Friday, January 21, 2011

Discourse With No Recourse

I've written about this, too, recently, but here's a more credible source than me. Regarding the Rs rejection of the CBO scores for the ACA and for its repeal and the larger implications for the republic:

Democrats say the bill reduces the deficit. Republicans say that the bill explodes the deficit. And when the scorekeeper tries to intervene, Republicans take aim at the scorekeeper.

Real debate isn't possible under those circumstances. But that's not the only danger here: When you have a scorekeeper respected by all sides, legislation ends up being more fiscally responsible. Fear of a bad score is why Democrats, though they disagreed with the CBO's modeling and thought their reforms would save more money with less pain, went back to the drawing board and include cost-saving provisions that they didn't like and that they knew might hurt them in the polls. The end result? A vastly more fiscally responsible bill. The process worked.

But since that put Republicans in a bind -- after all, how bad could this legislation be if it fulfilled its goals while paying for itself? -- they've turned on the process. That's not only left the two sides arguing from different sets of facts, but undermined the incentives of future congressional majorities to work with the CBO to release fiscally responsible legislation. After all, if no one cares about the score, why kill yourself chasing it?

This makes the debate over health care policy entirely pointless -- we're talking about a Republican Party that still very much approves of "creating their own reality" -- while undermining the policymaking process in a rather fundamental way.

Simultaneously, given the intellectual bankruptcy of conservative "wonks," we're reminded that the near future looks pretty bleak when it comes to substantive discourse. The wonks are hacks; the pols who rely on the wonks are fools; and the rank-and-file GOP voters who rely on the wonks and pols are played for suckers.

Played for suckers. Couldn't have said it better, although I've tried.

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