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I've seen you write before that one of the aims of the Medicare bill is to reduce the "trust government" index, under the theory that by reducing the trust government index, voters will come running to the GOP because they don't trust it either. But what happens when the GOP has been the party of government for another four, eight, twelve years? Won't this game start to run thin as Democrats less and less become the party of government and start picking up anti-government populism? Isn't that one of the ways Brian Schweitzer won his governorship in Montana?

As Brad Plumer has noted, the "trust government" index has gone UP over the 15 years anyway, so it would be difficult indeed for the GOP to run a campaign against government even as they continue to run it (and yes, I realize that that's what happened this election cycle and in 2002)?

I think your first theory, that the idea was to promote the GOP as the party of new ideas, ownership, stocks, and all sort of other goodies, while denigrating the Democrats as defenders of crappy old boring programs, was the original strategy. It just didn't play out. It still might. You could imagine, say, Bush coming out with proposal X, the Dems saying no, then proposal Y, the dems saying no, proposal Z, the Dems saying no, and then Bush going into 2006 saying "look, I've tried X, Y, and Z. I'm open to debate. But they're being sticks in the mud. Give me five new senators so I can break the filibuster". Now, X, Y, and Z will all be terrible proposals. But they'll be well camoflagued. From my vantage point that seems like the most sensible exit strategy.

Seperately, could you please comment on Josh Marshall's observation that Lieberman may cut a deal on SS privatization, that this is a dangerous idea, that any such deal will be ripped to shreds in the conference committee, and he and his staff should not sign on?


Mark, on the point you make in your last paragraph, this quote from Machiavelli is instructive (by the way, read Machiavelli again, it is Rove's playbook for some other aspects of Bush).

"And one should bear in mind that there is nothing more difficult to execute, nor more dubious of success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new order to things; for he who introduces it has all those who profit from the old order as his enemies; and he has only lukewarm allies in all those who might profit from the new. This lukewarmness partly stems from fear of their adversaries, who have the law on their side, and partly from the skepticism of men, who do not truly believe in new things unless they have personal experience in them." -- Niccolo Machiavelli


Mark, you're definitely right about the "negative" explanation, but not the positive. Yglesias is correct that the correlation between stock ownership and Republicanism is an artifact of the correlation between being rich and Republicanism, with the possible small complicating factor that over time owning stocks makes you richer. The details of the privatization scheme don't matter to this.


Mark, Very thought provoking, as always. You probably meant that McKinley was elected in 1896; the past is ever present.

Is it possible that this administration's agenda is first and foremost merely the federalists' decades old agenda of reversing all the gains in constitutional law and social/economic/labor/environmental policy since the New Deal? That is not far from the position you explicate here, that they want the government to seem incompetent or, at best, unconcerned about ameliorating the daily concerns of citizens. But it approaches the question of how the Bushies came to this line of thinking from a slightly different direction.

I am very concerned about the Bush 2006 budget proposal to create a "sunset commission" and "results commissions", whose goal will be to eliminate as many federal regulations and regulatory agencies as possible by empowering unelected commissions to engage in quiet, incessant 'tidying' operations. This would seem to be another front in the campaign to roll back the New Deal and its regulatory heritage. It has been little discussed in blogland, so I'm going to promote my diary on this at MyDD. It desperately needs more attention.


Great points. Excellent points all around. Could someone please figure out how to have these debates about the future of gov't regulation out in the open for all to see? That would be nice.


Anyone remember the Emperor's troops from 'Dune'? They were made tough through their ordeals, forged into mighty men, etc, etc. So were the fedayeen, of course - made tough through the purifying environment of harsh Arrakis.

If you look at the Straussian/neo-con dismissal of, and rage towards, liberals for being 'weak' and vacillating, then you see strange correlations.

If you see society as essentially Darwinian, how do you improve the quality of a species? By making it stronger, of course, through trial and difficulty. I think this lies behind the whole 'dependency' malarkey - they see the 'coddling' of individuals by the State as emasculating. Strauss (and others) railed about the weakness and lack of backbone of modern democratic man, as did Nietszche (Herd Men, anyone?).

These guys have a belief in the power of hardship to toughen peoples and societies - made all the more pathetic and/or hypocritical because of their own privileged upbringing.

It's there in the curiously defeatist last chapter of Fukuyama's 'The End of History', an otherwise triumphalist rant. Liberal democracy has won, but now it degenerates into an excess of comfort...


Sorry but no, Arcane.

dave heasman

This note by "Texas Arcane" is an eerie echo of
"...200 million Americans have no political representation. That’s reality. Conservatives have been relegated to absolute powerlessness before a coalition of insane Zionists and fundamentalist Christian whackos.." on another thread on another blog, under another name, 8 days ago.

I expect it'll turn up on a cookery blog next week, as posted by "Steve Flakemore"


TA's right. Just as we're all Keynesians, now, are we also all Jews, now.

As Asia Times' Spengler pointed out we Americans worship the Jewish God, a god who "who cannot help but answer the cry of the widow, the fatherless, the poor, and the stranger."

And just as we " . . . want a Jewish sort of God who hears the prayer of the widow and the fatherless, [we] want a government that protects the widow and the fatherless from the powerful and the arrogant."

-- what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.


I suppose in some parts of the country an increase in assets can be linked to voting Republican. I have some assets. I live in and own a waterfront house on a large recreational lake. The town that I get my mail through is just large enough to rate a Post Office. Pretty small, in other words. And is is falling down. Washing machines in the front yard, tarps covering holes in the roofs, old cars rusting next to the house or behind the garage. But, come election season, every body, I mean every yard has multiple signs for Republican candidates.

This is a level of ignorance that the Democrats must overcome. People voting against their own best interests.

Nell Lancaster

people, unless desperate, will not rise up to demand what they don't have and have never known. Here it's useful to remember that Karl Rove's historical parallel is the 36 years of Republican dominance from the McKinley election in [1896] to Hoover's defeat. That was a brutal period in American economic life.... And yet, year in and year out, people took it, without question. It was the natural order of things.

Not everyone took it, without question. Prominent among those who didn't were some who specifically demanded what they had never known. And their demands, including specifically Social Security, became the basis for many of the policies of the New DealFDR. We owe some thanks to the Communist Party and its "fellow travelers."


... and your point is, essentially, that weak character and feebleminded people should be celebrated and advanced through an inverse merit system that glorifies the genetically degenerate and worst-case-scenario human products?

Oh yeah, that's definitely what I meant.


I think you need to lay off the moonshine, Aryan Boy.

RonK, Seattle

Shorter Decembrist: Republicans want to kill Social Security because it works.

And I have found this explanation applicable to most programs Republicans try to kill or malnourish.


Wonderful. Another slobbering, "I'm to the right of Goebbels", racist coward hijacks the discussion. Isn't there a mechanism for promptly deleting this pathetic drivel? I'm worried that his drool is going to leak out the back of my computer.

Joseph Briggs

And how, Tex Arcane, are your rants anything better than ad hom? You call the lib agenda "bolshevist." You call Kennedy "our bitch." You talk about the "yoos." You call the right "trotskyist" and "yahoodis." You claim 90% of America doesn't want any kind of socialism, or Soviet policy times ten, or whatever.

I don't think mentioning that you should shut up is the equivalent of being against free speech or for lobotomizing dissent. I think it's a pretty rational reaction to your overeager vitriol posing as informed comment.

Mark Schmitt

I've deleted the offensive comments and banned the commentor. First time I've had to do that.


Funny thing is, TA's rant was a perfect example of the mindset I was talking about.

But he wasn't with me, I swear!



A good example of this very principle in action can be found in state university tuition. Over the last twenty years public higher education has shifted from something essentially free to a capitalism-based exchange of money (in the form of student loans) for experience that will get you more money later.

If you talk to college students now, they may be leftie or rightie but not one of them thinks that there's something deeply incorrect about how tuition fees work. But if you'd talked to their parents in college in the '60s they'd all -- leftie or rightie -- assume that state college is just stage three of public education in America. Of course you don't have to pay that much for it; it's a public school!

In the mid-80s I remember the Student Government Association at my university fighting year after year for the state legislature to honor the commitment made in some bill from the '50s: students will never have to pay more than 1/3 of their tuition, since it should mostly be funded by the state government. But even at the time this was a lost cause in the minds of the younger students. Things like student loans, financial aid, and "spending money now to earn more money later" were the realities we lived with.

That's how something can go from an unquestioned entitlement to an unimaginable fantasy in a few decades.

Ted Robles

Intelligent analysis is difficult to come by these days. Thanks, Mark. I have a point, though, I think. The point is Pinochet's 'privatization' of Chile's version of Social Security under the tutelage of Pinera, currently a fair-haired boy advising Bu$h on how to go about privatizing Social Security here. Of course, Pinera was and is a stalking horse for Schultz's Chicago Boys, who learned their political philosophy under the tutelage of Strauss, a Nazi if there ever was one. Chile, now reeling under the total failure of the privatization fiasco, is trying to figure a way out of the mess it made of their economy. BTW: I LOVE Banker's arithmetic, don't you? Chile, under the 'guidance' of the Chicago Boys, borrowed twelve billion dollars. What with debt service, they have repaid forty three billion, and still owe forty two billion. Bu$h's present rush to borrow money to finance privatization is due to put us into the same kind of trap. Wouldn't it be a lot easier just to take the caps off SS payins? But - horrors! That would make the wealthy pay their fair share of the costs! What a catastrophe! Y'lnow, our economy may yet be saved by the growing reluctance of foreign governments to syop pouring sand down our rathole. Bu$h's recent threat to default on US Government bonds (which is the SS trust fund) has sent shock waves through the financial community throughout the World; default one place, you may default another; S. Korea is beginning to rethink where it is putting its capital - China and Japan may be next - and Europe is already disenchanted. It is obvious; the house of cards is coming down - and Bu$h did it all by his little lonesome, (with a little help from Rove, Cheney, and DeLay) His utterly STUPID reduction in taxes on the affluent is about to bite us all in the butt. Hang on to the straps, brother - we're in for a rough ride.

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