base pissed off at their Congressional leadership, by getting that leadership to sign onto a deal the base didn’t approve of. Now a fair number of Republican incumbents are likely to get primaried in 2014, unless they pull off some kind of miracle on the spending side of things in the next couple of months.

            Noticed that, every time the can gets kicked down the road, it’s a shorter distance? Gonna have to actually pick it up and deal with it soon.

  3. Actually, Podhoretz lays down the standard self-refuting claim about “conservatism” and its asserted postulate about “order and tradition”. What better way to uphold the eternal verities of life as “nasty, brutish, and short” than to bring about financial chaos? If Podhoretz were true to his principles, he would be out in the woods clothed in animal fur gathering roots and berries, i.e., the human tradition for tens of thousands of years. Ironically, that sort of life is rather anarchic (in a contingent sense), but hey, one can’t have everything, right?

    So who was Hobbes trying to fool?

  4. Brett,

    I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. Are you saying, à la Andrew Sullivan, that Obama is playing the “long game” where he spends the first five or six years pretending to make nice with the Republicans so that he can lure them into some kind of a trap. In Sully’s version, Obama comes out as a moderate Republican and turns the country into a center-right utopia.

    Presumably in your version, after the Republicans have destroyed themselves in a deadly civil war, Obama will suddenly reveal himself to be both a closet Marxist and the hidden Imam who then implement his diabolical plan for sharia socialism.

    1. No, in my version Obama is an *shole who enjoys screwing with his enemies, and who is quite successfully taking the Curley effect nation-wide, converting the country into a more secure place for Democrats to rule BY ruining it.

      1. Yes, because it’s Obama who’s threatening to ruin the national credit by throwing a political temper tantrum. Just as it was Obama who converted a surplus into a deficit by cutting taxes, invading Iraq, and ignoring the financial-system melt-down until it was too late. And Obama is so confrontational that he has once again nominated a Republican for the most important cabinet post.

      2. I suppose everything is a matter of perspective. As you may have gathered from my many comments on the subject, I don’t think that Obama screws with him enemies at all. He can barely bring himself to say harsh words about them (except when his reelection is at stake) and he seems to be mainly about appeasing them whenever possible.

        It would be nice if Obama was building Democratic majorities but I don’t think he cares much about the Democratic Party or securing the main achievements of the party. He’s a man of the center-right whose national home would have been in the Republican Party except that there wasn’t a place for him there except as a sort of lawn-jockey, especially in Chicago. So he became a Democrat but his political views remained, rather ironically as things turned out, those of a moderate Republican.

        Interestingly, we both are both agreed that Obama is ruining the country. I think he’s ruining the country through his willingness to dismantle the Democrats historic achievements like Social Security and Medicare. Apparently, you think he’s ruining the country by refusing to dismantle what little remains of the New Deal quickly and completely enough for your Glibertarian tastes.

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