Weekend Reading: Robert Waldmann: Dynamic Inefficiency
Hoisted from 1999: Review of Paul Krugman, The Return of Depression Economics.

And One Last Sardonic The-Clown-Show-That-Is-the-Washington-Post April Fools' Day Post...

Dan Balz of the Washington Post finally, finally says: I have not been doing my job! I'll admit to more than four years, but actually it's been a lot longer!

So what are you going to do to gain a reputation as a trusted information intermediary, Dan?

Dan Balz: Can Paul Ryan and Donald Trump Coexist within the Republican Party?: "Four years ago... Thomas Mann... and Norman Ornstein...

...took aim at the gridlocked and dysfunctional politics of Washington and the broader issue of political polarization that has become endemic in recent years. They were unsparing but not even-handed in their critique. They were ahead of others in describing the underlying causes of polarization as asymmetrical, with the Republican Party--in particular its most hard-line faction--as deserving of far more of the blame for the breakdown in governing.

Mann and Ornstein are back again with a second and updated paperback edition.... Trump and Cruz have brought to the surface the economic and cultural anger among many of those in the party’s base as well as the distrust of the party leadership--the same motivating forces behind the Freedom Caucus rebels in the House Republican conference. The current campaign only adds fuel to the Mann-Ornstein thesis of a Republican Party at war with itself in ways that have helped cripple the governing process....

[Will] this presidential campaign ultimately... produce a true course change for the [Republican] Party or merely end up intensifying the forces that have brought it to this moment[?] I put that question to Ornstein.... 'This really is, I believe, an existential crisis for the Republican Party,’ he wrote:

Will it be a Ryan-style conservative, problem-solving party, or will it be either a Trump-style, authoritarian, nativist and protectionist party, or a Cruz-style radical anti-government party content with blowing things up as they now stand? Or, just as possible, will the party break apart, with no clue as to what will replace it or how the pieces will fit into the broader political system?

The prospects for a crackup are real, given what Trump’s candidacy has revealed about the party’s fractured coalition.... The Republican Party remains a party of protest. It continues to struggle to demonstrate that, on the national level, it can be a true governing party.

Of course, Paul Krugman then points out that for at least nine years before 2012, Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann were playing the opinions-of-shape-of-earth-differ hopscotch needed to get on the Sunday Washington shows:

Paul Krugman: On Twitter:

And Larry Summers would then say that nine years before that, it was Paul Krugman who saw Democrats and Republicans as equivalent in essence--Republican budget-busters, Democratic protectionists:

Paul Krugman (1994): Peddling Prosperity: Economic Sense and Nonsense in the Age of Diminished Expectations: "Imagine the following scenario...

...The strategic traders in the Clinton administration nonetheless present their demands at an economic summit--and the Japanese reject them.... There is no real policy option other than to close U.S. markets to Japanese goods. And so protectionism it is.... Within two years the results of four decades of negotiations to open world markets are reversed. An unlikely scenario? At the time of writing, much of it had already happened. The Treasury Department is usually a bastion of free trade thinking, but in May 1993 Lawrence Summers... Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, asserted... 'Japan's surplus is the major asymmetry in the global economy' and that this surplus was a 'significant drag on global growth'.... [Thus] '[t]he United States will focus less on process and more on results, and results have to be measurable.' Everyone knew what he meant: the U.S. Trade Representative had for weeks been telling reporters that the United States was likely to demand that Japan impose a ceiling on its trade surplus...

I remember Larry stomping around the office, cursing and saying: "I can't believe he wrote that! I can't believe he wrote that!"

But we're all in agreement now, right? It's not important whether the start is 1990 and Gingrich's decision to try to destroy the George H.W. Bush wing of the Republican Party, Bob Dole's decision to back Gingrich and demand lockstep opposition to deficit reduction in 1993, Rehnquist's and Sentelle's decision to name the extraordinarily partisan Ken Starr to OIC, Gingrich's decision to back Starr in 1998--which brought down Gingrich--Bush and Cheney in 2003's decision to lie us into a war, or Boehner and McConnell's decision in 2009 to not treat Obama like a President.

So let's not bicker and argue over who killed who...

Group hug, everyone?


Eric Boehlert: Seven Years Late, Media Elites Finally Acknowledge GOP's Radical Ways: "Now they tell us the Republican Party is to blame?...

...That the Obama years haven't been gummed up by Both Sides Are To Blame obstruction? The truth is, anyone with clear vision recognized a long time ago that the GOP has transformed itself since 2009 into an increasingly radical political party, one built on complete and total obstruction. It's a party designed to make governing difficult, if not impossible, and one that plotted seven years ago to shred decades of Beltway protocol and oppose every inch of Obama's two terms. ('If he was for it, we had to be against it,' former Republican Ohio Sen. George Voinovich once explained.)

And for some of us, it didn't take Donald Trump's careening campaign to confirm the destructive state of the GOP. But if it's the Trump circus that finally opens some pundits' eyes, so be it.

Recently, Dan Balz, the senior political writer for the Washington Post, seemed to do just that while surveying the unfolding GOP wreckage as the party splinters over Trump's rise. Balz specifically noted that four years ago political scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein examined the breakdown in American politics and zeroed in their blame squarely on Republicans:

They were ahead of others in describing the underlying causes of polarization as asymmetrical, with the Republican Party -- in particular its most hard-line faction -- as deserving of far more of the blame for the breakdown in governing.

Balz acknowledged.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional

Mann and Ornstein wrote in The Washington Post in 2012:

In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

They continued:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Tough stuff.

And what was the Beltway media's response when Ornstein and Mann squarely blamed Republicans during an election year for purposefully making governing impossible? Media elites suddenly lost Mann and Ornstein's number, as the duo's television appearances and calls for quotes quickly dried up. So did much of the media's interest in Mann and Ornstein's prescient book.

'This was far too much for the mainstream press,' noted New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen:

They couldn't assimilate what Mann and Ornstein said AND maintain routines and assumptions that posited a rough symmetry between the two parties. ('Both sides do it.') It was too much dissonance. Too much wreckage. So they pushed it away.

For anyone who still harbors the naïve notion that the political debates staged by the Beltway press represent freewheeling discussions where anything goes, the Mann/Ornstein episode helped shed some light on the fact that certain topics and analysis remain off limits for public debate for years--even topics that are accurate, fair and essential to understanding our government's current dysfunction.