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Kevin Drum Enthusiastically Praises Jonathan Chait on Bush the Class Warrior

Kevin Drum writes:

Kevin Drum: fears of Bush the Fascist and Bush the Theocrat are little more than minstrel shows that distract us from truly taking notice of Bush the Plutocrat—and that’s the Bush that really matters. This, along with Chait’s trademark take-no-prisoners writing style, is the great strength of The Big Con.... Take supply-side economics. There are, it’s true, a few honest supply-siders.... [But] it has become little more than a carnival barker’s cure-all: Cut taxes and the economy will boom! There isn’t a practicing economist in the country who believes this, but that hasn’t stopped Republican primaries from becoming virtual meat markets where the candidates vie to outbid each other over their fealty to tax cuts today, tax cuts tomorrow, tax cuts forever.

Why? As Chait points out, the answer is simple if you don’t mind being thought unsophisticated: Republicans do it not because it’s defensible policy, but because tax cut jihadism is popular with both the rich donors and the corporate lobbying groups who contribute to their campaigns.

How do they get away with this?... [A] big modern Republican sin: their almost complete disregard for policy analysis.... Analysis is for wimps.... [T]he post-Gingrich discovery by Republicans that an awful lot of what happens in Washington isn’t governed by actual rules, but by mere traditions.... [A] single purpose: passing business-friendly pork as efficiently and as quietly as possible. Tax bills, energy bills, Medicare prescription bills: all become mere vehicles for corporate largesse.

There’s also the peculiar way in which Republicans publicly defend their policies: by talking like liberals. “Republicans simply can’t win office or get their plans enacted into law, without fundamentally misleading the public,” Chait says. “Lying has become a systematic necessity.” The reason is obvious: if you sell tax cuts on their actual merits (i.e., they help Enron and Rupert Murdoch), no one will support you.... And it’s not just tax cuts. Business-friendly environmental policies are sold as “Healthy Forests” and “Clear Skies.” Business-friendly legal policies are sold as a way to stop “lawsuit abuse.” Business-friendly Medicare legislation is sold as a way of helping out Granny and Gramps. And the whole thing is sold under the umbrella of “compassionate conservatism.” It turns out that the only way to sell business-friendly conservative policies is to pretend they’re actually liberal policies.

As Chait points out, however, Republicans could never have gotten away with this without some help from the media... trained to assume that the “center” is a reasonable place to be, and that the center is the midpoint between the two parties.... [And] most reporters really don’t care much about policy. In fact, they’re often contemptuous of it. Rather, they care about personalities, “character,” scandals, polling numbers, and backroom deal making. The result is that Republicans can engage in transparent class warfare with barely even a pretense at serious justification and the press either doesn’t notice or doesn’t really care...