The Party Of No Ideas

In one of his trademark takedowns, Chait explains why the Republican party can’t seem to coalesce around their own version of Obamacare:

Lots of people treat the Republican Party’s inability to unify around an alternative health-care plan, four years after the passage ofthe Affordable Care Act, as some kind of homework assignment they keep elephant_2.jpgprocrastinating on. But the problem isn’t that Cantor and Boehner and Ryan would rather lay around on the sofa drinking beer and playing video games than write their health-care plan already. It’s that there’s no plan out there that is both ideologically acceptable to conservatives and politically defensible.

Carping from the sidelines is a great strategy for Republicans because status quo bias is extremely powerful. It lets them highlight the downside of every trade-off without owning any downside of their own. They can vaguely promise to solve any problem with the status quo ante without exposing themselves to the risk any real reform entails. Republicans can exploit the disruption of the transition to Obamacare unencumbered by the reality that their own plans are even more disruptive.

I know we’re all supposed to be used to this by now, and regard it as the way politics works, but seriously: is there a more glaring example of the subordination of the public good to opportunistic factionalism? The GOP acts as if its only goal is to get power, even if it has nothing much to offer about how it would tackle such tough problems as climate change or immigration reform or healthcare when it gets it. They are in this for the electoral game, as Mitch McConnell once famously explained. The rest seems subordinate to that objective. Jonathan Bernstein adds:

Chait mentions that this has been going on for years, but he doesn’t refer to the granddaddy of all “repeal and replace” claims: the op-ed written in early 2010 by House Republican committee chairmen promising not just a bill, but a whole process. They were going to hold hearings, draft a bill and bring it to the House floor. I haven’t checked recently, but last I looked the story was that they hadn’t even bothered with the hearings part. As Chait says, there’s just nothing there.

Looking at the proposals that have come from the GOP so far, Peter Weber says they all have drawbacks:

The CBO analysis for Rep. Young’s bill to raise full-time employment to 40 hours, for example, found that the bill would raise the federal deficit by $74 billion while reducing the number of people getting employer-sponsored health insurance by about a million; about half of those people would go on Medicaid or other public programs, the other half would be uninsured.

It’s not clear the other Republican proposals would be popular in practice, either. Some of them, as the Washington Post editors note, would be better than ObamaCare at holding down health care costs and incentivizing people to buy private health insurance. But they are more disruptive to the status quo — especially post-ObamaCare — and almost all of them would be ripe for articles about sick people losing coverage or watching their health insurance costs skyrocket.

A major cause of the GOP’s ideas deficit is, of course, the Tea Party:

In Jindal’s diatribe, he claimed that Obama is “waving the white flag” on the economy by focusing on executive actions in the face of Congressional gridlock, and took a shot at Obama’s push to raise the minimum wage by decrying his “minimum wage economy.” The evocation of the minimum wage sheds light on the real cause of “polarization.” Here is a policy that is supported by broad majorities, one Republican officials have voted for in the past. Large chunks of Republican voters support it. But as two recent polls showedTea Party Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the hike, while non-Tea Party Republicans support it. The GOP position is dictated by the Tea Party.