Wishful Thinking Of The Day

Ezra Klein, riffing on the sadly bizarre notion that under the assumption that a bill will pass, legislators will actually start working to craft good policy instead of just good politics.

Republicans, for instance, have made unwinding the employer-based market core to many of their proposals. It was in John McCain’s proposal and Tom Coburn’s proposal and every other GOP draft I’ve seen. It’s also central to the Wyden-Bennett plan that has attracted a number of Republican cosponsors. But it’s likely to drop from the final Democratic plan because, well, it’s a hard sell. Republicans have one of two options here: They could ensure that this priority is present in the final proposal by supporting it and promising either some votes for the bill or, at the least, for cloture, or they can ensure that this priority is absent by attacking the bill and forcing Democrats to retrench around its most popular aspects and drop any pieces that aren’t broadly popular. Their choice.

Expect to see the latter. Guaranteed. Republicans have very little political incentive to pass a bill at all, and even less incentive to pass a good one. Assuming a bill will pass, their best hope is that it’s a gigantic failure on which they can ride to future electoral success. Because almost every single Republican legislator is a wealthy, white male, they are generally far removed from the effects or needs of government social programs, and to the extent that they are involved, it’s usually in the form of paying higher taxes. To put it in the language of behavioral economics — which is all the rage these days (e.g., “Don’t blame the amoral megalomaniacs on Wall Street, they had misaligned incentives!”) — Republicans have very little personal incentive to support succesful, broad, social reforms that are associated with the opposing party.

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