The point made below that it's difficult to have a civil discussion between Republicans and Democrats when "the two parties have both utterly different goals and utterly different views about how the world works," is what I was trying to say here. These are important issues, there are fundamental ideological differences, and we should expect passionate debate. But the debate should also be refereed by the press in a way that exposes falsehoods, misleading statements, budgets that don't add up, and the like, and it should apply to bothe sides equally. But that's no what happens. Instaed, the response is asymmetrical. The Republicans seem free to make whatever outrageous claims they want, from death panels to tax cuts paying for themselves, without being called on it by the press. But if Democrats return fire, or criticize Republicans at all, if they say anything, the media jumps all over them. How can we possibly get a deal on anything if Democrats won't move toward intransigent, unbending, will-not-move-an-inch Republicans. Of course it's Democrat's fault. So I'm very glad to see this point being made, and I wish (without hope) that the press would take it to heart:
Civility is the Last Refuge of Scoundrels, by Paul Krugman: At the beginning of last week, the commentariat was in raptures over the Serious, Courageous, Game-Changing Ryan plan. But now that the plan has been exposed as the cruel nonsense it is, what we’re hearing a lot about is the need for more civility in the discourse. President Obama did a bad thing by calling cruel nonsense cruel nonsense; he hurt Republican feelings, and how can we have a deal when the GOP is feeling insulted? What we need is personal outreach; let’s do lunch!
The easy, and perfectly fair, shot is to talk about the hypocrisy here; where were all the demands for civility when Republicans were denouncing Obama as a socialist, accusing him of creating death panels, etc..? Why is it OK for Republicans to accuse Obama of stealing from Medicare, but not OK for Obama to declare, with complete truthfulness, that those same Republicans are trying to dismantle the whole program?
Beyond that, are we dealing with children here? Is one of our two major political parties run by people so immature that they will refuse to do what the country needs because the president hasn’t been nice to them?
But the main point is, what are we supposed to have a civil discussion about? The truth is that the two parties have both utterly different goals and utterly different views about how the world works.
It’s not nice to say this (but the truth is rarely nice): whatever they may say, Republicans are not concerned, above all, about the deficit. In fact, it’s not clear that they care about the deficit at all; they’re trying to use deficit concerns to push through their goal of dismantling the Great Society and if possible the New Deal; they have stated explicitly that they want to reduce taxes on high incomes to pre-New-Deal levels. And it’s an article of faith on their part that low taxes have magical effects on the economy.
Obama believes that the major social insurance programs are a good thing, and has extended them with health reform. Some of the best-known research by his chief economist is his work debunking claims that tax cuts for the rich pay for themselves. See here and here (both pdfs).
So what is there to talk about?