Why does Glenn Reynolds hate America?

Suggesting a Treasury default? What’s that about? Dissent is patriotic; trying to wreck your country’s credit, not so much.

The United States Treasury is not going to default on its debt.

But the belief that it might default would raise the interest rate the Treasury has to pay, to the advantage of creditors – for example, the Chinese government – and the disadvantage of American taxpayers.

Why does Glenn Reynolds think this would be a good outcome? His expressed intention is to make it impossible for our elected representatives to pursue policies Reynolds doesn’t like by denying the country access to the credit markets.

When Bruce Bartlett of Forbes – a conservative Republican and former Reagan and Bush I staffer – points out that Reynolds’s idea is absurd, Reynolds has no substantive response beyond his usual display of hurt feelings. He accuses Bartlett of intemperance. He adds that Bartlett “seem[s] surprisingly anxious to defend” Barack Obama, who is never named or alluded to in Bartlett’s post, and who, according to Reyonlds, is “trying to turn the United States into Zimbabwe.”

During the Bush years, Reynolds specialized in accusing Bush’s critics of wanting the country to lose militarily and collapse economically. I wondered why he thought so. Now I think I know: he was merely projecting onto his political adversaries the attitude that he and his friends expected to adopt if a liberal ever occupied the White House.

Yes, Glenn, dissent is patriotic. Trying to wreck your country’s credit, not so much.

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

20 thoughts on “Why does Glenn Reynolds hate America?”

  1. I fail to see why the question is absurd. Other countries have defaulted on their debts, and I thought Democrats were disdainful of the notion of American exceptionalism. Of course, Reynold's "With more collateral damage, of course. . . " is a bit of an understatement.

    I didn't take him to be suggesting that it would be a good way to achieve a balanced budget, but rather that it might be the only plausible way it would come about, given how long we've been running up the debt, and the lack of will in Washington to do anything about it.

  2. Glad to see that Brett is no more patriotic than his ideological soulmate. Talking about default as something that might happen is bad for the country. And the right wing is no so drunk with insensate hatred of the President and his supporters that what's bad for the country seems good to them.

  3. Feh, I don't think it would be good for the country, I just think it's possible that it might some day happen, and every cent of debt we pile up brings that day closer. I don't think nuclear war would be good for the country, either, you want me to pretend that could never happen, either?

  4. Brett,

    So, defaulting would be bad. I'm glad you think so.

    However, you appear to be just wondering what would happen if " a default on Treasuries accomplish what the Balanced Budget Amendment was supposed to achieve, by forcing the government to spend no more than it takes in?" Correct me if I'm wrong – I don't want to misapprehend your point.

    It appears that you (and InstaGlenn) both think that the government should spend less, tax less, but leave untouched a number of large budget categories. Am I still right?

    I'm reaching out. Dialogueing, or whatever the cool kids call it.

  5. I've been thinking a lot lately about political dialogue, and specifically where to draw the line.

    It seems reasonable that in order to have an honest debate, the opponent needs to either A)Understand the legitimate premise of your viewpoint, or B)Admit that they don't and thus make a good faith attempt at understanding why you believe what you believe. Only then can we critique one another's assumptions and present opposing opinions.

    So, an absurdly popular right wing argument right now is that Democratic spending is out of control (mainly TARP & ARRA), with no mention of either the Keynsian or emergency basis to either plan. But the idea is simply an extension of the usual conservative opposition to government social spending, as if the financial crisis never happened, as if the bank bailout wasn't an emergency attempt to shore up an imminently collapsing banking system, as if the stimulus wasn't entirely based on Keynsian economic assumptions.

    So one either knows these things or one doesn't. To not mention them is then either ignorant or plainly intellectually dishonest. At this point, the vast majority of conservative commentary I hear falls squarely into one or the other camp. The real wackos seem to just be ignorant – which would explain much of their vitriol. But the more calm and reasonable figures I'm guessing are just being dishonest.

  6. Eli,

    I love how in Republican narrative, history must be forgotten (George W Who?) or confabulated (Saint Ronnie). And will they admit Clinton was on substance the best Republican President since Ike?

  7. The remark was, essentially, equivalent to looking at a 600 lb man, and muttering, "I suppose he'd lose weight if he got cancer. But the side effects might be undesirable." At least, that's the vein I took it in.

    I reject the Keynesian basis of either plan, for the simple reason that Keynesian counter-cyclical spending involves running deficits in bad times, and surpluses in good times. The deficit spending of our government has about as much to do with that sort of policy, as a speed junkie on a binge has to do with somebody who drinks a cup of coffee each morning to get started.

  8. Oh, and I'll admit that, once he had a Republican Congress, and was undergoing investigations leading to his impeachment, Clinton wasn't too bad on the deficit. The stock market bubble helped. You figure, too, that it would be good for the country if Democrats lost both houses, and Obama were embroiled in scandals?

  9. Brett-

    The measures that led to Clinton's surpluses were put in place early – like the gas tax hike. Which every single Republican opposed, claiming that it would ruin the economy.

    As usual, they were 100% wrong. Do you remember this? Are you willing to concede that here Keynesian economic assumptions were validated? Can you explain why the Republicans seem to ignore this and cover it up?

  10. Michael, increased revenues do not produce surpluses, in the absence of restraint on spending. The partisan conflicts after '94 produced that restraint, by killing off any hope of the two parties cooperating on a spending binge. Would that there were a healthier way to restrain spending.

  11. Brett, tax cuts are a form of spending, usually on gifts to the rich. And I'm baffled by your notion – disproven by behavior under GWB – that Republican spending restraint balanced Clinton's budgets.

  12. Love the republican lies and hypocrisy, dissent is patriotic if only done by the republicans.

    Remember when the saner of us were questioning bush about torture, wars and lies?

    We were unpatriotic and hated our country.

    Nothing has changed. We are still at war. but it's only patriotic if republicans question?

  13. But Brett, what you appear to be saying is that the stimulus couldn't have been Keynesian because we were running deficits before the crisis. Regardless of who was really to blame for the deficits (guess who I'll blame), if you believe in Keynesian policies then you do a stimulus. If you don't, you don't. You're not arguing against Keynes. What you're really be arguing is that Obama and the Democrats are just lying spenders, who don't really believe in Keynesian economics.

    But even if that were true, it has no bearing on whether the stimulus is correct! Even if I really don't believe that 2 + 2 = 4, the fact that I then propose that 2 + 2 = 4 has no bearing on its truth. In the end, you're making the typical sort of partisan argument that literally adds up to a dependence on ad hominem logic, as opposed to an objective reality.

    In a larger sense, your position is representative of a much larger nihilistic theme currently on the right – which is that scoring abstract political points is more important than doing what is actually a net good for the country. Instead of compromising and getting some of your principles while sacrificing others, you end up with a situation in which the result is ultimately worse than if you had done something. If bailing out banks seems like rewarding failure, you oppose it on principle even if the result leaves you worse off.

    Instead of arguing substantive points, you can just sort make platitudinous statements like "cutting taxes will stimulate the economy" or "real health reform means ending medical malpractice". But then when asked how this is possible, the argument is that "Democrats just want to spend" or "Democrats don't care about the little guy". It just seems like grown-up discussion is impossible.

  14. Top tax rate was 90% in early 60s. Make a graduated tax rate of up to 70% starting taxable income over $5M, with top rate at 10 or 15M. Call it a war tax, to stay in place till national debt paid off.

    Budget problem solved. War problem solved. Anger about massive bonuses has outlet.

  15. "And I’m baffled by your notion – disproven by behavior under GWB – that Republican spending restraint balanced Clinton’s budgets."

    You're puzzled because you got my notion wrong: It's not Republican spending restraint, it's opposition party spending restraint, during a period of extraordinarily bad relations between the President and the party controlling Congress. Republicans are not, regrettably, the opposition party when a Republican is in the White house. Any more than Democrats are when a Democrat is President.

    And even with that dynamic, it took a stock market bubble to achieve Clinton's nominal surplus. I say nominal, because the public debt went up every year of the Clinton administration; Rolling over interest payments into the debt doesn't make for a surplus.

    I suppose if Democrats had gone after Bush the way Republicans went after Clinton, we might have seen something like spending restraint then, too. I really do wish you'd tried to impeach him, and I said it repeatedly.

    Barring serious structural changes, we're never going to see balanced budgets without such unusual circumstances.

  16. Brett Bellmore says:

    "Oh, and I’ll admit that, once he had a Republican Congress, and was undergoing investigations leading to his impeachment, Clinton wasn’t too bad on the deficit. The stock market bubble helped. You figure, too, that it would be good for the country if Democrats lost both houses, and Obama were embroiled in scandals?"

    Bull. check a graph of the deficit from the late 80's through the late 90's, and there are two inflection points. One is when Bush I raised taxes, and the second is the first Clinton budget.

    You Republicans were promising us a one-way ticket to a recession (Gramm, (R-Malefactors of Great Wealth)),

    and proclaiming the end of the 'Reagan Boom' (WSJ urinal page), right up until things got great, at which point you tried to claim credit.

  17. Mark: "But the belief that it might default would raise the interest rate the Treasury has to pay, to the advantage of creditors – for example, the Chinese government – and the disadvantage of American taxpayers."

    I'm unsure of which way it'd go. China presently owns a ****vast**** quantity of US Treasuries, whose value would decline if a default was even on the horizon. They could get a higher rate for future lending, it's true.

  18. For someone like the US, whose debt is denominated in its own currency, default is pretty much a non-issue. Much more important: devaluation, expectations of future inflation, and the risk of default by other, non-sovereign bond issuers. When T-bills were at zero, it wasn't about the treasury becoming so much better an investment, it was about all the private companies being such bad ones.

  19. "I thought Democrats were disdainful of the notion of American exceptionalism."

    Your delusion, not ours.

  20. Brett's 4:24 post is actually quite reasonable, and I can say I agree with it entirely (this is rare, me thinking "yeah, I agree" when I read a post by Brett). Counter-cyclical spending is a good idea. It's just that our government rarely follows through and runs surplusses when the good times are rolling. Brett's right about that, and it's a real problem. The solution, of course, is not to default on the debt (and I think it's clear Brett knows this).

    This is just another "starve the beast" brainfart from a RW pundit. Yawn.

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