Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Leaving hypocrisy behind

Thoughts from the Left: Guest post by Honest Partisan

By now, we've all heard the conservative/Republican case against everything from the Affordable Care Act to additional stimulus: our deficits are too big. Conservatives regularly cite the example of Greece, which faced default on its bonds, it was said, due to fiscal irresponsibility. The perversely infectious call for budget-tightening in the face of a terrible economy has set off a spiral of bad politics begetting bad economics and then back again: conservative Democrats have joined with Republicans to deny an extension of unemployment benefits.

One annoying thing about all of this is that, as amply demonstrated here, conservatives actually don't care about the deficit. I mean, they really don't care about it. They care about tax cuts. Especially for the wealthy.

This is part of a general pattern of conservatives claiming to oppose a policy ostensibly because it offends some immutable principle only to trash said principle when it's inconvenient. States' rights are supposedly so important that they trump civil rights legislation, but barely regarded when it comes to a federal ban on dilation-and-extraction abortion or federal pre-emption of state gun control laws. Original intent of the framers of the Constitution is supposedly important enough to trump New Deal legislation but jettisoned when it comes to affirmative action. The judiciary shouldn't be used as an end run around democratic results unless health care reform passes by congressional super-majorities.

To call this "hypocrisy" misses the point. The point isn't that the speakers aren't living up to standards they set for others. The point is that when people claim to predicate their substantive views upon neutral-sounding procedural principles, odds are they're lying. The federal government is not going to default on its bonds because the unemployed get temporary additional relief in the midst of appalling unemployment (a concern nowhere seen amid advocacy to repeal the estate tax, by the way). Republicans are either rooting for failure (all the better to stick it to Democrats in the midterms) or think that the unemployed are lazy.

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