The causal loop of conservative policies

The Republican project is malignant but more coherent than that of the wishy-washy Democrats

I often point out to people the irony that the supposedly hardworking, “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” Republicans are the same people who obsessively support tax cuts, the laziest way to earn more money. But there’s a greater design-logic to the whole conservative project. Tax cuts aren’t just the easiest way to make more money, they also reduce overall government revenue. A reduction in federal revenue then gives elected officials a pretext to argue for cutting government spending to make up for the revenue loss. Republicans cut taxes so they have an excuse to cut social welfare programs.

This is the standard Republican playbook: cut taxes and ignore debt when in power and then feign concern about government spending the minute Democrats assume office. We’re already seeing Republicans pivot to concerns about the national debt now that Biden has won and since under Trump they successfully cut taxes back in 2017. Cuts to taxes and spending go hand in hand in a coordinated dance, each reinforcing the other in a causal loop of cruel austerity.

The best metaphor for the Republican party is an autoimmune disease; they attack the very body they inhabit. This same dynamic animates their approach to other government entities, for example the Postal Service. To justify cuts to an essential, longstanding public service like the USPS, Republicans first undermine it by introducing needless bureaucracy designed to hamstring operations. An inefficient USPS gives Republicans an excuse for privatizing the postal service, a long treasured goal of theirs and their corporate donors.

The conservative project is simple: undermine the system so you can tell everyone the system sucks, which then provides more justification for further undermining and privatizing the system…

Meanwhile, Democrats fail to offer a credible alternative. The modern Democratic party is organized around a fractured system barely held together by an impenetrable patchwork of tax credits, means tested and trapezoidal welfare programs, and corporate friendly public-private partnerships. Consider the respective narratives: on the right, anti-government screeds brimming with outrage at a singular enemy, unpopular and rich elected officials vs. on the left, a story of tepid government support accessed through a byzantine tax credit system that you may or may not qualify for depending on arbitrary income thresholds.

The Democrats could embrace the much more compelling narrative of universalist policies championed by the left, such as Medicare For All, $15/hr minimum wage, the Green New Deal, etc., but of course Democrats aren’t interested in narratives, let alone policies, that actually counter and oppose those of the Republicans. C’est la vie.

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I’m a writer and an academic studying education. Find more about me at: danielcernst.com and subscribe to my newsletter: hotgold.substack.com