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The enduring politics of obstruction [27 Feb 2016|09:18am]


So the Republican candidates have gotten into the habit of promising ridiculous, impossibly impracticable policies they will implement ASAP if elected president. Cruz wants to "abolish" the IRS; Trump wants to deport some 11 million undocumented immigrants; Rubio wants to exempt all capital gains from income taxes. The list could go on.

In any other election cycle, or indeed if proposed by Democratic candidates, we might reasonably expect these to be over-promises. Like - of course those policies will never be implemented. On "day one," they'll get the benefit of a full complement of advisers, all telling them that, Mr. President, you can't just abolish the IRS; it performs too pervasive a regulatory role and needs to have an effective bureaucratic structure in order to enforce even the simplified tax obligations you propose. You can't just deport millions of people at once; we don't have the resources and we don't have the legal authority to do so quickly, and we can't get them without a huge political battle that we are likely to lose due to the vested interests of industries that rely on undocumented labor. You can't just abolish capital gains taxes, since those taxes are part of our revenue projections and doing so would have wildly distorting effects on the market.

But the Republicans have become so well-versed in the politics of do-nothing obstructionism that I am no longer sure that we can expect the leading GOP candidates to moderate their policies, once in office. Rather, what I am now predicting is this: a President who claims to want various extreme policies, but who constantly complains that it is Democrats - say, a minority in the Senate employing filibusters - as well as a few Republican traitors that are obstructing him. I think Republicans have become so accustomed to the ease with which they can attract media and voter attention by this kind of grandstanding, it is such an easy way to ensure their own job security, that there is just no benefit to be gained by switching into a more serious, governance-oriented role that acknowledges that pure beliefs don't translate into real-world policies. If we have a Republican president, especially a Cruz or Trump, I think we're likely to see a President who "leads" even less than they are fond of claiming Obama does - no longer coordinating deals, but using press conferences to deflect blame when Congress fails to send him the legislation he wanted. A very long four years.
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