The truth hurts

Henry Olsen at AEI writes that blue-collar voters are “susceptible to the age-old Democratic argument that the secret Republican agenda is to eviscerate middle-class entitlements to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.” Paul Ryan’s service to the country was revealing the secret. Those voters are (at last) perceiving the truth before their eyes. And they don’t like what they see.

Henry Olsen at AEI reviews the grim (for Republicans) facts about the NY-26 race won by Kathy Hochul:

Blue-collar voters react differently to issues than the GOP base does. They are more supportive of safety-net programs at the same time as they are strongly opposed to large government programs in general. These voters crave stability and are uncertain of their ability to compete in a globalized economy that values higher education more each year. They are also susceptible to the age-old Democratic argument that the secret Republican agenda is to eviscerate middle-class entitlements to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. [emphasis added]

The argument may indeed be “age-old,” but it’s been made for a long time because it’s been true for a long time. When Olsen describes blue-collar voters as “susceptible” to the argument, he implies that they’re being deceived. But as David Frum points out, the Ryan budget explicitly combines tax cuts with the rich with misery for the poor and the middle class. (See Gene Sperling on the meaning of Ryan’s proposed Medicaid cuts, which would in some ways be even more horrific than the Medicare cuts because the target population is even worse-off.)

So the only word to disagree with is “secretive.” In fact, due to Paul Ryan, the secret is now out in the open. And it turns out that the voters don’t like it. Good. And I hope that the GOP believes Olsen when he says that explaining those hard-hearted policies differently will change the electoral outcome. Nothing kills a bad product faster than marketing.

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

35 thoughts on “The truth hurts”

  1. Indeed, under the Ryan plan that is the stated Republican goal, not the secret one.

    Makes you wonder: just how awful might their actual secret goal be?

  2. I am not familiar with Henry Olsen. Could it be that he is a [secret] member of the RBC who is trying couch elementary common sense in a manner that he hopes might actually get through to some Republicans?

  3. As with any good ideological bias, the payoff hides behind, yet feeds the the rationalization. If you say that cutting taxes for the rich and cutting entitlements for the middle class/poor is good for growth, then you get to have the lower tax rates, as well as feel good about doing it without hurting anyone. Hell, in fact you are probably *helping* people. Remember this if you ever see someone drowning – don’t offer to help or you might be enabling them.

  4. One might begin to suspect that the Republicans are trying to lose, so they don’t get blamed.

  5. @Ken D:

    My take is that folks like Olsen are expected to lie about policy but to give honest opinions about how to win elections. So he’s doing his job by
    (1) stating–truthfully–that he believes the Democratic attacks had an effect, while
    (2) implying–dishonestly–that the attacks were false.

  6. (2) implying–dishonestly–that the attacks were false.

    I don’t see it that way. I see it as a conclusion that the narrative needs to be changed. They need a new narrative against the successful Dem narrative. I don’t know how – absent Rove and Luntz from prominence – that this crew can manage to come up with a new, compelling narrative in these times. What’s left of that party is not up to the task, and it appears that they are starting to falter in delivering the goods to their benefactors. YMMV.

  7. I’ve been making a study of what it takes to knock Brett Bellmore out of a thread – how thoroughly ridiculous he has to be made to look before he just shuts up, or starts spouting non sequiturs and irrelevancies.

    I may be wrong, but I think Prof. Kleiman has it completely covered here. I don’t think Bellmore can comment on the original post. And this would be a natural sort of post for Bellmore to comment on – he’s got a keen interest in the distribution of wealth and power.

    The Republican agenda – Brett’s agenda – really is to eviscerate entitlements to fund tax cuts for the wealthy. Can Brett deny it? No. Can he admit it? I don’t think so.

  8. “They are also susceptible to the age-old Democratic argument that the secret Republican agenda is to eviscerate middle-class entitlements to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.”

    Correction: “They are also aware of the age-old Democratic truth that the obvious Republican agenda is to eviscerate middle-class entitlements to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.”

  9. politicalfootball — With regards to your study, I believe I have a hint to offer you.

  10. Given the details of Ryan’s “plan” and his philosophical/ideological background, I think the “eviscerate middle-class entitlements to fund tax cuts for the wealthy” trade is very much a feature, not a bug.

  11. “I may be wrong, but I think Prof. Kleiman has it completely covered here. I don’t think Bellmore can comment on the original post. And this would be a natural sort of post for Bellmore to comment on – he’s got a keen interest in the distribution of wealth and power.”

    Ahem.

    “But, can you pull it off without running a false flag ‘tea party candidate’ in the race, to split the vote?”

    Happy?

    Seriously, though, I do think the Republicans have a bit of a problem here. The budget is never going to be balanced without drastic cuts, (The tax levels it would take are WAY beyond anything the American people have ever shown a willingness to tolerate.) and yet, if spending cuts were popular we’d have had them by now. And the GOP is being successfully identified with the Ryan plan, which is somewhat unfair, in as much as the Republican establishment is in no way that serious about the budget. But, again, they can’t defend themselves effectively, either; They can’t defend the Ryan plan effectively, because they don’t really believe in it, but they can’t cut themselves loose from it effectively, because they don’t dare admit to their base that they really aren’t serious about the budget.

    So, what’s to disagree with, basically? The GOP is identified with the Ryan plan, and it’s going to hurt them. I might disagree with the details, but not the general theme.

    OTOH, CAN you pull it off elsewhere without a false flag ‘tea party candidate’ to split the vote? That’s not a tactic that you can apply across the board, you know.

  12. CAN you pull it off elsewhere without a false flag ‘tea party candidate’ to split the vote?

    The simple answer to that, of course, is yes. You are aware of New York 26’s Republican leanings, right? The Democrat got 48% in a three-way race. In November 2010 the Democrat got 26% in that district. The “false flag” Tea Party candidate spin won’t fly. It may make some Republicans feel a little better and gives them a talking point, but it doesn’t fly.

    I’d be interested to know why the GOP being identified with the Ryan plan is somehow “unfair”. They voted almost unanimously for it in the House and by a large majority in the Senate as well. This ugly baby belongs to them. They own it.

  13. I’d be interested to know why the GOP being identified with the Ryan plan is somehow “unfair”. They voted almost unanimously for it in the House and by a large majority in the Senate as well. This ugly baby belongs to them. They own it.

    Nice political cartoon in our paper today: elephant with tats is at a tattoo removal shop, the proprietor is working on a tat that says ‘Ryan Medicare Reform Plan’ around a heart, and elephant is saying “It’s not permanent, is it?”

  14. You are aware of New York 26′s Republican leanings, right?

    The history and irony of NY-26 is rich/Reich:

    Hochul had focused like a laser on the Republican plan to turn Medicare into vouchers that would funnel the money to private health insurers. Republicans didn’t exactly take it lying down. The National Republican Congressional Committee poured over $400,000 into the race, and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads provided Corwin an additional $700,000 of support. But the money didn’t work. Even in this traditionally Republican district – represented in the past by such GOP notables as Jack Kemp and William Miller, both of whom would become vice presidential candidates – Hochul’s message hit home.

  15. “I’d be interested to know why the GOP being identified with the Ryan plan is somehow “unfair”. “

    Only in the sense that they’re not at all serious about implementing it. Which is such a terrible injustice I weep… 😉

    It’s become something of common theme, I think: The GOP establishment takes some conservative postion, only quite insincerely. They get grief from liberals who think they’re sincere, AND conservatives who know they’re not. They really ought to pick a side, and actually stand by it, so that they’ll only take fire from one side…

  16. So, when all the Republicans voted for the Ryan plan, a picture taken from the rear would have shown their fingers crossed behind their backs.

    I thought that Parliamentary procedure had been repealed.

    Oh well.

  17. So, when all the Republicans voted for the Ryan plan, knowing that they were at no risk of it actually being implemented

  18. I had no idea at the time how much I would later miss guys like Kemp and Dole. They were so sensible and decent, especially by comparison.

  19. So, when all the Republicans voted for the Ryan plan, knowing that they were at no risk of it actually being implemented…

    Actually a rewrite should use TPM’s colorful naval language:

    So all the Republicans voted for the Ryan plan and walked the plank; knowing full well, that they were at no risk of it actually being implemented…

    Which is interesting…
    As according to this analysis they seem to be socializing their potential political losses while privatizing their insincerity.

  20. “…the Republicans voted for the Ryan plan, knowing that they were at no risk of it actually being implemented…”

    That’s just obfuscation, Brett. The real question is not whether they think they can pass the Ryan plan right now. They know the Democrats stand in the way. The important question is whether, given Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and a Republican President who would sign it, they would pass and implement the Ryan plan. If they would, there is not a shred of “unfairness” involved. Are you saying you think they are lying about supporting the Ryan plan?

  21. Brett, blow that smoke up someboby elses @. The House and now the Senate Republicans voted for this insane plan just to see how pissed they could get everybody? Or just to show how tough they were? Or what???
    “It’s all just a joke. We take it all back. We’re sorry if we hurt anybodies feelings.”
    And the kicker here is that even a stalwart consevative like Brett can’t believe these guys are serious in spite of the fact that they are hanging their futures as office holders onto this thing. No they are as serious as the heart attack that is going to kill your momma because she won’t have any insurace.

  22. (Kleiman): “the Ryan budget explicitly combines tax cuts with the rich with misery for the poor and the middle class. (See Gene Sperling on the meaning of Ryan’s proposed Medicaid cuts, which would in some ways be even more horrific than the Medicare cuts because the target population is even worse-off.)

    Three points of disagreement:
    1. Poor people often pay exorbitant taxes.
    a) Regulations, such as occupational licensure, impose opportunity costs. Obamacare waivers impose an indirect tax on those businesses which do not receive the waivers. Product safety regulations impose costs on small producers which cannot afford mandatory product testing.
    b) Corvee labor is a tax. Compulsory attendance statutes compel children to work, unpaid, as windowdressing in that massive make-work program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel that Americans call “the public school system”.
    2. Why expect “misery” to follow a government retreat from the pension, health insurance, and charity industries? The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality. A law is a threat by the largest violence distributor in a locality to kidnap (arrest), assault (subdue), and to forcibly infect with HIV (imprison) someone, under some specified circumstancs. Are we naked because the State does not operate textile mills and clothing stores? Are we starving because the State does not operate farms, flour mills, slaughter houses, grocery stores, and restaurants? The “public goods” argument for State provision of goods and services contains a flaw: corporate oversight is a public good and the State itself is a corporation. Oversight of State functions is a public good which the State itself cannot provide. Therefore, State assumption of responsibility for the provision of public goods transforms the “free rider” problem at the root of public goods analysis but does not solve it.

    Eduardo Zambrano
    “Formal Models of Authority: Introduction and Political Economy Applications”
    __Rationality and Society__, May 1999

    Aside from the important issue of how it is that a ruler may economize on communication, contracting and coercion costs, this leads to an interpretation of the state that cannot be contractarian in nature: citizens would not empower a ruler to solve collective action problems in any of the models discussed, for the ruler would always be redundant and costly. The results support a view of the state that is eminently predatory, (the ? MK.) case in which whether the collective actions problems are solved by the state or not depends on upon whether this is consistent with the objectives and opportunities of those with the (natural) monopoly of violence in society. This conclusion is also reached in a model of a predatory state by Moselle and Polak (1997). How the theory of economic policy changes in light of this interpretation is an important question left for further work.

    Joel Fried
    “Pots and Kettles: Governance Practices of the Ontario Securities Commission”

    2. The Government’s Principal – Agent Problem
    The principal-agent problem for the private sector is well known: the owner/principal delegates to a manager/agent the responsibility to provide some services for the principal. The problem is one of structuring contracts and institutions to insure that, in carrying out her duties, the agent acts in the principal’s interest rather than her own. Citizens of a country also face a principal – agent problem. Citizens “own” the machinery of government and employ bureaucrats to act as their agents in running this machinery. To reduce the costs of monitoring, the principals choose a legislature/board of directors to
    oversee the agents. Monitoring mechanisms are similar to those in the private sector: there are financial accounting standards that are met for each budgetary unit, and an external auditor checks these internal accounts. Transparency is maintained, in part, through freedom of information regulations. Compliance with procedures and other regulations are met both through internal monitoring and checks by units external to the bureau. Finally, contracts are structured, at least in a limited manner, to align the incentives for agents with those of the principals.

    There is, however, an additional problem in the public sector that does not exist for private firms. The firm has a well defined objective function – the maximization of profits – whereas the apparent objective for the government is the maximization of some index of a (weighted) level of welfare of the electorate. An unambiguous index of social welfare has been impossible to construct and, in its absence, monitoring the public sector is further complicated because data is generally lacking on whether or not the objective
    was actually approached and/or achieved and what the costs are that are linked to any specific objective. In effect, because of distribution issues and public goods, the cash flows measured with traditional accounting procedures will be, at best, only superficially correlated with that objective. Thus, looking at cash flows will provide the principals an extremely poor method of monitoring their public sector agents.

    3. “(T)he target population is even worse-off”. The target population for Medicare is wealthier than the US population as a whole. People accumulate wealth as they age (although State intrusion into the pension industry has undermined the propensity to save).

  23. Yes, Malcolm, it is inexcusable that compulsory education keeps our children out of the sweatshops. I salute your brave stand against child labor laws, product safety regulation, and the provision of health care. Oh, for the says when children could be paid a pittance to apply lead-based paints to toy for other children, allowed to die untreated should they succumb to disease.
    The rest of your comment is either entirely incoherent (#2) or so willfully morally obtuse (#3) that you’ve managed to surprise me, even after all I’ve seen from you.

  24. Warren makes one (mistaken) point: (Sarcasm)”…it is inexcusable that compulsory education keeps our children out of the sweatshops
    The expectation that “sweatshops” would follow the repeal of State (government, generally) support of pre-adult schooling does not look reasonable to me.
    1. If schooling really has majority support in a democracy, would not that majority send their kids to unsubsidized, uncoerced schools?
    2. It does not take 12 years at $12,000 per pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom. State (government, generally) provision of History, Civics, and Economics instruction is a threat to democracy, just as State operation of newspapers and broadcast news media would be.
    3. Why imagine that private-sector employers freely selected by parents or children would be less well-intentioned toward children than would be employees of government-operated schools?

  25. So now we’re off to the races talking about child labor and that dreaded compulsory education.
    If the topic of debate has your butt kicked then just change the subject. Ya just gotta tap dance as fast as you can.

  26. (Anomalous): “If the topic of debate has your butt kicked then just change the subject.
    How does a comparison of policies which promote command economies to policies ehich promote market economies (i.e., force versus free exchange) “change the subject”? That is almost always the subject at this site, with most authors and commenters promoting organized violence.

  27. Excellent post; “the only word to disagree with is ‘secretive[.]’,” since the word in the quoted text, which you disagree with, is “secret.”

  28. Well Malcolm, you are right in the sense that eliminating child labor laws, killing off public education and destroying Medicare are all ideas that are about as popular and destructive to society as anthrax. I don’t doubt that the Ryan budget finds some way to cut public education (I’m not familiar with the details) as the GOP loves anything that hurts kids.
    I guess my observation was the subject was essentialy how the unpoularity of the Ryan budget plan’s feature of throwing seniors to the wolves is biting the GOP in the butt and that throwing a bunch of issues into the fan to defuse that debate seems to be standard practice and it is a hoot to see. The Right has made an art (almost a science) of the single issue war and it is funny to watch the worm turn.
    In the end I don’t doubt that the Democrats will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by finding a bipartsan compromise that will put them right in the same sinking boat as the Republicans.

  29. “as the GOP loves anything that hurts kids.”

    The “reasoning” here, and I use the word loosely, apparently goes as follows:

    1. My policies would help (Insert whatever group.)

    2. Everybody agrees that they would.

    3. Some people oppose them anyway.

    thus,

    4. Those people must want (Insert whatever group.) hurt.

    I think your second premise is a bit dubious.

  30. I think most people agree that public education is on the whole a good thing and that destroying public education would hurt kids. Republican politicians are falling all over themselves to destroy public education so…
    Then maybe I’m wrong about it all. Close down the schools and get those rugrats back down in the mines for sixteen hours a day. It’ll be good for ’em. Teach ’em the value of a penny. Besides a little hard work never hurt anyone. Right?

  31. @Anomalous says:

    “…snatch defeat from the jaws of victory…”

    Exactly! The D’s learned nothing from the victory of ’06. And after the disappointing performance they put in post ’08, the awful truth began to sink in; the Democrats the public voted for were not the Democrats they thought they voted for.

    The elation of a Democratic Government quickly morphed into the dread of bipartisan depression as the depth of corruption and sell-out became so obvious. The D’s simply could not, and would not, deliver on the Progressive promises of their campaign.

    And, so we’re left with their current campaign position, “We’re going to screw you pretty bad, but THEY’RE going to screw you really, really bad.

  32. (Anomalous): “Well Malcolm, you are right in the sense that eliminating child labor laws, killing off public education and destroying Medicare are all ideas that are about as popular and destructive to society as anthrax.
    Do not confect an agreement (“you are right”) where none exists. NOT(attendance at school = education). NOT(government-operated schools = public education). What people in the US call “the public school system” features: compulsory attendance statutes, tax support of schools, operation of schools by State (government, generally) employees, and (in most US States) policies which restrict parents’ options for the use of the taxpayers age 6-18 education subsidy to schools operated by government employees. We agree that child labor laws, the State-monopoly school system, and Medicare currently enjoy majority support. The consensus around schools is cracking. I do not agree that eliminating child labor laws, the State-monopoly school system, or Medicare would destroy society.
    (Anomalous): “Then maybe I’m wrong about it all. Close down the schools and get those rugrats back down in the mines for sixteen hours a day.
    If schools and education really enjoy majority support, why would you expect an end to compulsory attendance statutes and tax support of school to end either education or institutional education (i.e., schools)?
    In abstract the case for State (government, generally) operation of an industry depends on significant economies of scale and public goods considerations. Beyond a very low level there are no economies of scale at the delivery end of the education industry as it currently operates. Education only marginally qualifies as a public good as economists use the term and the “public goods” argument alone implies subsidy and regulation, at most, not State operation of an industry.

    (Kleiman): “…Ryan’s proposed Medicaid cuts, which would in some ways be even more horrific than the Medicare cuts because the target population is even worse-off.
    (Anomalous): “…the unpoularity of the Ryan budget plan’s feature of throwing seniors to the wolves is biting the GOP in the butt…
    Retirees are wealthier than the US average. This “Oh, woe is them” whine seriously misrepresents the facts.

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