THE PLANK MAY 13, 2009
1. Ed Kilgore has been on a tear exposing the Republican Party's descent into lunacy:
Like a lot of non-Rush-Limbaugh listeners, when I first heard that a
large faction of Republican National Committee members was pushing for
a formal resolution calling on GOPers to start referring to the
Democratic Party as the "Democrat Socialist Party," I thought it was a
puerile joke that the adults in the Republican Party would quash.
Apparently not. According to sources speaking to Politico's Roger Simon, the Republican National Committee will approve the resolution at a special meeting of the RNC called for that very purpose.
Here's how the sponsor of the resolution, Jeff Kent from Washington State, explained its rationale a few weeks ago:
There is nothing more important for our party than bringing
the truth to bear on the Democrats' march to socialism. Just like
Ronald Reagan identifying the U.S.S.R. as the evil empire was the
beginning of the end to Soviet domination, we believe the American
people will reject socialism when they hear the truth about how the
Democrats are bankrupting our country and destroying our freedom and
The St. Paul of the "Democrat Socialist" rebranding, Indiana RNC member James Bopp, Jr., sent an encyclical around further explaining its purpose. Here's a pertinent passage:
The threat to our country from the Obama administration
cannot be underestimated. They are proceeding pell mell to nationalize
major industries, to exponentially increase the size, power and
intrusiveness of the federal government, to undermine free enterprise
and free markets, to raise taxes to a confiscatory level, to strap
future generations with enormous unsustainable debt, to debase our
currency, to destroy traditional values and embrace a culture of death,
and to weaken our national defense and retreat from the war on terror.
Unless stopped, we will not recognize our country in a few short years. ...
Comparing the Democratic Party to the leadership of a totalitarian
society, and treating it as an enemy of the country, isn't just
ridiculous: it's an incitement to crazy people to act crazy or worse.
Good point, Ed Kilgore!
2. Conservatives who have given up on denying climate change have devoted a lot of intellectual effort to obscuring the basic fact that greenhouse gas emissions are an externality that will continue unabated until they are priced into the energy market. Michael Gerson, to his credit, explains the very plain and unavoidable truth:
It is possible that climate change skeptics -- the dominant
Republican voices -- have uncovered a vast scientific delusion, like
the belief in phlogiston or phrenology. But given the compelling evidence from glaciology, botany and marine biology, this seems unlikely.
Republicans have distinctive contributions to make on climate policy.
They might support a carbon tax instead of a cumbersome cap-and-trade
system. They should insist that all revenue gained from a carbon tax or
the sale of pollution permits go back to the American people in lower
taxes. But the main policy choice is binary: Should a cost be imposed
on carbon emissions? If Republicans generally say no, they will not be
viewed as belonging to an environmental party.
Good point, Michael Gerson!
3. Conor Friedersdorf unpacks conservatism's double standard on internal criticism:
Ms. Lopez concludes by writing that “our time is better spent each
doing our part rather than shooting at those who are doing theirs — and
successfully.” This is a restatement of Ronald Reagan’s dictum to never
criticize another Republican (never mind that The Gipper didn’t
actually follow his own commandment). I often wonder, when this is
invoked by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity fans in defense of those men,
why they never object to criticism of conservatives when it is Mike
Huckabee or Ron Paul or John McCain or Colin Powell or David Frum or
David Brooks or Ross Douthat or David Dreier or John Boehner being
criticized. There is a strange phenomenon on the right whereby it is
okay for certain Republicans to be criticized for what amounts to being
heretics, whereas it is verboten to criticize other conservatives,
because people on the right aren’t supposed to snipe at members of
their own team. I’d oppose rules like that in any circumstance, but
they might make internal sense were consistent characteristics used to
determine ideological purity. In fact, one gets to be a conservative
who must not be criticized based on some weird standard I cannot figure
out, except to say that Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush
are all occasionally invoked as guys beyond criticism from fellow
right-wingers, so multiple divorces, the idea that the executive
possesses unchecked power in wartime, torture, warrantless wiretapping,
atrocious immigration proposals and wild deficit spending are
apparently not disqualifying factors.
I'd note that the same double standard can be found on the left. Still, good point, Conor Friedersdorf!
4. Ezra Klein analyzes the two strands of conservative opposition to "comparative effectiveness review," which means government researchinto what kinds of medicalinterventions actually make people healthier:
The first is the ideological objection. Some conservatives worry
that the "the type of information collected by CER could eventually be
used inappropriately if a 'Federal Health Board' was created to decide
which types of treatment would be available to whom and when." It's
worth parsing this for a moment: The apparent fear here is that the
evidence from comparative effectiveness will be, well, used to make
treatment decisions. But that can't be quite right. We use evidence all
the time. Your insurer won't pay for a leg amputation when your symptom
is a headache. Medicare doesn't cover a wheelchair if you're diagnosed
with acute constipation. No one whines about that.
The fear, rather, is that the existence of more evidence will
somehow qualitative change the way government uses evidence. The
government will decree, in other words, that their testing shows back
surgery ineffective, and back surgery is now illegal. ...
The industry's fear is quite different: This is the profit
objection. Right now, most research on, say, drug effectiveness is
funded by the pharmaceutical industry. That presents obvious advantages
for them and problems for us. The concern here is that if they cease
controlling the flow of evidence, then new studies will show that
certain treatments don't work. For instance: Claritin goes off patent.
Generic versions emerge. They're very cheap. Claritin's manufacturer
changes the chemical composition slightly and comes up with Clarinex.
They apply for a new patent. They sell it at a heavy mark-up. But it
probably doesn't work much better. If there's credible evidence out
there showing that it doesn't work much better, that's the end of that business strategy.
Good point, Ezra Klein!