Morning Must-Read: Richard Milne: Central banks: Stockholm Syndrome
Afternoon Must-Read: Lawrence Summers: Companies on Trial

Lunchtime Must-Read: Matthew Yglesias: The GOP's Counterproductive Policy Strategy

Matthew Yglesias: The GOP's political strategy against Obama keeps leading to policies conservatives hate: "Republicans' strategy has been savvy politics, but it's forced them...

...repeatedly — to accept worse policy outcomes than they otherwise could have obtained. Alleged presidential overreach is largely a mirror-image of systematic congressional underreach... deliberately choos[ing] to leave obtainable policy concessions on the cutting room floor.... The clearest example of obstructionism leading to policy costs is probably the Affordable Care Act. Democrats had the votes to get this done, but the party was plainly desperate for bipartisan cover. In exchange for votes, Republican members of congress could have gotten tort reform or other policy priorities. But they preferred to keep their fingerprints off the bill, even if that meant a policy outcome they liked less. On climate change, Republican behavior was even more counterproductive.... A similar preference for worse policy outcomes has manifested itself through inaction.... Obama, in other words, was offering a real policy concession (entitlement cuts) in exchange for political cover for tax hikes that were going to happen anyway. But Republicans preferred to keep their fingerprints off any kind of action, even if that meant a policy outcome they liked less. These triple-breakdowns of bipartisanship have made Obama a much less popular and successful-looking president.... But... fFor a party driven by a core commitment to low taxes and welfare state rollback, it's a bit odd.... [The Republican] Congress is, itself, violating a basic norm of American politics — the norm that says given a choice between a better policy outcome and a worse one, a legislator should choose the better outcome.... If Republicans wanted more conservative-friendly policy outcomes, they could be getting them. But they prefer more Republican-friendly political outcomes...

I think Matt is definitely on to something. Republicans are, right now, temporarily (those of us interested in good policies have to hope), the majority legislative party. Yet they are acting like a fringe party in a proportional-representation system in which their seats depend on satisfying the ideological preferences of a small political minorities rather than the substantive, pragmatic policy preferences of a majority.

Perhaps the most puzzling thing is how few of the policy intellectuals and the technocrats whose substantive policy ideas would be thought likely to have the most traction on the Republican side of the aisle are worried about this or spend any time working on this. The end result of Obama's presidency Will be national health, spending and taxing, climate, and immigration policies that are much worse from the viewpoint of the substantive policy preferences of most Republicans than could easily have been the case. And the Republicans have traded away this low-hanging fruit for what? Have they raised their long-run chances of partisan political domination? Have they raised the chance of a Republican president come 2017? Have they made Ron Fornier, Chuck Lane, and Clive Crook dislike Barack Obama?