Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


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Fear and Consequence

Update: This post was adapted by The Huffington Post. You can find that article here.

“They remain in the same place: They expect taxes to go up on the wealthy and to protect Medicare and Medicaid benefits. They feel confident that they don’t have to compromise.” –White House meeting attendee

“We have to make sure that people who vote for socialism feel the consequences of voting for socialism.” –Bill Whittle

“Elections have consequences, America, and at the end of the cliff, I won!”

In the flurry of ideas about the future of the Republican Party and the contentious talks over the Sequester of Damocles, I decided to humor my Facebook friends by posting a conservative post-election take on A Modest Proposal:

“Also, if the GOP agrees to tax hikes in exchange for something else – like entitlement reform, but only the promise of reform which we know will never come to fruition – they will predictably get slaughtered for “caving” instead of compromising, which is actually what they’d be doing. Again, the GOP doesn’t have the skill or a complicit media to explain how they compromised while Obama and Democrats didn’t…

So what do they do? They’re stuck in a no-win situation. The answer is simple: Give Obama what he wants. All of it. Don’t negotiate. Just say, “Put your plan up for a vote and we’ll pass it. You will own everything that happens moving forward. We’ll do it your way.””

Presumably, there are a good many liberals who would love this approach, as it would allow them to get everything they want with some appearance of bipartisanship. As terrifying as it seems to conservatives, many do sincerely believe that fealty to obsolescing Great Society politics is part of a robust model for a better world. But the response I received was more interesting than any of that. To quote a Democrat-voting friend:

“Well yes, Obama did win, so I want Republicans to give up on Grover Norquist and accept tax hikes on the rich, but stay true to their other principles at the negotiation table. That is what a moderate Republican would do in my eyes. And that’s what ‘negotiation’ is.”

Curiously, it’s not enough for this friend to have his policy preferences enacted over Republican objections. He wants conservatives to be complicit in the act of raising taxes for nothing more than the hot air of hope for real change later. If this were accomplished, a caricature of conservatism would share equally in any blame for economic pain to come, and future politicians could pretend that nobody “serious” foresaw the calamity. My friend aside, the crux of nearly every argument from the Left for “moderation” and “balance” on the conservative commitment to limited government and free enterprise is this implicit desire for an ostensibly substantive—but actually empty—Republican stamp of involvement in a policy agenda that comes light in the arena of serious long-term proposals for averting disaster.

There is nothing “moderate” about Obama imperiously doubling his demand for more taxes or refusing to discuss cuts he will pursue for “balance”. Even as the President campaigned today against the dangers of tax hikes on small businesses, he has already reneged on his campaign promise to support a once bipartisan effort to lower corporate taxes and make American enterprise more competitive. This “balanced approach” denudes any leverage for securing necessary cuts that Democrats are already fighting. Necessary reforms will not be popular, and they will certainly not be more readily achieved when the incentive to produce them—expanded revenue—is already conceded and enacted.

So if Democrats are so eager to avenge the myth of Robin Hood against the dastardly “rich”, independent of all else, what does the “balanced” end game look like? What are the reforms that will secure Medicare beyond the next decade? Where is the talk of addressing the appreciating regulatory burden on businesses and energy policy? If we disapprove of offshore accounts, where is the attendant discussion about why American investors find it more profitable to send capital overseas than maintain it domestically? If Clinton-era tax rates are so preferable, where is the talk of reducing state taxes to 90s levels and restoring Clinton-era spending?

The right answers to these and other questions will do a lot more good for a lot more people than all the rate hikes in the world. Republicans are not out defending the rich against all reason. We are trying to ensure an actual balanced approach is accomplished in a matter broadly agreeable and efficacious in the face of ongoing intransigence from a storm of special interests with stakes in the status quo.

But while we’re on the subject, “the rich”—however defined—are neither the enemy nor wanting for patriotism. They just want to be industrious and successful like anybody else, and they find their fortunes where our policies encourage them to do so. If our current economic climate is not sufficiently geared towards growth and broad prosperity, then we’ll be in for a long, dark ride through the next four years.

Elections have consequences, America. I hope we’re ready for them all.

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The Medicare Candidate

“Obama cut HOW much from Medicare?!”

I sometimes try to keep up with Rachel Maddow (come on, somebody has to). I managed to get away from my busy schedule of destroying all happiness for the non-rich—Shh! don’t tell the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy—to watch one of her recurring, well-choreographed rants against Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s Medicare proposals.

If you’ve been following the recent tide of media coverage of Ryan, you’re probably drowning in a sea of terror. He’s been linked to Ayn “For the Love of Money is the Root of All Good” Rand, whom we are to believe is the indomitable hero of American Conservatism. He’s been accused of throwing Granny off a cliff to help his buddy, Mitt Romney, pay less than 1% in taxes. And he’s a terrible Christian, allegedly.

Of course, Paul Ryan is not an Objectivist, tries to honor Catholic teaching, and doesn’t require his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged. And since we’re on the topic of Ayn Rand, many of my friends and I have read some of her works—usually ­The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged—and the vast majority of us, liberal and conservative, are not Objectivists. To contest this is to suggest every fan of Twilight endorses Mormonism and your friend who recommended The Chronicles of Narnia has bent the knee to Orthodox Anglicanism. Then again, I hear the admirers of Gandhi are all secret Hindus.

The aim of all this mudslinging is to obfuscate the real issues on the table and the president’s lack of serious solutions. To this end, liberals are largely ignoring the fact that Ryan has offered multiple concrete proposals to start a conversation, including a Medicare plan designed with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Many reports on Ryan’s Medicare plan have not even mentioned Wyden, let alone how a Blue-State liberal Democratic senator could conspire to kill Grandma.

To her credit, Maddow did touch on the issue, noting that Wyden eventually opposed Ryan’s 2013 budget proposal. But she mendaciously conveniently ignores glosses over the fact that Wyden did, in fact, co-write a Medicare plan with Ryan. The bill Wyden eventually voted down was a larger budget package ultimate killed by partisan gimmicks Democratic leadership months later. (Turns out, Harry Reid is allergic to budgets.) Fearful of becoming the next Cory Booker, Wyden is distancing himself from Ryan to preserve his party’s highly disingenuous cheap shot political weapon.

Whether you agree with Ryan’s proposals or not, he has put forth several and made earnest—and occasionally successful—attempts to cross the aisle. By contrast, the Medicare bill Obama got passed by partisan fiat cut $716 billion to fund ObamaCare. He doesn’t appear to have much else.

Why didn’t Obama do more to enact real reform when he had huge majorities in both houses? Why did the Democrats squander so much time and political capital on a lackluster healthcare takeover when there were other priorities? Why are liberals pretending the Ryan-Wyden plan is the abomination of desolation? Is anything not the Republicans’ fault?  Those are excellent questions! Maybe Maddow and the others will start asking them. (Don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath.)

In any case, the next time you hear some pundit ranting against conservative ideas, keep track of the competing Democratic proposals. If you haven’t already, you may start to understand why the last best hope of the Obama campaign apparently lies in Mitt Romney’s tax returns.


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Hey Girl, It’s Paul Ryan!

“If you believe that trying what we’ve already tried and didn’t work is worth trying again… that’s your choice.” –Barack Obama

I’d have done it sooner, but President Obama added more debt in 3 years than his 43 predecessors combined.

First off, a hearty congrats to Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) for receiving the nod to join the GOP ticket. I can’t wait for the spirited attacks from totally-not-the-Obama-campaign left-wing Super PACs accusing him of conspiring to starve children, enslave women, torture grandma, and any other fair and accurate criticisms. In making this pick, Gov. Romney has jumped whole hog into a campaign centered on competing visions for the future of civilization, as opposed to merely running as the Anti-Obama. This is the riskier but better choice, and it should help us avoid the despair event horizon of an incorrigibly negative campaign. The American people deserve a serious conversation, and Paul Ryan will make for a great leader in it. That said…

As should surprise no sapient persons, the Obama people are already attacking Ryan’s first budget with vicious aplomb. Of course, we all know that Ryan has also sponsored bipartisan legislation to improve Medicare and ensure its viability. But that’s far too inconvenient a fact for the president’s surrogates. Speaking of budgets, I can’t wait for somebody to ask the president why we have gone more than three years without one. Obviously he has a good reason, or else he wouldn’t be highlighting such a glaring personal weakness to fight a man who at least attempted to do his job. I guess time will tell.

And in case you’re wondering whether a charming Midwestern budget wonk has the experience and wherewithal to be president, just remember: the alternative is a community organizer. At the top of the ticket. You’re welcome.

For some closing treats, Paul Ryan has a new VP Twitter account and Facebook page. More importantly, in case you missed it, the aspiring young veep is also a meme!

These next few months will be fun.