Let’s do something strange and use science!

It is an article of faith among those on the political left and in the media (but I repeat myself) that the Republican party has moved significantly to the right in recent years. Depending on who you are talking to and what purpose they have at the moment, the alleged radicalism of the right either began with GWB (Bush shunned the UN on Iraq!) or has actually occurred in reaction to Obama’s rise to power (those insane Tea Partiers, don’t you know). As I have mentioned, I think this alleged movement is largely a myth, and that by any objective measure both the Republican party and the politics of the nation have actually been trending to the left for pretty much nearly a century.

But that discussion got me to thinking just what kind of objective measure might there be for such a thing, and how can we go about measuring it? It is actually quite a difficult question, kind of like objectively defining pornography. What is right and left can mean all kinds of different things, and is ultimately determined relative to the point of view of the determiner himself. To someone like Noam Chomsky, Bill Clinton was probably a rightwing fascist, while to Jonah Goldberg actual fascists were in fact members of the left. So you can see how this might be a problem.

But after thinking about it, the first measure that I came up with was government spending. We can easily see what kind of things the federal government has spent money on throughout history, and so if we can allocate various federal programs as favorites of the political left or right, and see how spending priorities have changed over time, that might give us some clue as to the direction in which the government itself, if not the political parties individually, have been trending.

This site is somewhat useful for this purpose. We can look at government spending broken down into various categories like defense, education, welfare, pensions, and interest, for various years going back all the way to 1792. Further breakdowns are possible as well.

Defense spending has, of course, long been a sacred cow for Republicans. This is not to say that D’s have no interest in defense, but trying to get R’s to agree to defense cuts has been virtually an impossible task. So it seems reasonable to me to categorize defense spending as a right wing priority. How has defense spending fared since, say, 1950 to pick a year somewhat randomly? Well, in 1950 defense spending comprised 54% of the federal budget. By 1970 that had dropped slightly to 48%. By 1990 it had dropped to only half of what it was in 1950, to 27% of the total federal budget. And by 2010 it had dropped further, albeit slightly, to 25%.

Welfare spending, on the other hand, has long been a priority of Democrats. Again, this is not to say that R’s have no interest in supporting welfare spending, but I think it is fair to say that it is a higher priority for the left than the right. So how has spending on welfare programs changed over the last 60 years? In 1950 spending on welfare programs made up 3.6% of all federal spending. By 1970 it had risen to 5.2%. By 1990, it had risen to 8%, and by 2010, it had nearly doubled again to 15%. (Go here for a more detailed view of what constitutes “welfare” on this site.)

So we see that since the middle of the last century, spending on a right-wing sacred cow, defense, has steadily decreased by roughly 50%, while spending on a left-wing sacred cow, welfare, has increased by more than 400%. So is this indicative of a national politics that has moved to the left, or the right? To me the data speaks for itself.

Of course defense and welfare spending are not the only possible spending measures, and spending itself is just one possible measure of political trends. Which gets me to the real point of this post. If we were to attempt to devise a scientific (who doesn’t like science?) and objective analysis of political trends, left or right, in the nation over the last 50 to 100 years, what type of measure would you all suggest?

92 Responses

  1. I’m still thinking and reading Scott. But a couple of things jumped out at me, one is population. The US has about 200 million more people now than in 1920 and so I’m wondering how that might affect spending and gdp and I also noticed that unemployment is included in welfare spending.

    I believe we can attribute, although I haven’t looked at numbers to see if I’m correct, the jump from 1980 to 2010 at least in part to one of the worst recessions in modern times. I think extending unemployment to 99 weeks since 2009 until, I believe last year, is unprecedented.

    I’m not much of a numbers person but I was thinking, regarding defense spending, isn’t there a point of diminishing returns in building up our capabilities. Every time I hear how much more we spend than every other country I still think we’re spending too much.

    The last thing I immediately though of is that in yesterday’s discussion none of us really brought up welfare or defense spending, except in terms of platforms. I thought we were mostly discussing social issues and legislative comparisons. I don’t know if there’s any way to quantify those really.

    Interesting post though.

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    • lms:

      one is population. The US has about 200 million more people now than in 1920 and so I’m wondering how that might affect spending and gdp

      That’s why I looked at spending on specific things as a percent of total spending rather than in absolute dollars. That controls for growth in population and gdp. Although to be honest I think that spending as a percent of GDP would also be an interesting indicator of right/left trends. An increase in spending as a percent of GDP would indicate to me a leftward trend. (What the spending is on is probably a more important indicator, though, which is why I focused on what I did.)

      I believe we can attribute, although I haven’t looked at numbers to see if I’m correct, the jump from 1980 to 2010 at least in part to one of the worst recessions in modern times.

      I looked and that is definitely part of it. In 2007 welfare spending was 10% of total spending, and had been steady for several years, and then began to jump in 2008, growing to 15% by 2010. But, again, this data runs counter to the standard narrative of a radicalized GOP pushing the nation’s politics to the right. And even if we discount the post 2007 jump, welfare spending still increased by nearly 300% from 1950.

      The last thing I immediately though of is that in yesterday’s discussion none of us really brought up welfare or defense spending, except in terms of platforms. I thought we were mostly discussing social issues and legislative comparisons. I don’t know if there’s any way to quantify those really.

      That is really what I am asking about. I could cite off the top of my head all kinds of social issues that I think show a clear trend to the political left since 1950 (or, really, since 1913)…abortion, gay marriage, welfare, unemployment benefits, medicaid benefits, social security…the list is really quite long. But that is hardly a comprehensive, objectively determined list. So I am curious what ideas others might propose to establish a baseline, and then objectively measure political movement throughout time.

      BTW…I am out probably for most of the rest of the weekend (which presumably will fill at least some of you with joy). Back Sunday afternoon at some point.

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  2. What about per capita spending, comparing decades? Like, 50’s vs 60’s vs. 70’s?

    Didn’t the Korean war start in 1950? Maybe ’54 or ’55 would be better?

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    • McWing:

      What about per capita spending, comparing decades? Like, 50′s vs 60′s vs. 70′s?

      I like that idea. Hop to it! Again, I think what the spending is on probably matters. But I would bet that, outside of temporary spending events like WWII, you would find most increases in per capita spending would coincide with an increase in spending on programs traditionally promoted by the left.

      Didn’t the Korean war start in 1950? Maybe ’54 or ’55 would be better?

      I thought of that, and briefly looked to see if defense spending was abnormally high in 1950. It wasn’t. In fact it was slightly lower in 1950 than in 1948, and it peaked in 1953 at 71%, presumably due to the Korean War. By 1960, well after the Korean War and before Vietnam, it was back to 55%, just as in 1950.

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  3. Scott

    But, again, this data runs counter to the standard narrative of a radicalized GOP pushing the nation’s politics to the right

    I’m not sure about that, how many R’s actually voted to bail out the people most devastated by the recession? Isn’t it true that historically, R’s would have supported stimulus spending? Didn’t D’s pretty much pass the stimulus with very little help and even then the R’s who voted for it moved it right with tax cuts and less help to the states?

    So I am curious what ideas others might propose to establish a baseline, and then objectively measure political movement throughout time.

    Yeah, I don’t think I know how to do that……………..yet.

    Have a nice weekend. I’ll be gone manana until the pm but I’ll be around Sunday. I’m putting up a Bites & Pieces for Brent in the am. Heart attack city.

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  4. “I like that idea. Hop to it!”

    WTF? I was told there’d be no math on this blog!

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  5. McWing

    WTF? I was told there’d be no math on this blog!

    Yeah, I’m a little worried.

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  6. lms:

    I’m not sure about that, how many R’s actually voted to bail out the people most devastated by the recession?

    Well the last unemployment extension vote in the House passed with 147 D votes and 146 R votes. And more R’s voted in favor than against. So, again, this slice of data seems to me to run exactly counter to the standard D narrative.

    Isn’t it true that historically, R’s would have supported stimulus spending?

    As i acknowledged to yello yesterday, it is certainly true that for a time, as the saying went, we were all Kenynesians now. So yes R’s would generally have supported Keynesian economic measures. But that all began to change with the rise of Milton Friedman, F.A Hayek, and the Austrian School of economics, a rise which began in the 1960s and came to fruition during the Reagan years. (Hayek won the Nobel in, i think, 1974 or ’75. ) So that is hardly a new Tea Party phenomenon.

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  7. Scott, yes I agree on the unemployment vote but I was actually referring to the stimulus and things like an infrastructure bank or a jobs bill. I remember receiving a $300 check during the Bush years.

    And I think I’ll have to go look up some of Stockman’s quotes to compare Reagan with today’s Republican party, but I’m short on time today. I think we can say that the rise of the Tea Party has certainly pulled the country to the right since the G W Bush years……………………….no?

    That would make McWing happy.

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  8. BTW, this doesn’t feel like science to me.

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  9. Not to pick nits, but since Scott is involved. . .

    there isn’t any science in your post. Just sayin’. 🙂

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  10. Does the whole conservative/liberal divide really just break down to guns versus butter? I’m not sure that sort of reductionism reflects the actual views of either side accurately.

    One could argue that the decline of military spending in both absolute (ignoring the huge spike for our Gulf adventurism) and relative terms is because of its success. We did win the Cold War,afterall. Even after cuts, we spend more on defense than the next 25 countries combined although that is a bit misleading since the Chinese get their military at cut-rate labor costs.

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  11. Reductionism based on federal tax and spend parameters could also lead one to look at the income tax structure as a continuing victory for conservatives from the Admins of JFK through RWR and GWB, with one liberal skirmish won by WJC.

    I have been guilty of blind man elephant syndrome here too – my own take has been poisoned by watching the resurgence of the Scopes Monkey Trial debates wrt our school textbooks.

    We are a socially far more liberal nation than ever before. Prior to the deregulation post 1980 we were more centrally planned as an economy.

    Take your pick. It seems a mixed bag to me.

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  12. yello:

    Does the whole conservative/liberal divide really just break down to guns versus butter?

    No. That is precisely why I said:

    Of course defense and welfare spending are not the only possible spending measures, and spending itself is just one possible measure of political trends. Which gets me to the real point of this post. If we were to attempt to devise a scientific (who doesn’t like science?) and objective analysis of political trends, left or right, in the nation over the last 50 to 100 years, what type of measure would you all suggest?

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  13. lms:

    I think we can say that the rise of the Tea Party has certainly pulled the country to the right since the G W Bush years……………………….no?

    Again, I don’t think so, at least not to any significant degree. But that was the point of my post, to ask you all how we might actually go about objectively measuring whether or not it is true. I offered one admittedly incomplete/narrow way of doing so. McWing offered up a different way. Maybe the liberals here who believe it is true have a better way?

    BTW, this doesn’t feel like science to me.

    Suppose a scientist wanted to find out whther the earth’s climate was getting cooler or warmer over a certain time frame, but did not have recorded temperature data for much of that time. He knows that trees grow differently depending on the temperature, so he collects data points on the spacing of tree rings throughout the time in question, and based on those data points concludes that either the climate is getting hotter or cooler. Does that feel like science to you?

    It does to me, and what I am proposing is the same thing. We want to find out whether the nation’s political climate is moving to the left or right. We know that spending priorities are different depending on the political climate, so if we collect data points on what those priorities were throughout the time in question, we can, based on those data points, draw conclusions about whether the political climate has moved left or right.

    But if you don’t think this is science, how would you propose that a scientist go about trying to establish whether the claim is true or not?

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  14. mark:

    Prior to the deregulation post 1980 we were more centrally planned as an economy.

    Can you think of a way of objectively measuring the degree to which the federal government is involved in regulating the economy at any given time?

    BTW, I think looking at the tax structure over time would be an interesting measure, although not an easy one given the increasing complexity of the tax code. In particular, I think it would be interesting to see how the tax burden has changed over time, ie whether it is being borne by a growing or shrinking percentage of the population.

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  15. Scott

    We want to find out whether the nation’s political climate is moving to the left or right

    I’m no scientist but I don’t think that’s actually a question that can be answered by a scientific inquiry, unless you consider political history, psychology or sociology a science. Obviously the use of statistics, such as spending like you suggest, can be used to to form some sort of narrow conclusion to your question but unless I’m wrong, which is quite likely btw, I don’t think it’s science.

    I think the question is an interesting one, and of course spending is one measure, but I think it’s the only real factually based question and the rest would be more esoteric. Mark suggested looking at the tax code but we could just as easily look at treatment of prisoners, filibuster use, congressional votes, political speech, number of new abortion laws, polling the political leanings of the populace, budget balancing measures, etc. None of those will give us a scientific conclusion to your question but could lead us to some sort of agreement if we can all somehow eliminate our pre-conceived positions………………not likely.

    However, even if we set up the parameters of a study and then reach some sort of a conclusion using those data points, as you suggest, someone else will come along and question our conclusion based on all the interesting peripheral dynamics we forgot to measure.

    It’s an interesting discussion though.

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    • lms:

      I’m no scientist but I don’t think that’s actually a question that can be answered by a scientific inquiry, unless you consider political history, psychology or sociology a science.

      Well, it seems to me that many people on the left, including some here at ATiM, think that the movement of the GOP to the right is an indisputable fact, and to deny it is just crazy. When I even dared to express skepticism I was treated almost like a Holocaust denier. (Not by you, to be clear.) So if this is indeed a simple fact of reality, it should be detectable via empirical and measurable data.

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  16. Scott, Lulu is right. You’re not conducting a scientific inquiry, so “science” is not the correct word to use.

    Unless you’re trying to get a rise out of the scientists who post here.

    She’s also right that it’s an interesting discussion.

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  17. I was a bit delayed in my response as I’d forgotten my password. (I use a symbol in place of a number in the password, but was using the wrong digit). In any event, I did have a similar thought about the use of the word science as a possible effort to get a rise out of the scientists in the group. I’ve been meaning to be more active on the blog. Then again, I’ve been meaning to bike more and I’m only doing once or twice a week through the spring. Anyway, here comes the quibbles

    1 – One matter of terminology. I would term this as using mathematics, not science. This might go under economics (which also uses a lot of math), but that would be social science.

    2 – If you are going to look at how defense spending has changed over time, the best divisor is GDP, not aggregate government spending. Military spending as a function of GDP dropped from around 10% during the height of the cold war to 4.7% in the late 70s. It then rose under Reagan to 6.2%, dropped under Clinton to about 3% (the so-called Cold War dividend), and rose moderately to 4% under Bush. It will likely drop a bit as Obama winds down the twin wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Yet, let’s take a look at the numbers for the federal budget. There has been a substantial rise in social spending. This is not merely a function of population, but of the age of the population. The point at which government benefits kick in is somewhere in the 60s (depending upon how early one retires as well as disability benefits). As life expectancy moves to the late 70s, there will be a natural rise in medical and retirement spending that has nothing to do with defense spending.

    Judging from a few quick looks over the intertubes, there was a steady drop in defense spending as a function of the federal budget dropped from around 60% in the 50s to the low 20s around 1980. A rise to the mid 20s in the 80s, a drop to the mid teens in the 90s, and a rise to about 20% under Bush. As a function of the federal budget, there has been about a 10% decline in defense spending over the last 35 years. It’s been relatively flat and thus no measure of any shift in attitudes.

    Which brings us to the biggie…

    3 – Recent

    A voter of legal age in 1950 would be in his or her eighties. The nation, let alone the GOP, has moved substantially on a host of issues since the Beaver graced the nation’s television screens. Let’s see here. Anti-miscegenation laws. Divorce. Medicare and Medicaid. Homosexual acts could be illegal. A majority now favors same sex marriage. Taking 1950 as a starting point has little to do the key word that started your post.

    I would date the rightward movement from 2008. A reaction to the government bailout, compounded by a strong negative reaction such initiatives as Obamacare and FINRA. I’ll offer a few examples of how the left (and informed voters, but I repeat myself 😉 ) views such a shift.

    The individual mandate. Championed by the Heritage Foundation, but now a government takeover of one sixth of the GDP. Government spending on healthcare (employee benefits, veteran benefits, Medicare, Medicaid) is already about 10%, so we’re only looking at 7% of the economy. The left has moved to the right on this issue, given that single payer was the preferred approach. I think it’s also far more efficient. The metric I use is lifespan vs. healthcare spending as a fraction of GDP.

    Gun regulation. A core portion of the recently defeated legislation would have regulated the sale of guns at gun shows. A position endorsed previously by the NRA and now opposed as a fundamental violation of the 2nd amendment.

    The Federal Reserve. End the Fed or move to the gold standard is a shift. There was always a component of the GOP that was openly skeptical

    The 47% That such a large fraction of the US population does not pay federal income taxes is largely a function of the earned income tax credit, an idea championed by Reagan. In various discussions here, the conservatives on the board have championed a flat tax from the first dollar earned. That is a vast change rightward from the progressive taxation system that we have had under Republican and Democratic administrations.

    As a general matter, I would propose a different metric. Ideas with strong support (>60%) amongst the general public and strong opposition (>60%) amongst Republicans represent a distinct break between the GOP and the populace at large.

    We have seen an ironic flip in my lifetime. At the time I became a legal voter in the early 80s, the Republican party had a lock on the presidency and the Democratic party had a lock on the House. Under current law, the converse is true. If there is not a shift in Republican thinking, the 2020 election could be the watershed. There will be a decennial census and a presidential election.

    ßß

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    • FB:

      One matter of terminology. I would term this as using mathematics, not science.

      Obviously the two are not mutually exclusive. Science routinely employs mathematics.

      And by referring to science, I was merely suggesting that instead discussing the issue by throwing subjective anecdotes back and forth at each other (as you do later in your post with your short list of policies), we approach the question in an objective way, and try to employ the scientific method. I would have thought this would appeal to those who claim the mantle of science, and doubly so for those who claim it for their politics.

      I would refer you to the analogy I previously drew for lms. If you think an investigation into whether the planet’s climate is warming or cooling can be explored via the scientific method, (using mathematics in the process, naturally), then I don’t understand why you think an investigation into whether the political climate has moved to the left or right can’t be explored via the scientific method. Provided we know and can define what we mean by “left” and “right” (which, admittedly, may be difficult but everyone who makes the claim seems to think the distinction is obvious), I don’t see the problem.

      If you are going to look at how defense spending has changed over time, the best divisor is GDP, not aggregate government spending.

      I would argue that it isn’t because the size of the GDP is not a choice made by politicians. The size of the budget is. What we are trying to discover is how government spending priorities are trending. To do that we need to look an individual spending priorities in relation to all spending priorities, which is of course the federal budget, not GDP.

      There has been a substantial rise in social spending. This is not merely a function of population, but of the age of the population.

      It is also due to new policy initiatives. But yes, I think it is a good point that one would have to distinguish between a growth in spending due to new policy initiatives and a growth in spending due to an increase in people qualifying for already existing policies, and control for the latter.

      Taking 1950 as a starting point has little to do the key word that started your post.

      Well I said in the post that I took 1950 somewhat randomly, although I admit that is not entirely true. I started with 1950 for three reasons. First, it came after FDR, and I figured it would be way too easy to prove my point that the nation’s politics had lurched to the left if I used pre-FDR as a baseline. Second, by starting in 1950, I could easily highlight data in 20 year increments and end up at the end of the most recent decade, 2010. Third, yello had earlier suggested that today’s GOP was radically to the right of the GOP of Ike’s generation, so starting in Ike’s era seemed, and still seems, like a sensible starting point.

      As a general matter, I would propose a different metric. Ideas with strong support (>60%) amongst the general public and strong opposition (>60%) amongst Republicans represent a distinct break between the GOP and the populace at large.

      This is not a useful metric, since the question(s) we are investigating is whether or not the nation’s politics (or, alternatively, the GOP’s politics) have grown more conservative over time, not whether or not GOP policy positions are aligned with the desires of the populace at large.

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  18. This is a pretty good piece from the CSM (July of 2011) that asked the same question we’ve been discussing here and brings up many of the same points. They use Orin Hatch as a prime example of a modern conservative who has had to shift right to keep his political career alive. In some regards, such a SSM, the country has shifted left, but in others, abortions and guns, we’ve gone to the right. And regarding economics they contend the rightward shift began in the 70’s.

    Look at this:

    what may be emerging may look more and more like a modified form of libertarianism……………..well crap you guys are winning, just not at the Presidential level……………yet.

    Today, some of the same forces that launched the modern conservative movement are coming into play once again – from concerns about federal spending, to distrust of government, to fears about America’s decline in the world. But there are some notable differences, too, that have shifted the nation’s political center on certain issues even further to the right.

    Instead of coming on the heels of a great liberal expansion of government, today’s shift comes after three decades of the unraveling of elements of the social safety net. The move right is starting from a more conservative standpoint. Taxes were dramatically lowered by Reagan, and have remained relatively low ever since (today’s top marginal tax rate is 35 percent; in 1976 it was 70 percent). A Democratic president – Bill Clinton – ended “welfare as we know it,” and enacted business-friendly trade policies that quickened the flow of manufacturing jobs overseas. Organized labor has dramatically declined in power.

    snip

    “The country is gradually evolving into a new reality based on population, demographics, and diversity,” says Professor Sabato. “We’re going to be a majority minority country, which has tremendous implications for politics.”

    Still, it seems very unlikely that America will return to a New Deal-type liberalism. If anything, what may be emerging may look more and more like a modified form of libertarianism – in which voters don’t want government involved in business or moral issues.

    There’s some evidence that is already happening. In June, a poll by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation found that 63 percent of Americans said the government was trying to do too much – up from 52 percent in 2008. At the same time, the survey showed that 50 percent thought the government should not favor any particular set of values – up from 41 percent in 2008.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2011/0731/America-s-big-shift-right

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  19. The Washington Post has a long front page article today on the attempt to reduce the costs to the government of military commisaries. As a military brat I take offense to the characterization of commissaries as some sort of hand-out to servicemen.

    I often tell people that the United States military is one of the most effective forms of socialism ever implemented. The hierarchy is a largely race-blind meritocracy. Health care is single-payer single-provider (despite recent Tri-Care reforms). The commissary and exchange systems (which are separate) are non-profit.

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  20. Here’s what I think, if we get rid of the idea that this is some sort of scientific experiment or that the perception of a right ward shift is left-wing propaganda or even the idea that the shift to the right or left is a foregone conclusion, maybe we could actually answer the question or at least partially agree on the answer. That would be bizarre.

    yello

    I often tell people that the United States military is one of the most effective forms of socialism ever implemented

    I agree and I think there might be some lessons from the single payer aspect that we should have implemented in health care reform.

    Paul

    I would term this as using mathematics, not science.

    Yes, exactly what I was thinking and the thing that scares McWing and myself.

    I agree with a lot of your observations and conclusions.

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  21. Here’s a piece from NPR from last year that also addresses this question, with a chart and everything. Seriously though, I think they make some good points.

    But while the president was making the kind of argument you would expect of the nation’s top Democrat, he actually had the support of science — well at least political science research that maps that rightward GOP shift.

    Keith Poole of the University of Georgia, with his collaborator Howard Rosenthal of New York University, has spent decades charting the ideological shifts and polarization of the political parties in Congress from the 18th century until now to get the view of how the political landscape has changed from 30,000 feet up. What they have found is that the Republican Party is the most conservative it has been a century.

    And here’s a bit of a qualifier for you conservatives.

    Poole acknowledges that Democrats have contributed their share to the polarization of the political process, especially, he says, through their use of identity politics, appeals to race, ethnicity and gender.

    Democrats have also contributed by losing House and Senate seats in the South where moderate Democrats have been replaced by Republicans. Meanwhile, moderate Republicans have continued to depart the scene, with Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine being just the latest.

    Buttressing a point that Obama has sometimes made, this loss of moderates and further rightward movement by congressional Republicans would have been a challenge to navigate for even the biggest conservative hero of modern times, President Ronald Reagan.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/04/10/150349438/gops-rightward-shift-higher-polarization-fills-political-scientist-with-dread

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  22. I’d suggest the substitution of the word “evidence” for “science”.

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  23. Scott, if we can think of which questions we want to ask and where we will get the answers I’m willing to look at your inquiry or whatever we decide to call it. I have a problem with the empirical side of it though. Isn’t empirical evidence based on observation or experience? How do you suggest we find this evidence where we all agree it exists without various interpretations?

    This reminds me of the kind of stuff I did in my psychology classes. I think spending is the only data we might agree on as empirical…………the rest is too controlled by outside influences so as to be reliable. That’s what I think right now anyway………..I’m still thinking.

    I’d actually like to figure this out to prove you wrong… 😉

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  24. Scott

    I don’t claim the mantle of science (whatever the hell that means). I am simply a scientist. One who recognizes that selecting two measures and dividing them is not scientific. Accountants use numbers too, but that doesn’t make them scientists. It is a good illustration of how you are utterly unable to concede the slightest point.

    In any event, by your own measure there has been no significant shift in 30+ years in defense spending as a fraction of the federal budget. And that has nothing to do with the perception of the Republican party having moved to the right recently. Truman is not a recent president, unless you’re putting it in the context of the entire history of the United States.

    The true shame is that you’re not interested in a discussion about whether or not the Republican party has recently shifted to the right. You dismiss specific policy shifts as anecdotal, but only your selected metric is worth considering. Stated policies are not anecdotes. Whether Auntie Mame is saving on her healthcare or Uncle Bruce is having is hours cut back is anecdotal.

    ßß

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    • FB:

      One who recognizes that selecting two measures and dividing them is not scientific.

      Well, actually, selecting two measures and dividing them gives us a data point. Then doing the same thing for several different points in time gives us several data points. Then we can use those data points to draw conclusions about the original hypothesis under investigation, to see if the outcomes that the hypothesis predicts should occur have actually occurred. I’m no expert, but that sounds to me suspiciously like the method that scientists use all the time to investigate theories. But if it is not, then please suggest a more scientific way of establishing the truth or falsity of the hypothesis under question. That was, after all, the very point of the post…to ask you all for how you would go about establishing the claim that, as I said, seems to me to be nothing more than a leftwing article of faith.

      It is a good illustration of how you are utterly unable to concede the slightest point.

      I’ll avoid the temptation to pontificate on what your comment here is a good illustration of, and simply point out that in the very comment to which you refer I “conceded” that you had a good point about the growth of social spending being possibly due to an aging population rather than a change in policy.

      In any event, by your own measure there has been no significant shift in 30+ years in defense spending as a fraction of the federal budget.

      I don’t know what data you are using, but I linked to the data I used in the original post, and that data shows a clear downward trend in defense spending as a percent of total spending. If you think my data is wrong, and you have more accurate data, please link to it so I can check it out and see why it differs from mine.

      And that has nothing to do with the perception of the Republican party having moved to the right recently.

      I think as I made clear in the post, while my thought process was prompted by the common liberal talking about about today’s R’s being radically to the right, my measure was intended to look for trends in national politics over a longer period. I think the two questions are related (as do others, apparently, since it was yello who introduced 1956 as a relevant year) but to be sure they are not the same. That being said, is there some reason why the question of how current R’s differ from R’s in 2007 must be pursued to the exclusion of all other trends in the political climate?

      The true shame is that you’re not interested in a discussion about whether or not the Republican party has recently shifted to the right.

      Au contraire. I am certainly interested in that discussion. If you were going to devise an objective measure to test the hypothesis that Republican party politics have, at the national level, moved radically towards the right, what kind of measure do you think would be appropriate?

      Stated policies are not anecdotes.

      For our purposes here, actually, I think they are. The ones you listed are but single issues among a myriad of positions that define the political climate within a given party. That is precisely what anecdotal evidence means. And they suffer from other problems too, which I wasn’t going to get into, but I will if you want.

      1) The individual mandate: You seem to think that a single Heritage Foundation paper written in 1991 (I think it was then) somehow defines what the R party as a whole held as a position on this issue in 2007. I disagree. I also disagree with your assessment that the D’s have moved to the right. Moving towards one’s ultimate goal in incremental steps because it is not politically achievable in one fell swoop does not indicate to me a move away from one’s ultimate goal. Obamacare sets us on the inevitable path towards single payer in the only way that was politically feasible.

      2) Gun regulation: First, I think you mischaracterize the current state of gun control. The so-called gun show loop-hole actually has nothing to do with gun shows. It has to do with whether or not the seller is “in the business” of selling guns. A licensed gun dealer has to get background checks before a sale whether he is selling guns from a storefront or at a gun show. An individual who is not a licensed dealer doesn’t, whether he sells at a gun show or out of his house. Second, I have no idea what you mean when you say that the NRA has changed its stance on the proposed legislation. I can find no reference to that at all. Third, like the Heritage Foundation, the NRA is not the Republican party. I am not aware of the R party, or a majority of elected R’s, supporting in the past the legislation that they voted down last month. And I find it difficult to believe that they did, since it almost certainly would have already been law if the R’s had supported it.

      3) Shutting the fed and returning to a gold standard: This is not current GOP policy and I think you would be hard pressed to find even a significant minority, much less a majority, of elected R’s who hold these positions. “Some component” of a given political party does not define the party in general.

      4) Flat tax: Yet again, posters here at ATiM do not define the R party as a whole. I am not aware of any significant movement within the R party, and certainly not among elected R’s, advocating for the elimination of progressive taxation. I wish there was.

      …but only your selected metric is worth considering.

      Please read my post again. Specifically read the portion that said:

      Of course defense and welfare spending are not the only possible spending measures, and spending itself is just one possible measure of political trends. Which gets me to the real point of this post. If we were to attempt to devise a scientific (who doesn’t like science?) and objective analysis of political trends, left or right, in the nation over the last 50 to 100 years, what type of measure would you all suggest?

      I not only welcome other metrics, that is precisely what I was asking for. But asking for other metrics doesn’t mean that any conceivable metric would be sensible. If you introduce a metric that to my mind is not relevant to the question at hand, like suggesting that we measure current GOP positions against popular support for the same positions, I am going to say so. I still am baffled that you think such a measure is relevant to the question of whether the current GOP is significantly to the right of some past GOP.

      Like

  25. In all fairness, Scott did concede this point a couple of comments ago:

    But yes, I think it is a good point that one would have to distinguish between a growth in spending due to new policy initiatives and a growth in spending due to an increase in people qualifying for already existing policies, and control for the latter.

    I’m trying to figure out if we can do the kind of inquiry he wants whether we call it science or something else. Do you think there’s a way to figure out between ourselves how to debate the areas of inquiry and reach a conclusion and then come up with data points that will get us close to the truth? I’m skeptical but it would be interesting.

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  26. It is a good illustration of how you are utterly unable to concede the slightest point.

    What if he doesn’t believe he lost the point? Should he concede anyway, for the sake of comity or something?

    He has asked for other metrics and has proposed his own. Is there a problem in criticizing metrics he thinks inferior, just as you have criticized his, presumably because you think their inferior?

    Weird.

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  27. This is a blog I’ve been reading lately called “Data Driven Viewpoints”. I haven’t checked their archives very thoroughly but maybe we can learn something from what they’re doing. This isn’t the same question exactly to the one Scott is asking but it’s somewhat tangential.

    The attitudes we have towards paying taxes, and the extent to which people and organizations will go to avoid them, is an under appreciated index of our consent to be governed. Just as taxation without representation was a rallying cry leading up to the Revolutionary War, the Tea Party and many other popular reform or resistance groups today rally around taxes as a central point of contention. Objectively speaking, the Tea Party’s opposition to taxes makes no sense since their complaint corresponded with the lowest federal tax rate since the Eisenhower administration. It isn’t until we understand that our attitude towards taxes is a barometer of our consent to be governed that the Tea Party’s tax objections become clear.

    http://datadrivenviewpoints.com/2013/05/25/americas-social-contract-and-the-measure-of-our-commitment/

    Like

    • Imsinca…. thank you so much for that link. I read the entire article, agree with how the changes in individual and corporate/business taxes have turned the effects… and I am proud to say I am a member of the very last group mentioned.

      Troll… what is it you disagree with, something Imsinca said or what the article stated? Did you read the entire article?

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  28. I disagree with the premise of the above, Lms. It’s about the bailout(s) and the additional spending from the stimulus and Obamacare. The increase in the budget baseline from the stimulus and the utter unstustainability of Federal spending. The tax component is about how they are going to have to go up to pay for all of the promises. And the obviousness of the Obama lie that the problem is the rich not paying their fair share.

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  29. oops, typo correction ” corporate/business taxes have turned AND the effects”

    and BTW… 21 trillion (plus?) is a LOT of money… just sitting and doing nothing… says a lot about our country.

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  30. Geanie,

    I found very little in Lms’ linked article that I agreed with. Sorry if I was unclear.

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  31. McWing, you’re saying that the quoted part doesn’t comport with the Tea Party view? Taxed Enough Already and the “Don’t Tread on Me” flags support his comment. But then you’re a member of the Tea Party so I’m sure you have a point. It just never made a lot of sense to some of us but perhaps the author overstated his “consent to be governed” hypothesis……………..it’s not really clear to me.

    I was actually thinking that the way they approach questions at “Data Driven Viewpoints” might help us figure out a way to answer the question we’ve been discussing lately. I don’t know, I haven’t read that many piece there but plan on reading more. I picked that one because it seemed somewhat interesting as a comparison.

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  32. Lms, the point of Taxed Enough Already was about the inevitable massive tax increases needed to pay for all the new spending, not about the current tax rates on the middle class. At least, that’s what most of my compatriots believed. None of us were motivated because of our current tax rates.

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  33. I would term this as using mathematics, not science.

    My first reaction was that these factoids were neither ‘science’ nor ‘mathematics’ but ‘statistics’ and statistics of the variety that lie on a continuum with ‘lies’ and ‘damn lies’.

    The major logical disconnect is that somehow spending on narrowly defined categories reflect the ideology of the Republican party in some way. If anything, they at best indicate their ineffectiveness at achieving their goals. I don’t doubt that the electorate as a whole has been moving leftward (or progressively as some would use the word) but that does not necessarily say anything about the goals and policies of the Republican Party.

    If the argument is that Republican policies are not restricting the rate of increase in non-defense spending, the question becomes against what benchmark. We have no idea what level of spending would have happened without their influence. US government spending is lower per capita and by share of GDP than most other developed economies. That must reflect something.

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  34. And here is where the discussion goes down the semantic rabbit hole.

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  35. I am not aware of any significant movement within the R party, and certainly not among elected R’s, advocating for the elimination of progressive taxation.

    The current tax reforms under proposal by Republicans both reduce the top marginal rate and lower the number of distinct brackets. This is reducing the progressivity of the system by any analysis. Several presidential candidates including Herman Caine ran on tax policies that were flat or nearly flat.

    I’ve always said that it is only billionaires and their dupes who favor flat taxes but lately even billionaires don’t support it because a true flat tax which encompasses capital gains would actually increase their tax burden.

    But that is an evergreen ATiM debate. What is new is the assertion that Republicans are not opposed to progressive taxation when it eliminating it is a clear and stated goal of many of them.

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    • yello

      The current tax reforms under proposal by Republicans both reduce the top marginal rate and lower the number of distinct brackets.

      But none of them call for an end to progressive taxation, which was the claim. And of course precisely how progressive the code is dependent not just on marginal rates but deductions, exemptions and credits as well. And beyond that, Republican calls for lower marginal rates is hardly a post-2008 phenomenon. Recall that Reagan also called for and got, lower rates than exist even today. So did GWB.

      Several presidential candidates including Herman Caine ran on tax policies that were flat or nearly flat.

      But none of them got the nomination. We’ve seen this game played before. For some reason the views of R’s who lose the nomination are portrayed by the left as representative of the party as a whole, while those who actually win the nomination are ignored. This is another indication to me that the whole “radical right” talking point is just a left-wing propaganda strategy.

      I’ve always said that it is only billionaires and their dupes who favor flat taxes

      So jnc is a “dupe”? Of who, exactly?

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  36. I’ve always said that it is only billionaires and their dupes who favor flat taxes

    How tolerant.

    I prefer to be called a boot licking toady.

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    • How tolerant.

      I prefer to be called a boot licking toady.

      If the shoe (or boot) fits. I’ve always understood why billionaires like Forbes or Perot support a flat tax. It has always baffled me why other people are so enamored with a policy that would raise their tax burden while lowering that of those richer than them. But then my ideological impurity is well-established.

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    • McWing:

      How tolerant.

      But I’m the one who lacks self-awareness, lol. The double standards practiced by some here are really quite stark.

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  37. It has always baffled me why other people are so enamored with a policy that would raise their tax burden while lowering that of those richer than them.

    I’m sure it does.

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  38. The double standards practiced by some here are really quite stark.

    Yes, they are. It seems that you are the only one who can define words.

    Ah, well! They may write such things in a book,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a calmer tone. ‘That’s what you call a History of England, that is. Now, take a good look at me! I’m one that has spoken to a King, Iam: mayhap you’ll never see such another: and, to show you I’m not proud, you may shake hands with me!’ And he grinned almost from ear to ear, as he leant forwards (and as nearly as possible fell off the wall in doing so) and offered Alice his hand. She watched him a little anxiously as she took it. ‘If he smiled much more the ends of his mouth might meet behind,’ she thought: ‘And then I don’t know what would happen to his head! I’m afraid it would come off!’
    ‘Yes, all his horses and all his men,’ Humpty Dumpty went on. ‘They’d pick me up again in a minute, they would! However, this conversation is going on a little too fast: let’s go back to the last remark but one.’

    ‘I’m afraid I can’t quite remember it,’ Alice said, very politely.

    ‘In that case we start afresh,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘and it’s my turn to choose a subject —’ (‘He talks about it just as if it was a game!’ thought Alice.) ‘So here’s a question for you. How old did you say you were?’

    Alice made a short calculation, and said ‘Seven years and six months.’

    ‘Wrong!’ Humpty Dumpty exclaimed triumphantly. ‘You never said a word like it!’

    ‘I thought you meant “How old are you?”‘ Alice explained.

    ‘If I’d meant that, I’d have said it,’ said Humpty Dumpty.

    Alice didn’t want to begin another argument, so she said nothing.

    ‘Seven years and six months!’ Humpty Dumpty repeated thoughtfully. ‘An uncomfortable sort of age. Now if you’d asked my advice, I’d have said “Leave off at seven” — but it’s too late now.’

    Sounds like way to many conversations here with Scott and McWng.

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  39. So jnc is a “dupe”? Of who, exactly?

    only billionaires and their dupes who favor flat taxes

    I’m not great with grammar but I think the antecedent is pretty clear here. ‘Dupe’ has a pretty long and storied political history dating back at least to the 40s. It’s usual connotation is directed at progressives, often smart and well-meaning ones, who have indirectly aided and abetted the cause of international communism. In my construction I refer to often smart people who for philosophical or other reasons do the work of interests of large corporations (by advocating lowering of corporate taxes) or the Uber-wealthy (by advocating flat taxes or disproportionately low capital gains taxes) when they have no personal gain at stake.

    Dupes are often unwitting which is why they take such offense at the term but it is really a fairly precise one that ‘toady’ or ‘boot-licker’ don’t quite cover as those convey a tone of subservience and fealty that ‘dupe’ doesn’t contain. I’d be glad to use another term if anyone finds this offensive. But if the offense is only at being called the unwitting ally of monied interests, I’m not sure what the umbrage is over.

    Many tea party groups are heavily funded directly or indirectly by the resource extraction industries (Koch Brothers, et. al.). Hiding this sort of funding is the basis for much of the outrage over the current IRS scandal.

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    • yello:

      I’m not great with grammar but I think the antecedent is pretty clear here.

      I think the antecedant is actually fairly vague, which is why I asked for you to specify “exactly” who you were talking about. Gates is a billionaire. Is jnc a dupe of Gates? How about Buffet? In fact if I am not mistaken it is you who buys into Buffet’s take on taxes makes, so how is it that jnc is his dupe?

      Dupes are often unwitting which is why they take such offense at the term…

      Dupes are always unwitting. The term “dupe” means precisely someone who is easily tricked or fooled. jnc doesn’t strike me as someone who is easily tricked or fooled.

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  40. But none of them call for an end to progressive taxation, which was the claim.

    A mighty large Straw Man. You yourself noted that camel nose incrementalism was a common political tactic. One can be against progressive taxation AND for the lowering of rates. Not to mention that I cite three people (Forbes, Perot, and Cain) all of whom who have advocated exactly that.

    But none of them got the nomination.

    I predicted very early on that No True Scotsman would be the defense anytime examples of extreme right-wing ideology were raised. Please find me the counter-example of the conservative advocating higher taxes or a more progressive system. Since the fall of communism, lowering taxes has been the one defining Republican platform.

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    • yello:

      A mighty large Straw Man.

      No, it isn’t. FB said:

      In various discussions here, the conservatives on the board have championed a flat tax from the first dollar earned. That is a vast change rightward from the progressive taxation system that we have had under Republican and Democratic administrations.

      I agree that championing a flat tax is to the right of supporting the progressive taxation system we have had for a long time. But the implication that “conservatives on the board” (or, really, libertarians on the board…surely jnc does not count as a conservative) speak for the R party or for a majority of elected R’s is wrong. We do not.

      This was one of the reasons for my original post…to get people to focus on just what it is the leads them to believe in this claim about a radical shift in the R party. Is it based on real, verifiable, objective evidence, or is it just a general impression they’ve gotten out of anectdotal experience (reinforced by the repeated talking points of D strategists)? I think it is the latter. Certainly if you or FB base the claim on what jnc or I or Mcwing say here on ATiM, it is the latter, not the former. I can assure you that the I don’t find the R party as a whole to be nearly as “radical” as I am.

      Not to mention that I cite three people (Forbes, Perot, and Cain) all of whom who have advocated exactly that.

      But the question is, of course, are they representative of the R party? In fact none of them actually represent anyone…not one is an elected official. How is it, then, that you think Cain is representative of where the party has allegedly moved, but people like Paul Ryan or even Romney, who actually got elected by R’s and did not espouse a flat tax, are not? Given the varied views of individual members of any given party, it is pretty easy to cherry pick and present them as THE Party. The whole point of my post was to challenge you all to come up with an objective, empirical method of substantiating the charge. I don’t think citing the views of a few selected individuals really does so.

      I predicted very early on that No True Scotsman would be the defense anytime examples of extreme right-wing ideology were raised.

      And your prediction remains incorrect. I am not arguing that no “true” Republican would hold the “radical” positions you attribute to the party. I am arguing that finding one who does isn’t necessarily evidence of an overall trend in the party. For example, just because I can identify a liberal (or even several) who is an asshole doesn’t justify the conclusion that liberals are increasingly turning into assholes.

      Since the fall of communism, lowering taxes has been the one defining Republican platform.

      Precisely! This isn’t some new, radical trend that has never been seen before.

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  41. None of us were motivated because of our current tax rates.

    I am willing to accept that opposition to Obamacare was in part over the potential of greater taxation, which is why the law was minutely chiseled to appear as revenue neutral as possible. However, the general tenor of the Tea Party movement seems to have captured a far larger generalized anti-tax sentiment as well.

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  42. This started out as an interesting thread I thought. Now that it’s devolved into something I’m not quite following I’ll just continue thinking about how in the world we could form a data driven conclusion about whether the country has moved to the right or not. I’d like to prove to Scott that it’s not a left-wing propaganda talking point.

    I’m going to work on an immigration post for this week in the meantime. After hearing McWing and Mark’s ideas last week I think it would be a great discussion. I’ve been following the back ground check gun debate fairly closely through my political group and I think the legislation is essentially dead, although I could be mistaken.

    It’s my belief that the only important legislation Obama has a chance of passing between now and the end of his term is some sort of immigration bill so I think that would be a great thing to debate and discover everyone’s view on.

    I’ll follow this discussion still in case someone comes up with a way to do what Scott has suggested. I’m with McWing though, math is not my strong suit.

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    • lms:

      Perhaps we should take a step back and try to specify exactly what it is that is being claimed. When it is said that the R’s have moved to the right since 2008, does that mean that R’s who are elected to the federal government are introducing legislation that is more to the right than elected R’s have introduced in the past? Does it mean that elected R’s are voting against legislation that they wouldn’t have voted against in the past? These are things we can actually measure.

      Or maybe it means that party membership is changing its views and becoming more conservative/libertarian. This is probably harder to measure.

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  43. “when they have no personal gain at stake.”

    Something is right or wrong (aka “justice”) regardless of whether or not it benefits one personally.

    We libertarians who argue in favor of a flat tax are hardly dupes or a toadies. We just completely reject your entire value system to a degree to which you find unfathomable.

    Also, I’d argue that under a flat tax system the Romneys of the world would pay more than they do today. Certainly under the “progressive” system we have now, they are paying less than me.

    If anyone is a dupe, it’s those who are defending the current system in the name of progressivism.

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  44. “yellojkt, on June 3, 2013 at 4:39 am said:

    I am willing to accept that opposition to Obamacare was in part over the potential of greater taxation, which is why the law was minutely chiseled to appear as revenue neutral as possible. ”

    This is just wrong. The law was chiseled to appear to be as deficit neutral as possible, but was always explicit that taxes were going up, but only on people who progressives don’t like anyway. There’s no “potential” about the increased revenue. Tax rates went up.

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  45. How about Buffet?

    Yes. The one counter-example of a billionaire who argues for a more progressive tax system, making him notable. I will be sure to sprinkle more ‘most’s and ‘nearly all’s in my discussions from now on so that the outliers cannot be cited as being typical of the group.

    jnc doesn’t strike me as someone who is easily tricked or fooled.

    So you’re inquiry wasn’t for me to clarify the more nuanced political definition of ‘dupe’ as I was using it but to trick me into making a direct personal attack on jnc. I feel duped.

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    • yello:

      Yes. The one counter-example of a billionaire who argues for a more progressive tax system, making him notable.

      Forbes provided a list of all 1,342 billionaires in the US. I took a look, and could only recognize a handful whose political views I was familiar with. Maybe you are more familiar with their political views than I, but of the handful that I recognized, there were 4 that I am sure support progressive taxation: Gates, Buffet (both in the top 5), Michael Bloomberg (#13) and George Soros (#30).

      So you’re inquiry wasn’t for me to clarify the more nuanced political definition of ‘dupe’ as I was using it…

      Of course not. I know how you hate defining your terms. 😉

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    • A few quick points: thanks to Scott for the topic – which is a good one, and which bears more evidence based inquiry [I like Kelley’s formation of that].

      It seems as if Scott is taking more personal heat than he deserves for defending the position he is positing. OTOH – Scott, you have variously rejected the R platform and many announced R positions from various R leaders as defining R positions, so while many of us characterize the R positions that have been criticized here as foraging into far right field you have maintained plausible deniability. Makes discussion by admitted example difficult.

      To those adamantly defending the view of the rightward shift I say that Scott has made a plausible case against it, wrt the general mood of the American people. I don’t think he has tried to suggest that the R base is not peopled largely by social conservatives, and less widely by economic libertarians. Scott, I think you are arguing that social conservatives have not taken over the R Party or dominated American life, and we would probably all agree on the latter.

      YJ – Perot is neither a conservative nor a republican. FWIW.

      There are reasons to support a flat tax that are outside dupedom. JNC’s version of flat tax would be more progressive than the current system and easier to calculate, check, and collect, as well. But as YJ said, we have been around that track before.

      Like Lms, I think this bears more thought – and if you are emotionally invested in a conclusion, a little more time to gain aesthetic distance. We must admit, I think, that as the nation has become more socially liberal, social conservatives have maintained the same positions but have become more vocal as their own positions have come under siege. Note how the black church killed SSM in IL last week. That does not indicate a sweep over right tackle.

      I read the article Lms linked and it does tend to reinforce my thought that the nation is more conservative on economic issues now than in 1972 and that both parties are to the right of where they were then, on fiscal matters. When Bob Bennett got primaried from the right, and it was followed by similar strategies against conservative R elected officials with some modicum of success, I saw that as a rightward shift in the R Party. I have not seen any Rs recently primaried from the center right.

      But it bears more thought. And it was a good topic, worthy of a revisit. Thanks again, Scott.

      Like

      • Mark:

        Makes discussion by admitted example difficult.

        I think the real difficulty is determining at what point it becomes reasonable to say that individual examples become representative of the party in general. Is it fair to say that the Republican party is in favor of lower taxes? I think so, sure. Is it fair to say that the Republican party is in favor of a flat tax? I’m not so sure. There are definitely Republicans who do favor a flat tax, but could a flat tax proposal actually get passed by the current Republican held House? Count me as deeply skeptical.

        This is why I put the question in the way I did…what kind of objective measures might there be to gauge a political climate? Maybe there are none, and it is inevitably a question of personal judgement.

        Scott, I think you are arguing that social conservatives have not taken over the R Party or dominated American life…

        Yes, that is what I think.

        We must admit, I think, that as the nation has become more socially liberal, social conservatives have maintained the same positions but have become more vocal as their own positions have come under siege.

        Yes! I don’t think this point can be emphasized enough.

        I read the article Lms linked and it does tend to reinforce my thought that the nation is more conservative on economic issues now than in 1972 and that both parties are to the right of where they were then, on fiscal matters.

        I think that is probably correct, but I don’t think the shift is a particularly recent one. I think the shift largely took place in the 1980s and 90s.

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  46. We libertarians who argue in favor of a flat tax are hardly dupes or a toadies.

    ‘Toadie’ was your word. I am using ‘dupe’ more in the context used by Jonathan Chiat in his article How Tax Cuts Dupe Conservatives: A Case Study

    you have a tiny group of supply-side true believers. Then you have a larger group of rich people who benefit from regressive tax cuts. This coterie has managed to grab the reins of the right-wing policy apparatus and spew an endless stream of propaganda supporting those policies. Meanwhile, most people have very little understanding of economic and fiscal policy, so it’s easy to convince anybody with a general predilection for small government that regressive, debt-financed tax cuts are advancing the small government cause.

    I would classify jnc as a ‘true believer’ if not in supply-side economics, in some similar philosophical belief that flat taxes are inherently just or good. This would put him in that first group in which case he is not a dupe, as I was unfairly tricked into calling him. It is entirely possible he fits into the second group as well. And I would definitely not put him in the last group as he understands economic and fiscal policy very well.

    Certainly under the “progressive” system we have now, they are paying less than me.

    Me as well, which fuels my outrage. The current system is not nearly progressive enough and that is largely the result of the different treatment of capital gains with respect to earned income.

    If anyone is a dupe, it’s those who are defending the current system in the name of progressivism.

    Please find me the Straw Progressive who sees the tax status of the Romneys as a desirable outcome of the current system. I recall it being a campaign issue.

    We just completely reject your entire value system to a degree to which you find unfathomable.

    It’s not that I don’t understand it, it’s that I don’t agree with it. It seems an article of faith among libertarians that if their philosophy were explained simply or clearly enough that the self-evident Truth of it would overcome all opposition to it. That is not the case. Some of us disagree with it all the more the more we fathom it.

    Something is right or wrong (aka “justice”) regardless of whether or not it benefits one personally.

    This we can agree on except that we have different concepts of “justice” which is really the bedrock foundation of all ATiM disagreements.

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    • yello:

      This would put him in that first group in which case he is not a dupe, as I was unfairly tricked into calling him.

      You were not “tricked”. I simply inquired about the logical consequence of your claim, ie that “I’ve always said that it is only billionaires and their dupes who favor flat taxes”.

      If your premise is correct, ie only billionaires and their dupes favor flat taxes, and jnc favors flat taxes, he must then be either a billionaire or a billionaire’s dupe. I don’t think jnc is a billionaire, in which case he must be a dupe.

      Based on your latest, I conclude that you don’t actually believe what you apparently “always say”.

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  47. Scott, I think it could mean all of those things you mention which is precisely why I doubt it can be effectively measured. Another question is when R’s in the HoR pass legislation they know won’t pass the Senate, or make it past the President’s desk, do they really mean for it to pass or are they blowing smoke to impress the conservative folks back home.

    I heard something about Priebus talking about Ryan’s budget along the lines that the R’s were as serious as a heart attack about that budget. Is that true or not? I have no idea.

    I think it would be really difficult to prove either way. I still wish you wouldn’t consign the entire debate to left-wing propaganda when there are certainly elected R’s proposing legislation at both the local and national level that seems to advance at least an undoing of the safety net, new voting requirements and an increase in anti-abortion legislation we’ve not seen before, as well as current and past R’s complaining about the Republican party of today. I think the Tea Party has been quite successful in some areas.

    I thought the comment above about the increased influence of libertarians was interesting also.

    Like

    • lms:

      Another question is when R’s in the HoR pass legislation they know won’t pass the Senate, or make it past the President’s desk, do they really mean for it to pass or are they blowing smoke to impress the conservative folks back home.

      Probably a bit of both. There are various political games being played all the time, which can make drawing conclusions from voting records somewhat difficult. We know that members of both parties from swing districts often times vote strategically, for example bucking the party vote if they know it is going to pass anyway, so their name won’t be attached to legislation that might be difficult to defend during a re-election campaign.

      Is that true or not? I have no idea.

      Me neither. Although as you can guess, I wish the R’s were more serious about a lot of things than I think they are.

      I still wish you wouldn’t consign the entire debate to left-wing propaganda when there are certainly elected R’s proposing legislation at both the local and national level that seems to advance at least an undoing of the safety net, new voting requirements and an increase in anti-abortion legislation we’ve not seen before, as well as current and past R’s complaining about the Republican party of today. I think the Tea Party has been quite successful in some areas.

      Well, let me put it this way. We all know that political parties engage in political strategy and PR campaigns. I think one strategy (and a smart one, from the perspective of the left) that the D’s have employed is to associate the label “Republican” with being “radical” and “extreme”. And whatever the truth of the matter is, the strategy is to amplify it out of all proportion. If a whole array of candidates are running for office, find the candidate that is furthest to the right and make that candidate the main representative of the party. If a policy position is opposed for a wide range of reasons, find the most extreme reason and make that The Reason why my perfectly reasonable proposal is being opposed.

      Now, as an engaged voter you may conclude all on your own that there is some truth to this notion, and that is fine (and why I am interested in pursuing some objective way of looking at it), but that there is a political strategy, propaganda if you will, to discredit the opposition, and that the form it has taken under the current D strategists is to make the radicalization of the R’s a constant topic of conversation (a talking point) seems obvious to me. To be honest I think the D’s would be stupid not to be engaging in this kind of strategy at this point.

      Like

  48. “When it is said that the R’s have moved to the right since 2008, does that mean that R’s who are elected to the federal government are introducing legislation that is more to the right than elected R’s have introduced in the past? “

    I’ll disagree with Scott here and note that the fights over the debt ceiling seem to indicate a change from business as usual. And I’d also argue that there has been a rightward shift from the 1960’s & 1970’s as evidenced by deregulation of the airline industry and the abandonment of things like price controls on gasoline.

    I tend to subscribe to the general narrative that the liberal/progressive governing consensus of the 1950’s & 1960’s was undone by the events of the 1970’s. Similarly, the more conservative (relatively) governing consensus of the 1980’s & 1990’s was undone by the events of the 2000’s. However, government itself is too discredited post Vietnam & Watergate for anything like the 1950’s consensus to emerge again, which is one reason why Obama wasn’t able to capitalize on the moment as much as he would have liked to.

    There is a shift when the reaction to a new entitlement is continued attempts to repeal it rather than just acquiesce to the new status quo.

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  49. I took a look, and could only recognize a handful whose political views I was familiar with.

    I spotted on the first page of that list David and Charles Koch (tied at #6) and Sheldon Adelson (#15) who have all dabbled in politics to understate it. Bloomberg is a registered Republican who is on the record as opposing carried interest which does stake out a position on the centrist side of his party. And if you know of Bill Gates’ politics, you are more informed than I because most of what I hear about him doing with his wealth is more along the lines of traditional Rich Guy Philanthropy than political activism.

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    • yello:

      And if you know of Bill Gates’ politics, you are more informed than I because most of what I hear about him doing with his wealth is more along the lines of traditional Rich Guy Philanthropy than political activism.

      From an interview with Gates a couple of years ago:

      In terms of the very rich, Warren Buffett and I, who are the two wealthiest Americans, are certainly believing that the rich should be taxed a lot more than they should, and the rich should give away more of their wealth than they currently do. And we’ve certainly been willing to speak out about that. Warren is the only person who has ever had a tax named after him, the Buffett tax, which is about he should pay more than his secretary should. So you can be very frustrated with the political system. I certainly am myself right now. I was in Washington, D.C., Monday and Tuesday meeting with members of the House, talking about things like cutting science budgets is not the way to keep the country strong.

      Like

  50. Perot is neither a conservative nor a republican. FWIW.

    Understood. But he is a billionaire and an advocate of flat taxes. He got 20% of the popular vote mostly from conservatives or else Clinton would have been just another obscure failed candidate.

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    • yello:

      He got 20% of the popular vote mostly from conservatives or else Clinton would have been just another obscure failed candidate.

      Another indication that this allegedly new phenomenon among conservatives is not, in fact, so new.

      Like

  51. Based on your latest, I conclude that you don’t actually believe what you apparently “always say”.

    Curses. Exposed as a lying hypocrite again.

    Like

  52. And we’ve certainly been willing to speak out about that.

    Thanks. I would have suspected as much since he and Buffett are similarly minded. But he is not in the political sphere to the extent that say the Kochs are. As for Bloomberg, he is not in favor of higher marginal rates. If he counts as being in the ‘lefty’ column of your billionaire sort perhaps there are more fellow travelers among the uber-rich than I realize.

    And just so that I don’t get caught in the semantic trap again, I am not saying that all billionaires are supporters of a flat tax but that the most vocal advocates of a flat tax have been billionaires.

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  53. This would put him in that first group in which case he is not a dupe, as I was unfairly tricked into calling him.

    I’m gonna try that on my wife, Scott tricked me into staying out all night!

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  54. Scott, I’m not denying that both political parties/politicians engage in exaggeration and propaganda but as I said earlier in this post, several times, it doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth to the matter we’re discussing. Which is why I was trying to figure out if there was a way to look at it objectively myself. See, we agree on something for a change. I don’t see how it can be done though.

    I continue to think this is inaccurate from you however:

    This is another indication to me that the whole “radical right” talking point is just a left-wing propaganda strategy.

    I think you’re trying to hedge that statement now, which is fine with me, I just wanted to clarify that with or without “propaganda”, I and others still believe we have some substantiated proof of a rightward shift in some areas of either legislation or rhetoric.

    If we don’t agree, we don’t agree, which is even more reason why I think we’ll never be able to verify either position. As I said it’s an interesting idea though.

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  55. I think one strategy (and a smart one, from the perspective of the left) that the D’s have employed is to associate the label “Republican” with being “radical” and “extreme”.

    No Democrat forced Republicans in their own primaries to pick O’Donnell, Akins, or Mourdock. If Dems could pull off this level of false flag campaign I’d admire their organizational skills a bit more. These losses were all self-inflicted by Republicans nominating ‘radical’ and ‘extreme’ candidates in otherwise traditionally conservative regions. You are mistaking the exploitation of an existing phenomenon with the creation of something out of whole cloth.

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    • yello:

      If Dems could pull off this level of false flag campaign I’d admire their organizational skills a bit more.

      I didn’t say it was a false flag campaign. But certainly it isn’t outrageously cynical to wonder how it was that an obscure senate candidate from one of the least populous states in the union became the focal point of national media and opposing party attention. I for one doubt it was because she was just your typical, average Republican candidate spouting off the same rhetoric as the other 36 R candidates that did not come under such intense focus.

      As for Aikin, you should remember that he made his controversial comments after he had already been elected in the primary, Missouri republican leaders actually asked him to step down after he made them, and the national party actually pulled its funding out from under him. This is, in fact, a classic case of what I am talking about, in that what made Aikin controversial is manifestly not representative of the Republican party in general, but the D’s strategy is to make it appear that it is, to the greatest extent possible.

      Like

  56. Example 1 for Scott’s thesis:

    “The radicalism of the current Republican Party – its ideological extremism, disdain for empiricism, the inability to share or modulate power – is, to me, the central problem in American life. In the long run, the resolution to nearly every policy problem depends on the GOP refashioning itself as a normal, non-pathological party.”

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/05/yes-conservative-reformers-exist.html

    Like

  57. JNC, what exactly are you saying, I’m unclear after reading the article? I would like to comment but am not sure what you mean.

    Like

  58. Akin was also receiving support from McKaskill. That’s who she wanted to run against. The Tea Party candidate did not win.

    From my standpoint, Angle, O’Donnell and later Mourdock are what kept the Main sisters in line. Republicans that would have won in those states would have been worse than any D who won. I argue that Chafee was a disaster for R’s and he should have been expelled from the party.

    Like

  59. Just another sample point for whichever point you want to argue, the College Republicans did a post-election survey and Politico summarizes some of the conclusions:

    Big reason for the image problem: The “outrageous statements made by errant Republican voices.”

    Words that up-for-grabs voters associate with the GOP: “The responses were brutal: closed-minded, racist, rigid, old-fashioned.”
    {snip}
    Concerning reproductive issues that have tripped up GOP candidates, “the Republican Party has been painted — both by Democrats and by unhelpful voices in our own ranks — in holding the most extreme anti-abortion positions,” the report said.

    At what point is reality being overshadowed by perception and what is the distinction between the two?

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    • yello:

      At what point is reality being overshadowed by perception and what is the distinction between the two?

      Well, that is the big question. I think that reality is overshadowed by perception quite significantly.

      Like

  60. lmsinca, namely that this observation is accurate:

    “I think one strategy (and a smart one, from the perspective of the left) that the D’s have employed is to associate the label “Republican” with being “radical” and “extreme”. And whatever the truth of the matter is, the strategy is to amplify it out of all proportion.”

    Characterizing the current Republican party as “the central problem in American life” is just hysterical hyperbole if Chait actually believes it or dishonest if he doesn’t.

    In reality, the Republican party is the central obstacle to the enactment of the policy agenda that Chait wants, but not everyone agrees with that agenda.

    Like

  61. I didn’t say it was a false flag campaign.

    No, you didn’t. Nor did I mean to infer you had. I was speaking totally hypothetically. But as Troll points out McKaskill definitely wanted to run against Akin and did things to help that happen. On the other side, there was something so fishy about the Alvin Greene run for the Senate seat from South Carolina in 2010 that I still can’t even hypothesize what really happened there.

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  62. jnc, that’s what I thought. I do agree with this.

    Characterizing the current Republican party as “the central problem in American life” is just hysterical hyperbole if Chait actually believes it or dishonest if he doesn’t

    I think of Chait as a stenographer for the WH primarily. It’s not so much D’s calling for reform from the R’s that I think proves they’re blowing it if they want to return to a national platform of legislating, it’s when R’s complain about the same thing.

    The moderates of the Republican Party who are leaving or being purged never seemed like Democrats to me, more pragmatic than anything else. I don’t know, I suppose we’ll find out what the country thinks of all the Republican governorships and state houses in the next election. Maybe that will tell us something. If they’ve indeed shifted right, I would expect some unpleasant consequences for them in a few states anyway, at least the ones that sit on the fence a little bit.

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  63. Characterizing the current Republican party as “the central problem in American life” is just hysterical hyperbole if Chait actually believes it

    It may be hyperbolic but Republican intransigence seems to be shaping up as a major campaign theme for 2014. Having to deal with a party committed to gridlock is a pretty nice first world problem to have.

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  64. Just to be helpful, I offer these potential slogan to the Republican Party unsolicited and free of charge:

    “We Aren’t As Crazy As We Sound. We Couldn’t Possibly Be.”

    “Republicans: No Nuttier Than We Were In 1960.”

    “Hey Gays, Would You Rather Be Rich Or Married?”

    “Beat The Rush. Become A Republican Before You’re A Billionaire.”

    “Extremism In The Defense Of Liberty Is No Vice.”

    That last one sounds awfully familiar.

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  65. “Extremism In The Defense Of Liberty Is No Vice.”

    Telling that you didn’t write the second half of that statement.

    Like


  66. “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

    Why, the beauty of the very system we Republicans are pledged to restore and revitalize — the beauty of this Federal system of ours — is in its reconciliation of diversity with unity.

    We must not see malice in honest differences of opinion, and no matter how great, so long as they are not inconsistent with the pledges we have given to each other in and through our Constitution.

    Our Republican cause is not to level out the world or make its people conform in computer regimented sameness. Our Republican cause is to free our people and light the way for liberty throughout the world.

    Ours is a very human cause for very humane goals.”

    I can well imagine how horrifying this sounds! (Shudder)

    Like

  67. It was a lovely speech, McWing. Unfortunately, politicians failed to live up to it.

    Like

  68. Michi, I agree, you could say that abt Lincoln’s second inaugural or the Gettysburg Address.

    Yello, IMO, was using to show how radical and extremist we are.

    I am of course, but R’s unfortunately, are not.

    Like

  69. Hey Scott,

    The response is appreciated. The post hit right around the time of the annual review of the project that currently pays my salary. Not that big a deal, but the brother-in-law of my supervisor passed away suddenly and so he was away for the week prior to the review. Then a bunch of hurdles were suddenly erected to our being able to present a progress report to our sponsor. That ate a week.

    If ever want to talk about government waste, that week was a classic example. We’re presenting at a meeting to someone who is paying us to do this work and somebody decides that extra approvals are needed. The only way we were able to present was that UK nationals had to leave the room for us to present data that we’d presented publicly. And everybody in the room had a fucking clearance!

    I truly have had it with my current employer. Some two star jackass had the brilliant idea that no Navy personnel could attend a technical meeting with the word “conference” in the title. I can attend a meeting or a symposium, but not a conference. Let’s leave aside the fact that such presentations are a metric used to judge my performance.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the discussion. I hold to the contention that defense spending as a fraction of GDP or government spending hasn’t shifted significantly in 15 years and thus I don’t see it as a suitable metric of a “recent” shift.

    Cheers!

    FB

    Like

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