Partisan Is As Partisan Does
More commentary from Paul Krugman on the current game of “Our budget proposal is thoughtful, generous, bipartisan, and statesmanlike; and your response to our budget proposal is rude, mean, nasty, uncivil, and poisonously partisan” that House Republicans and their supporters in the media are playing with Democrats at the moment:
Two weeks ago, House Republicans released their big budget proposal, selling it to credulous pundits as a statement of necessity, not ideology — a document telling America What Must Be Done.
But it was, in fact, a deeply partisan document, which you might have guessed from the opening sentence: “Where the president has failed, House Republicans will lead.” It hyped the danger of deficits, yet even on its own (not at all credible) accounting, spending cuts were used mainly to pay for tax cuts rather than deficit reduction. The transparent and obvious goal was to use deficit fears to impose a vision of small government and low taxes, especially on the wealthy.
So the House budget proposal revealed a yawning gap between the two parties’ priorities. And it revealed a deep difference in views about how the world works.
The point is that the two parties don’t just live in different moral universes, they also live in different intellectual universes, with Republicans in particular having a stable of supposed experts who reliably endorse whatever they propose.
So when pundits call on the parties to sit down together and talk, the obvious question is, what are they supposed to talk about? Where’s the common ground?
For what it’s worth, polls suggest that the public’s priorities are nothing like those embodied in the Republican budget. Large majorities support higher, not lower, taxes on the wealthy. Large majorities — including a majority of Republicans — also oppose major changes to Medicare. Of course, the poll that matters is the one on Election Day. But that’s all the more reason to make the 2012 election a clear choice between visions.
Which brings me to those calls for a bipartisan solution. Sorry to be cynical, but right now “bipartisan” is usually code for assembling some conservative Democrats and ultraconservative Republicans — all of them with close ties to the wealthy, and many who are wealthy themselves — and having them proclaim that low taxes on high incomes and drastic cuts in social insurance are the only possible solution.