Monday, February 09, 2009

Hearing Voices: GOP Fever Dreams

In this national nightmare, it's hard to tell if all the voices we hear are real or the products of overheated imaginations.

Was that the new Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele saying yesterday that the Obama stimulus plan was "laughable" and that the economic mess is only "about 18 months old. The reality of it is, Bush inherited a recession. He got us through that recession”?

Could that have been Ron Paul, back from the media dead, grousing about three Senate Republicans who "caved in and went with the Democrats"?

In a ghostly YouTube video, Paul is his old cranky self about both parties: "It's like they're born-again budget conservatives. Where were we in the past eight years, when we could have done something...So we can't blame the Democrats for the conditions we have. We have to blame both parties and presidents of the last several decades to have generated this huge government."

Paul wants the economy stimulated privately. "We need a lot more spending," he says with his usual grip on reality, "but it has to be done by market forces, by individuals, by businesses making proper decisions."

And off in the distance, another Texas Republican is crowing about terrorist tactics on the stimulus bill. According to the Washington Post, Rep. Pete Sessions "suggested last week that the party is learning from the disruptive tactics of the Taliban, and the GOP these days does have the bravado of an insurgent band that has pulled together after a big defeat to carry off a quick, if not particularly damaging, raid on the powers that be."

It's not unusual for patients in critical condition to be ranting, but the Republicans may want to set up an isolation ward to keep all this sad stuff from being overheard.

1 comment:

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

This weekend, John King of CNN interviewed citizens from a traditionally conservative district in Indiana. Consensus: “There is nothing in the stimulus package for me …”

In other words, aid to states, infrastructure investment, and food stamps were not items that fit within their world view, and they saw no direct benefit accruing to them in personal terms.

Perhaps there are two failures here:
1. The Obama administration should have explained it better. Recent job losses demonstrate the severity and gravity at issue. Stimulus data demonstrate why spending approaches are more effective than tax cuts.

2. Most people are motivated by parochial self-interest. If they cannot relate to a complex issue in personal terms, the issue becomes an abstraction and a distraction. People don’t change, but one can change how one talks to them.

The “Great Communicator,” Ronald Reagan, knew this. He succeeded in selling faulty concepts with great rhetoric. Obama should take a page from Reagan’s book if he hopes to change those perceptions.

Obama should present hard data in the form of charts and graphs to the American people. Yes, PowerPoint presentations! When treated as adults and partners in a decision, people will see why one approach is better than another, and why parochial self-interest is better served by altruism.

Thus far, Obama allowed himself to be hijacked by party hacks. If leaders take the time to inform and to teach, people will follow. His failure to do so just cost 600,000 jobs (Krugman's estimate of cuts from the stimulus bill). An expensive lesson for a new president.