What is a Big Thinker to do? Most mouthpieces for the elite attempt to convince their followers that such capitulations are expressions of moral worth. They cast anyone who rebels against the elite as an outsider, as David Brooks does in this execrable post on the debt ceiling battle. The centrists are wise, the extremists are insane, and worse of all, the president is acting as if he is an authority, one of the grown-ups in the room, when he is really a child because he refuses to obey.
So Megan McArdle gets out her Fair-n-Balanced hat and tells her audience that they must obey their political leaders.
The deal does not go nearly far enough towards resolving our real fiscal problems: the growing burden of entitlements, and an inefficient tax system loaded with distortionary tax preferences. On the other hand, I don't think there was ever much chance that it was going to. Deficit reduction and fiscal reform are not going to occur overnight. It is going to be a series of painful confrontations and unpleasant choices. This is a decent start.
That said, while I'm basically pleased with the deal, I am not pleased by the way the GOP got us here. Holding the debt ceiling hostage has threatened our credit rating, and further eroded the already dangerously frayed institutional bonds that keep Washington running. I know, I know--you don't want Washington to keep running. But if history is any guide, the Democrats are going to eventually retaliate with something even more extreme--and then the very people saying they despise collegiality and business as usual will be found in my inbox and my comments section, moaning that this unprecedented breach of tradition is the End of Democracy. And I warn you now, I am apt to be very peeved with those people.
Frustrated, McArdle once again addressed the recalcitrance of her followers who were refusing to follow.
One of the frustrating things about the debt ceiling debate has been dealing with the competing narratives spun by those supporting the various positions. It isn't that these narratives are necessarily wrong, but that the people offering them present them with the confidence of someone describing settled history, rather than one possible way (and often far from the most likely way) that events could play out.
Nobody can know anything--meaning only the elite know what is good for their followers.
A lot of conservatives describe a potential shutdown or default as if it were ripped straight from the pages of Atlas Shrugged. Their explanation of why we need to precipitate a crisis is that it's going to happen eventually, and so better now than later.Silly, gullible, Atlas-Shrugged-reading conservatives who believed Jane Galt when she told them the government would collapse. Why won't they believe Megan McArdle when she says they must obey or the government will collapse?
The logic of this is dubious--That's what we said.
we're all going to die eventually, but that doesn't mean I'm eager to hasten the day. As Dave Ramsey says, you don't declare bankruptcy until the bailiffs are at the door: as long as you haven't defaulted, you preserve the important option not to default.
But leave that aside. The problem is really with the larger narrative, in which there is no option but to slash spending, and readjust to a newer, much smaller government.
In this case, "narrative" seems to be defined as "what the elite tell me is true." McArdle says the tea partiers " getting swept away by the power of their narratives," instead of forgetting their old narrative to listen to her new narrative.
I happen to think that my plan--a decade long series of negotiations which will end up with higher taxes and lower spending, and hopefully a welfare state reconfigured to focus on the truly needy--is better than the status quo. But it seems much better than pointlessly shooting up the joint before you get thrown out.
Since "the center" is also defined by the elite, McArdle tells her audience that they all must find the center way, which just happens to collate perfectly with her elite propaganda.
Now, because this a Megan McArdle post, I must point out that the tea partiers are not the only ones getting swept away by the power of their narratives. The left are not, of course, taking their cues from Atlas Shrugged. Instead they appear to think that we are in a particularly gripping season finale of the West Wing, where steely counterbrinksmanship forces moderate Republicans in the House to join with the Democrats to enact a bill more to their liking.McArdle neatly invents a little narrative of her own right here; the first lie is that Democrats refused to accept a deal and the second is that they threatened to shut down the government. Democrats capitulated thoroughly, which coincidentally is just what they elite wanted them to do. But pointing this out would reveal that the center is actually far right, so McArdle lies instead. She throws in an accusation of sanctimony as well since corporate shills must constantly fight off accusations of callousness, which rankles because it is true.
Note the similarity in the base narrative to the Tea Party story: catastrophe has already happened (confidence in the US political system/our fiscal balance has already been destroyed), and the only thing that can avert total disaster is the courage to stand strong in the face of our nation's enemies. They're not risking our credit rating by throwing a tantrum rather than accept that they can't have what they want; they're saving the country from something even worse. We'll thank them later.
And what happens if they're wrong, and the GOP is maybe a little mad that Democrats left them hanging out to dry? What if they don't cross the floor to make a deal on terms more favorable to the Democrats, but decide that as long as they're going down, the jerks who sold them out might as well go down with them? Or what if they decide the same thing that Krugman and Judis are trying to convince the Democrats of: that it would be better to shut the government down than sign a deal that utterly violates their beliefs about what's right for the country? In other words, what if the GOP old guard start acting like the freshmen and the progressive Democrats?Another lie, an unbelievably obvious one. Progressive Democrats are not threatening to shut down the government if they are unable to prevent Republicans from shutting down the government. Krugman's thought are, unsurprisingly, far more complicated than McArdle tries to portray.
August 1, 2011, 11:01 am
What Would I Have Done?
That’s the question Obama’s kinda-sorta defenders keep asking; it’s supposed to be a conversation-stopper.
But the answer is clear: I would have made a statement declaring that giving in to this kind of blackmail would constitute a violation of my oath of office, and that my lawyers, on careful reflection, have determined that there are several legal options that allow me to ignore this extortionate demand.
Now, the Obama people say that this wasn’t actually an option. Well, I hate to say this, but I don’t believe them.
Think about the history here; think about all the misjudgments, all the reasons this administration has come up with not to act — not to act against the bankers, not to act on taxes, and down the line. Think of the colossal misjudgment over Republican intentions on debt. Why, at this point, should anyone trust these people when they say that they did all they could?
It’s much, much too late for Obama and co. to say “Trust us, we know what we’re doing.” My reservoir of trust is now completely drained. And I know I’m not alone.
Crickets again. That's not in the script. In the script, Martin Sheen gives a stirring speech, and shamed GOP freshmen join Benedictine monastaries [sic] in order to hide from an outraged public.Yeah, that Krugman post sure was a rallying call to join together at Obama's side.
Maybe you find these narratives more plausible than I do--but no one who has been reading something besides his own side's press releases could possibly think that they were certain. And the risks are huge--far greater than the potential gains.
This isn't a novel. It's messy, unpleasant reality. But the activists on both sides do not seem to be living in the same world that I am.
Obey your authority or risk being tossed out of the tribe for refusing to publicly conform to their version of reality.