Ezra Klein defined epistemic closure as:
the conditions necessary for a political movement to fool itself into believing whatever’s convenient.
Which makes mine and Jonathan Bernstein‘s continued frustration at the blissful ignorance of the GOP towards Democratic deficit reduction measures quixotic:
Remember the mantra from Brad DeLong that I’m fond of quoting, but which I’ll paraphrase this time: in the short run, what matters is getting the economy moving. In the middle term, PAYGO to keep things under control. And in the long run, health care (see also this similar analysis from Ezra Klein). Well…that sounds like the direction that the Democrats have followed for the last year, no? Certainly, there are questions about whether they’ve doing the correct things. But it’s just wrong for deficit hawks to completely ignore an enacted plan to take a significant whack at the deficit in the second decade…
At some point though, reason must begin to seep through? Right?
Perhaps not. Opposition to the Democratic plans to reduce the deficit seem universal on the right.
The worst — either through deliberate or authentic ignorance — rail against the unprecedented deficits of Obama which are expanding government! And then easily conflate that with the out-of-control growth of entitlement spending (though they generally refuse to even acknowledge that the driving force behind the out-of-control spending growth is mandated entitlement spending, instead focusing on the ever-amorphous, “waste” — which is spending money on not-them). These people regard the cost-control measures in the health care bill — and the claims that it will reduce the deficit — as pure lies — or perhaps gimmicky accounting in which the plan taxes for 10 years and only provides benefits for 6. (In fact, the plan provides roughly the same amount of benefits as it raises in taxes/cuts each year it is in effect.)
Other more reasonable right wingers have adopted 1 of 2 alternative approaches:
(1) Acknowledging the health care plan reduces costs, but stating that these cost-cutting measures cannot happen and won’t. Given this argument, it’s hard to see why anyone should try to cut costs at all — and this leaves America apparently doomed to never reduce spending, even if it is mandated by law.
(2) Believing that Obama should be using his political capital to push for drastic cuts in spending and large tax increases to head this crisis off — and that by using some of the “low-hanging-fruit” that could easily generate revenue and reduce spending in a revenue-neutral way, Obama is making the solution harder. Donald Marron made this critique in his recent piece. However, this arguments seems mainly ignorant of political realities and doesn’t acknowledge the attempt to bend the cost-curve that health care reform represents.
The point is: Even the most reasonable commentators on the right do not acknowledge that the Democrats have a plan to tackle the deficit. For the most part, they pretend it doesn’t exist.
Why is this? Because challenging this orthodoxy gets you banished from right-wing circles and accepting the Democrats do have a plan means that Republicans need to come up with an alternative — which would undoubtedly be much less popular.