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Posted by on Sep 1, 2011 in Politics | 28 comments

Quote of the Day: “Memo to GOP: Don’t Run on What Voters Don’t Want”

Our political Quote of the Day comes in the form of a probably fruitless plea in the form of a memo from the must-read Frum Forum’s Fred Bauer telling Republicans they need to focus on jobs and the economy and not think that running on entitlement reform is a wise idea. Here’s the beginning:

With the national debt skyrocketing, a faction on the right is hoping to turn the 2012 election into a debate on entitlement reform. No doubt, many Democrats are hoping the very same thing.

Democrats would view that development as a chance to gain politically, while some Republicans would see it as a chance to demonstrate their purity.

Charging forth under the motto of William F. Buckley, standing “athwart history, yelling Stop,” many conservatives have an affection for martyrdom. And it is not a uniquely conservative mistake to believe that, if something is hard, it is also worthwhile.

Running on entitlement reform would be very hard. Social Security, the centerpiece of American social insurance, is far more popular than tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans or other beloved positions of supposed fiscal hawks. Though many Americans recognize that Medicare is on an unsustainable course, they also want to ensure that the elderly can have sufficient medical care. And bromides about “self-reliance” apart from “socialistic” government intervention can be grating when they come from millionaires who have collected many years’ worth of government paychecks. Moreover, it’s hard to run a presidential campaign, a genre of the broad brush, with the mechanical pencil of policy minutia.

Yet the difficulty of running on entitlements should not obscure the fact that running on entitlements and focusing excessive energy on curbing entitlements will not solve what truly ails the economic health of the nation and drives our immediate and medium-term deficits: the poor employment picture.

And the last few paragraphs:

Republicans would have much to gain by making the economy the door to a broader critique of the Obama administration: that this economic frustration is representative of a broader failure to channel the energies of a free people; that, rather than focusing on the practical trials of American workers, this administration chose instead to use this crisis to indulge in ideology; that its rapid expansion of regulatory power has served not to level the playing field but instead to provide a vehicle for favoritism and political payback. Many of the excesses and limitations of the Obama administration can be seen in its economic policies, so Republicans can make a broader, principled case against Obama while also being anchored in the economic realities of the moment.

Republicans can say to voters, In 2008, you voted in Barack Obama and scores of Democrats in hopes of a new way forward. Disappointment has been the recompense for all your hopes. We can offer a better path. Growth built not on debt but on innovation and production. An economy based not on hollowing out and corporate raiding, where the profits go to an ever-shrinking minority, but on the productive labor of the broad range of the American workforce, where a true rising tide will lift all boats. We can offer an economy of freedom, where opportunity is not the purview of the few but the promise of the many. The world has changed over the past decade, but the thinking of many in Washington has not kept pace with that change. Well, now is the time to renew the American spirit of freedom, innovation, and prosperity—not for some Americans but for all Americans.

Such an aspirational, forward-looking message has, I think, more in it electorally and intellectually than do hectoring declarations that the Democrat party (or the RINO establishment or the federal government as a whole) is a hive of traitorous socialists who hate the United States and freedom. It also has a lot more zip than endlessly insisting, No, I really don’t want to push Granny off a cliff. In fact, based on current actuarial projections, at the rate of current spending, the Social Security trust fund will be depleted by such-and-such a date, unless we start to adjust COLA standards and….

Now read it in its entirety.

This is the problem with the current incarnation of Republican conservatives — perfectly capsualized in the last paragraph. In fact, brilliantly. The use of the word “Democrat party” — a kind of nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah pre-school political behavior, using a term for Democrats BECAUSE you know it is a term used that they don’t like and is used with the intent of disparging them….considering Republicans who are to the left of you (and there are quite a few) RINOS, or others socialists, and thinking by quoting an analysis of numbers that some may in fact not agree with is going to do the trick.

It comes down the concept of the need to build coalitions, try to PERSUADE as this Republican has urged conservatives to do — to try and win the argument and increase positive perceptions not just aim to get 50 plus one enough to win and to use power politics to defeat the other side.

There are Republicans who see things this way. It’s just they don’t seem to be in the ascent right now in a party that seems more concerned with how Rush Limbaugh will react and Tea Party members react than Americans who are disappointed in Barack Obama and who might consider someone else might react. Elections are won often on people voting for the less foaming at the mouth candidate, you know.

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  • Allen

    Why is it that all other modern nations have healthcare for ALL their people? Why is it that citizens of most all other modern nations can retire much much earlier than Americans can retire and on much better income? Why is it that our standard of living for our general population is far lower than several other modern nations? Why is it that many other modern nations have education opportunities far greater than within the United states, simply because it‘s costing too much here? Why is it that in America, you must sue, (should you be able to afford it), to get the social justice you deserve, when in other nations the government efficiently protects and enforces your consumer rights in far more circumstances? Why is it that we are the police of the world and that OUR young must die in far larger numbers than the rest of modern earth? Why do we have the richest of the rich, in their minority quantities, getting away with murder when we ALL have one vote each?

    You ask all these “whys” and eventually you realize that there is indeed a massive fundamental problem with a government bought and paid for by the highest bidders.

    You realize that the effort and cost of media propaganda designed to portray these illogical, unsubstantiated accusations , horrendously Looney Tune comments, shoot from the hip dufus drivel, always referring to mega loads of falsified or otherwise skewed statistical data must be equal to the national deficit in itself! What an EFFORT it has become just to screw over your own fellow countrymen!

    WHY on earth screw your own people? Don’t you know they will rise up and kill you one day?

    History repeating itself…..over…and…over….

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Allen, you ask some very good questions and it will be interesting to see what kind of answers you’ll get.

    Obviously, one of the answers will be “because they pay (much) higher taxes,” which is true, but then one must balance the benefits vs. the additional taxes.

    While Europeans complain about the high taxes (I have lived there many years), I don’t think very many of them would want to go back to a system of everyone for themselves–with the exception of the very rich, perhaps.

  • Dr. J

    That’s a lot of “why” questions with complex answers, Allen. One quick one: because they’re not nations of immigrants, they don’t have our unique history, and they don’t shoulder the global responsibilities that we have as part of being the biggest economy.

    As with global warming, “why” is a less useful question than “what do we do about it?” Making government not be for the highest bidder sounds great, but I have yet to hear anyone describe how to place government beyond the influences of big interest groups and big dollars.

  • slamfu

    I think a debate on entitlement reform is a wash for both parties. The GOP wants to do things to it that screws poor people, while the Dems have no plan to address any issues because they lack the balls to do anything. Any debate on the topic during election season will be a huge waste of time.

  • Stray Mongrel

    Why does everyone define “Reform” as “Abolition”?

    The fact is, that entitlements DO need reform. Changes DO need to be made. This does not mean abolishment, but re-forming it into a better system than exists now.

    This is something I would think all Americans would support, whether on the Left or Right.

    There are people that steal money from Taxpayers that don’t deserve it, that needs to stop immediately. There are Americans that need entitlements to ensure their survival, that can’t get them, and that needs to be addressed immediately as well.

    This is an important subject that needs to be put on the table, and discussed as soon as humanly possible. Suppressing any and all discussion on the subject, or twisting it into “abolition” is irresponsible, and un-American.

  • DaGoat

    Frum’s article highlights the difference between the issues you get elected with and the unpleasant issues that need to be dealt with. The prior issues are politically calculated and based on voter popularity, the latter are necessary but unpopular. Entitlement reform needs to happen but it’s not going to get you elected. Frum is right from a pragmatic standpoint.

  • Stray Mongrel

    The reason “Entitlement Reform” won’t get you elected is because it’s constantly spun to mean “Abolish” instead of “Change”.

    That’s the point I am making.

    A crappy benefits system exists because of polarized party bullshit, and ridiculous political spin. Instead of reasonable honest discussion.

    If a Republican or Democrat wants my support, they MUST address the unpopular financial issues right now. I don’t want to hear the phrase “Don’t Worry”, that’s just a cop-out.

    Saying “Don’t Worry” or just “Keeping Quiet” on the subject is the same as giving me a virtual “Middle Finger”.

  • Allen

    Dr. J-

    We shouldn’t be “shouldering” any responsibilities that our “Biggest Economy” can afford without taking care of our own people FIRST. Like the REST of the world does!

    Because we are a nation of “Immigrants” is irrelevant. We have a nation. We have people. Those people’s COMMON WEALFARE is the Constitution’s Mandated United States government responsibility before any responsibilities out side our borders! Thanks to the Republican Party, government cannot even do what the Constitution REQUIRES government to do that other nations do as a matter of simple moral principal.

    So what good is the Constitution if the Republican Party will not follow it and just make up their own BS mandates above the Constitution…like Tax Cuts for their buddies the rich, while our people suffer?

  • Jim Satterfield

    Gee, could it be because the Republican candidate who currently leads in the polls wrote in a book that he still stands by that every federal social program is unconstitutional?

  • JSpencer

    Geat analysis and great comments!

  • Dr. J

    Those people’s COMMON WEALFARE is the Constitution’s Mandated United States government responsibility before any responsibilities out side our borders!

    You make it sound so easy, Allen. Are stable oil supplies part of the common welfare? Or preempting terrorist attacks? Which serves the common welfare better: letting you retire 10% earlier, or letting you keep 10% more of your paycheck?

  • The “common welfare” clause wasn’t a power until the supreme court caved under threat of being marginalized. It was a preambulatory clause before that. It means what the supreme court wants it to mean, because that’s the group that made up its new meaning. It confers no obligations.

    I also don’t universal health insurance would be the fix you’re thinking it would be. You can’t rant about how awful it is that corporations control congress, and at the same time want to give that same congress more authority over our lives. Corporate giveaway heaven, it would be.

  • Allen

    Dr. J-


    Nobody else seems to have those problems. So stop the hyperbole.

    If EVERY OTHER modern nation can do it, why can’t we??

    Answer please. I’m waiting.

  • Allen


    Oh spare me.

    I’ll tell you what Provide for the Common Welfare does NOT mean.

    It does NOT mean people in this country should lose their homes because of hospital bills.

    It dose NOT mean that people should have to go into debt for nearly their entire lives just to get an education.

    It does NOT mean people should have to survive like animals in a cage on welfare because they cannot afford an education to get a job with.

    It does NOT mean the elderly whom were forced to spend their lives in low paying jobs unable to save for a retirement should have to live like frightened pets on barely enough to eat on.

    It does NOT mean that the Rich pay no tax and everybody else does.

    It does NOT mean that military adventurism around the world should be the basic job training plan for our working class young at the expense of their lives.

    It does NOT mean that when disaster strikes it takes the government (Bush) a week to even begin with relief because they are to darn cheap.

    It does NOT mean that business can rape and pillage the incomes of our population with extremely high and unjustified profits just because there is an important need for those products.

    Believe me I have plenty more.

    …and if we would keep our public mouths shut about how great we are to the world, we might not need to waste so much money on military adventurism.

    Corporations MUST be put under the PEOPLE’s control!

  • You already got your answer, Allen. Any power that congress takes, like with the ACA, it uses to feed corporations first. This has been going on for decades, with no sign to abating, and yet you want to give them even more. What makes you think that congress would try to put up anything more that the slightest veneer of helping people?

  • Allen


    I have TWO choices.

    1. Republican
    2. Democrat

    Democrats express social Justice.

    Republicans express nothing but gridlock and goofy public comments.

    You cannot lump the two together. Clearly the best buy here is Democrat.

  • Dr. J

    Nobody else seems to have those problems. So stop the hyperbole.

    If EVERY OTHER modern nation can do it, why can’t we??

    Where do you want to start, Allen? Why don’t other nations have to spend as much ending genocides, trying to stabilize foreign conflicts, and securing necessities like oil? Obviously, because we’re we doing it. You can liken it to roommates: the one who’s 1% more sensitive to the full trash can ends up taking out the trash 90% of the time.

    Why can’t we have affordable health care? Because the government set up our system to consist of medicare, medicaid, and employer-sponsor health insurance. That squeezes accountability out of the system so effectively that the result works *even worse* than the socialized systems of other countries. So why can’t we change it? Because every one of those programs now has a large and vocal constituency.

    Why can’t we have a social safety net that gives everyone job security and a comfortable retirement? After all, some Greeks can retire at 45. We can’t have it because we can’t afford it, and neither can they. Greece is bankrupt, the other PIIGS are heading that way, the Euro is in danger of collapsing, and they’re rioting in London. Where’s the success story?

  • Absalon

    Yeah, you yanks sure are ending lots of genocides. When you are not causing them. How many Iraqis died from the ridiculous embargoes, again?

    Also, remember when W waved all your impressive military toys around and told the evil-doers in Darfur and other places to stop? Brought that to a screeching halt. Oh wait, the screeching was from the civilians, whose killers didn’t care one bit about the supposed Pax Americana.

    As for securing oil out of the goodness of your hearts – yeah, but you are using ridiculous amounts of it while laughing at green technologies and whining about mileage standards and adjusting to a world with less oil, so ‘thanks’ for that.

  • Stray Mongrel

    As soon as Bush gets mentioned, I tune out. That’s the sign that the argument has derailed.

    How did the subject of “Talking about sensible Entitlement Reform instead of brushing the subject under the rug” turn into this ridiculous huge argument about R vs D?

    This is why nobody in Congress can get shit done, and it’s both sides fault.

    Fuck R & D. Both sides make me sick.

  • rudi

    Seems no one wanted to answer your questions. Could it be that EU national health care is both better and cheaper than the US model. Even Switzerland, which went with a national Obama/Romney type plans has lower costs and better care than our market driven health care system.

  • Dr. J


    Seems you missed the answers.

  • “I have TWO choices. 1. Republican 2. Democrat”
    No, you, like many others, have limited yourself to two pathetic choices. If you want to know why our politics suck so much, this is the primary problem.

    “Democrats express social Justice.
    Republicans express nothing but gridlock and goofy public comments.”
    Wrong again. They generally serve different special interests, that’s it. Neither can put people above those interests without losing the funding that it takes to stay in office.

    “You cannot lump the two together. Clearly the best buy here is Democrat.”
    When it comes to the votes that count, sure I can. Neither is proposing real reforms. Neither is trying to clean up DC. There may be small differences in what they are trying to do, but they’re exactly alike in what they’re avoiding.

  • roro80

    “As soon as Bush gets mentioned, I tune out. That’s the sign that the argument has derailed.”

    Because nothing that happened up to 3 years ago matters today?

  • Dr. J

    Roro, because the people who consider blaming Bush a constructive contribution to the discussion never seem interested in discussing solutions.

  • SteveK

    The way ‘reasoned’ solutions are reached is:

    1. Examine the problem from all positions, all points of view.
    2. Look back and determine the cause of the problem.
    3. Discuss and debate proposed solutions from all positions.
    4. Choose the ‘best’ solution based not partisan political positions but of determined fact.

    Suggesting that nothing that happened 3 years ago matters is not looking for a ‘reasoned’ solution, it’s looking for a partisan excuse not to find a solution.

  • Dr. J

    Sounds great, Steve. My observation is that the blame-bush crowd starts and ends with #2. Even agreeing with them isn’t enough move them to #3. The deficit need not be fixed, you see, because Bush created it. Medicare costs need not be controlled because the Republicans created the problem with Medicare Part D.

  • SteveK

    Medicare costs need not be controlled because the Republicans created the problem with Medicare Part D.

    Well… yes they do!

    At the last minute it was the republicans that sold out to Big Pharma and took negotiated prices and quantity discounting off the table.

    An personal example: Advair Diskus 250-50 Mcg (an inhaler medication for COPD) ONE MONTH SUPPLY:

    • US price – $242.99
    • Canada price – $49.95
    • Mexico price: $24.00 (personal experience)

    If congress revisited and revised Medicare Part D to require price negotiation and quantity discounts it would greatly reduce the cost of Part D without simply shutting down the program completely.

    I know what you’re going to say, we’ve heard it already but go ahead.

    This is but one example of the value of looking back to correct a problem but it all I have to say on the topic.

    “Dr.”J and I went round-and-round on this last year, and we both spent a lot of time and energy disagreeing, this time I’m limiting myself to one comment.

  • Allen


    So NOW they get logical.

    Please pass that on to your goofy candidates, because it ain’t what they are saying!

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