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Our Unserious Politics
Plus: Adam Kinzinger has a warning for Democrats
This will not come as news to you, but there is a brutal disconnect between the gravity of the crises we face in the Real World and the chronic unseriousness of our politics.
Our cup overflows with examples, but this one will suffice for the day:
As war rages in Ukraine, and the Mideast is burning, the new Speaker of the House has decided that this would be a good moment to trigger the libs.
As expected, Mike Johnson is refusing to link funding for the two wars, but on Monday he announced that he also intended to play a stupid game with aid to Israel.
The aid package for Israel has broad bipartisan support and was expected to pass both the House and Senate easily, but the fifth-string speaker announced that the $14 billion in funding would have to be “offset” by rolling back funding for IRS efforts to go after wealthy tax cheats.
Because deficit reduction or something.
Slashing the funding for the IRS does not actually reduce the deficit at all for the quite obvious reason that it will reduce revenue. Via the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:
[Paying] for new spending by defunding tax enforcement is worse than not paying for it at all. Instead of costing $14 billion, the House bill will add upward of $30 billion to the debt. Instead of avoiding new borrowing, this plan doubles down on it.
Funding the IRS to reduce the tax gap has a long history of bipartisan support and has been proposed by every President from Reagan through Biden. It is one of the few ways to raise revenue without raising taxes.
But Johnson’s first big gimmick tells us a good deal about the new speaker. Notes Politico:
As a policy matter, reversing the bill’s IRS plus-up doesn’t make a lot of sense. Cutting the agency’s planned enforcement surge against tax evaders would have the perverse effect of increasing budget deficits, not trimming them.
But as a political matter, the logic is impeccable: The libs, after all, were owned.
Johnson’s gambit is, of course, DOA in Congress. Democrats called it a non-starter; and it reveals a stark divide in the GOP itself. “As of now,” reported Punchbowl News, “the House and Senate GOP leadership remain on completely different wavelengths about how to address the Biden supplemental and its centerpiece — Israel funding.
“We need to be working this with the House,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of McConnell’s leadership team who backs both Israel and Ukraine aid.
But, apparently, we have to go through this clownish kabuki dance while the world burns.
“I had a brief moment of hope the House was getting its act together, but that sounds disastrous to me,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told the Wapo.
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Our special guest will be Brian Stelter, who has a new scoop. “‘It Was Always Going to End Badly’: The Untold Story of Tucker Carlson’s Ugly Exit From Fox News.”
Biden and the Economy
Despite good economic numbers, Joe Biden continues to get hammered in the polls, a source of never-ending agita among the president’s supporters. Ruy Teixeira has some thoughts about that: “The Worst Fox News Fallacy of Them All”:
On cue, Democrats are quick to argue that this can’t be right—the economy has been going great guns! Unemployment is super-low, job creation has been strong, inflation has been moderating, real wages have started to rise and (so far) no recession. Therefore, if voters say they’re unhappy with the economy that can’t possibly reflect their “lived experience” as it were but rather how they are being manipulated and misinformed by the media, especially Fox News, etc.
This is a huge mistake—a textbook and very damaging example of the Fox News Fallacy.
It’s still the case that real hourly wages and weekly earnings are lower now than when Biden took office (though they’re comparable with pre-pandemic levels). The latest income data from the Census Bureau also show continued decline in real median household income in the first two years of the Biden administration, leaving it 4.7 percent lower than its pre-pandemic peak. In contrast, the pre-pandemic years of the Trump administration saw an increase of 10 percent in household income.
And, critically, as Bill Galston notes in a new article, “$8.99 Cereal Could Rock the Globe:”
In the current election cycle, the central economic issue isn’t growth and jobs, but inflation. The most recent Economist/YouGov poll asked a random sample of Americans, “Which of the following do you consider the best measure of how the national economy is doing?” Four percent selected the stock market; 11 percent picked their personal finances; 15 percent chose unemployment and jobs reports. But 56 percent said the best measure was the prices of the goods and services they buy.
When economists talk about “inflation,” they are referring to the rate at which prices are increasing. They have naturally been puzzled by the continued intensity of public concern about inflation, given that the rate of inflation has declined significantly. But surveys show that average Americans are at least as concerned about price levels as they are about the rate of price increases.
That brings us to the price of breakfast cereal. “I almost had a heart attack the other day when I saw a box of cereal for $8.99,” said an Illinois house cleaner. “I was like, ‘Does that come with a gallon of milk too?’” I’m sure she’s speaking for many Americans; I know she’s speaking for me. My sense of what things should cost at the grocery store is anchored at pre-pandemic levels, and I find it hard to accept that so many items have risen in price by 30 percent or more. My wife and I can afford the higher prices, though we sometimes choose not to pay them and do without items we regard as outrageously expensive. What about families with children who are trying to get by on $75,000 a year?
Galston goes on to talk about the prices of cars and homes but you get the idea. This is voters’ lived experience. No amount of banging on about Bidenomics and new green jobs is going to make much of a dent in these feelings. The only thing that might is focusing intensely on voters’ chief economic concern and stop trying to talk them into believing the economy and Bidenomics are actually great when they clearly don’t think so. They are not just being manipulated by the evil conservative media—that’s the Fox News Fallacy. They’re trying to tell you what they really think. It might not be a bad idea to start listening.
BTW: Make sure you catch Ruy on the latest “Focus Group” podcast here: “‘Orange Man Bad’ is Not Enough.”
Our Exhausted Politics
Trump talked about a new Muslim ban and the media barely covered it. Meanwhile, the House chooses a pro-coup speaker; and the biggest danger to democracy is simple exhaustion. Plus, is Joe Biden… Jimmy Carter? Will Saletan joined me on Monday’s podcast.
You can listen to the whole thing here. Or watch us on YouTube.
1. The Decolonization Narrative Is Dangerous and False
I’ve always wondered about the leftist intellectuals who supported Stalin, and those aristocratic sympathizers and peace activists who excused Hitler. Today’s Hamas apologists and atrocity-deniers, with their robotic denunciations of “settler-colonialism,” belong to the same tradition but worse: They have abundant evidence of the slaughter of old people, teenagers, and children, but unlike those fools of the 1930s, who slowly came around to the truth, they have not changed their views an iota. The lack of decency and respect for human life is astonishing: Almost instantly after the Hamas attack, a legion of people emerged who downplayed the slaughter, or denied actual atrocities had even happened, as if Hamas had just carried out a traditional military operation against soldiers. October 7 deniers, like Holocaust deniers, exist in an especially dark place.
The decolonization narrative has dehumanized Israelis to the extent that otherwise rational people excuse, deny, or support barbarity. It holds that Israel is an “imperialist-colonialist” force, that Israelis are “settler-colonialists,” and that Palestinians have a right to eliminate their oppressors. (On October 7, we all learned what that meant.) It casts Israelis as “white” or “white-adjacent” and Palestinians as “people of color.”
This ideology, powerful in the academy but long overdue for serious challenge, is a toxic, historically nonsensical mix of Marxist theory, Soviet propaganda, and traditional anti-Semitism from the Middle Ages and the 19th century. But its current engine is the new identity analysis, which sees history through a concept of race that derives from the American experience. The argument is that it is almost impossible for the “oppressed” to be themselves racist, just as it is impossible for an “oppressor” to be the subject of racism. Jews therefore cannot suffer racism, because they are regarded as “white” and “privileged”; although they cannot be victims, they can and do exploit other, less privileged people, in the West through the sins of “exploitative capitalism” and in the Middle East through “colonialism.”
2. Adam Kinzinger has a warning.
The Democrats have a problem.
It’s coming from the extreme Left.
If not checked, it could grow into a destructive force similar to the one Donald Trump brought to the GOP. America will be left without a functioning political organization that could win the 2024 election and govern with the majority of Americans, who sit in the middle of the ideological spectrum, in mind.
The problem is the vocal anti-Israel minority of young super-liberals emerging as that nation responds to the October 7 attack by the radically violent Hamas terror group, which is based in Gaza. The Palestinian terrorists killed more than 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, and took more than 200 hostages. Although the toll is equivalent to seven 9/11s, too many left-wing extremists are standing with them.
Having watched the Republican fringe cement control of the party under Donald Trump’s influence, Democrats must recognize they are threatened by the same dynamic. But so far, top leaders are acting as if this extremism doesn’t exist. This was precisely the mistake Republicans made as they allowed a vocal minority to push their party further and further to the Right. The result is a GOP in shambles, controlled by the cult of Trump.
I have noticed the pro-Hamas sentiment as I tour the country to talk about my new book, Renegade. Though small, some in the audiences I’m speaking to turn stone cold when I get animated describing my disdain for Hamas. It was a shock to see any support for those who killed men, women, and children in their homes, on the streets, and even at a music festival dedicated to peace.