Sunday, June 29, 2014

Defending "Reform Conservatism" With Derpitude

The new book that many conservative commentators are touting as representing a supposedly new and innovative set of conservative policy proposals is Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms fo a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class, put out by the YG Network and edited by Yuval Levin.  Aside from a couple of general bloviatory chapters by Peter Wehner, Levin, and Ramesh Ponnuru, most of the rest of the essays do provide some proposals on various issues, with families the focus of three of the essays.  Some of the proposals are not unreasonable, but only a few of them are really new, with many being old Republican standbys, in some cases going back as far as at least a half century.

James Capretta wants to replace ACA with tax credits on top of the employment system.  If these are supposed to work through the fed income tax system, then how will those without employer insurance who are in the 47% that do not pay fed income taxes gain from this.  Supposedly the system will "guarantee continuous coverage for all Americans," although how this is to be achieved is not made clear, all of this to be achieved with lower costs due to using free markets...

Robert Stein opposes cutting marginal income tax rates, but wants larger child allowances. Not necessarily unreasonable, but more like a marginal adjustment rather than a wild innovation.

Frederick Hess wants school reforms, a hodge podge of online courses and education savings accounts and requiring schools to be more transparent about their "return on investment metrics."  Aren't we already doing the latter with SOLs?  Oh, and he wants to reduce regulations on teachers, which might not be a bad idea, but not again wildly innovative.

Andrew Kelly wants to reform higher ed by changing the student-loan program for give incentives for higher ed programs to "remain affordable."  I am all for restraining costs in higher ed, which have gotten way out of control, but attacking this through the student loan program strikes me as a no-go.  The problem seems to be higher admin salaries and numbers, but how does messing with student loans do anything about that?

Scott Winship advocates using block grants to  states for anti-poverty programs.  Now this is a proposal that is a good half century old, if not older, and an old perennial of conservatives.

Michael Strain wants to increase employment by reducing licensing requirements, providing relocation assistance, and lowering the minimum wage for the long-term unemployed.  The first looks good to me, but this is mostly controlled at state levels, although there has been a surge of this sort of rent seeking at state levels that should be stopped.  I note that relocation assistance might cost money, ahem, although I think it is a good idea.  No comment on the final one.

Adam J. White wants to reform energy by encouraging fracking.  The word "environment" appears once with policymakers urged to "take seriously the concerns that Americans voice regarding the new energy infrastructure's environmental impacts," although he clearly wants the infrastructure for  fossil fuels to go through anyway.  Not a whisper about climate change.

Carrie Lukas is back with families, although opposing fed support of childcare, which she says parents do not like.  She wants resources returned to  parents that will be gained by "consolidating government spending programs," and she wants "policymakers...creating an environment so that women can pursue their vision for happiness and raise their children as they see fit, and target assistance on those truly in need."  Does this mean that she opposes increasing the child exemption that Stein proposes?  I do not know what specific policies lead to this outcome.

James Pethokoukis wants financial reforms and an end to "cronyism," but is amazingly vague on how this is to be achieved, although he want "to limit regulation, reform the financial system, and allow for 'permissionless innovation,'" which this last I might support, but the rest looks like just total mush.

Finally, W. Bradford Wilcox is back on the pro-family schtick, repeating Stein's call for increasing the child tax credit  (to $4.000, how revolutionary!!!), and he also wants to end the marriage penalty in various means-tested programs and the tax code, which I am also OK with, I think.

Some of this is not unreasonable, while some is vague, and some is just worn out old stuff around forever (block grants to states again???).  I will grant that this is better than the usual stuff one hears coming out of commentators on Fox News, so  I suppose we should applaud all this reasonableness.

So, what am I really picking on and where does the derpitude come in?  Well, I had heard about this book previously, but one of my more scholarly libertarian FB friends posted a link to it through a piece in "The Week," by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, "Vox, derp, and the intellectual  stagnation of the left," in which this book is touted as showing how conservatives are all innovative and new and underpy, while "the left," especially as shown by Ezra Klein's Vox and also the New Republic are suffering from "epistemic closure" and "derp."  The comments for my friend's post were worse than even Gobry's with nobody realizing how, well, derpy they were all coming across as.

Gobry claims that "the left" only supports three things, all of them supposedly showing "stagnation" (and derp) due to being "from the 60s."  These are demanding higher marginal taxes on the rich, rasing the minimum wage, and tightening environmental regulation.   Well, actually it was in the 60s that the top marginal income tax rates in the US began to be cut with the Kennedy-Johnson tax cut, but Gobry is too full of derp to apparently know that.  Raising them is an old idea of the 30s and 40s.  Minimum wages have been around since earlier as well, and it is true that in real terms they reached a max in the 60s, so anybody calling for increasing them would be heading vaguely back to then when we had lots of job growth in spite of those supposedly job killing high minimum wages (and while Strain wants to cut min wages, so innovative he is, although that has been going on since the 60s in real terms, so looks like another policy dating from the 60s, derp again).  Finally, it was the 70s when major environmental legislation dates from, but Gobry (and the reform conservatives) do not seem to care at all that much of the world is worried about global warming.  Not a problem for him or his people.  Frack on, derp derp derp!

Finally, as for Gobry's criticism of Klein's Vox, which I pay no attention to myself, his big criticism there is to dump on them having a bunch of posts defending Obamacare and saying that it works.  How dare they?  Somehow I do not think that Gobry has noticed Krugman's point that of 6 famous forecasts of doom about ACA by its opponents, not a one of them has come true.  And in fact that this is what these articles in Vox are about.  But, hey, Gobry is handing out a party line, even when it is screamingly false, while accusing those he is criticizing of engaging in derp.  Sorry, but all the derp appears to be on the side of the one calling it out, which he thought he was being so clever to do.  Instead, he is just engaging in derp, derp, derp all the way.

Barkley Rosser

No comments: