When Mark Kleiman Isn’t Writing About Criminal Justice and Drug Policy …

… it’s rare that I agree with him. You can get a sense of his mental model of U.S. politics below:  

Now, if Megan wants to respond that we could do just as well tax oil imports, or motor fuels at the pump, or do a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade, and that any of those things would outperform CAFE standards, I’m not going to disagree. As soon as the Tea Party has been ground into the dust and the GOP transformed into a party capable of seeing reason, we can talk about it. In the meantime, kudos to the President for using his executive powers to do the right thing. And recall that none of his Republican opponents would have done the same.

The Tea Party movement, as I’ve tried to explain to a number of friendly acquaintances, is a big, diverse group of citizens with a lot of conflicting agendas. There is a decent number of people who identify with the Tea Party who would enthusiastically endorse something like a “flex fee on foreign oil,” as proposed by Glenn Hubbard and Peter Navarro (an idea that, I should specify, I’m pretty sure I oppose), and there are others who would accept the idea of, say, a vehicle miles traveled tax on trucks (and only trucks) if it meant tax relief for vehicles that cause far less wear-and-tear on roads (an idea I find amenable). 

Granted, I also think it’s reasonable to expect Democratic lawmakers to do things like (a) offer budget proposals rather than wait for the opposition to go first to facilitate demonization and to expect the president (b) to demonstrate a willingness to allow the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire before he impugns Republican lawmakers for not giving him political cover to raise revenues. At the moment, the two partisans are defined by a fascinating imbalance: House Republicans have backed a profoundly unpopular and sweeping proposal to radically reduce the size of Medicare, potentially shifting a lot of risk onto Medicare beneficiaries in recognition of the need to contain the increase in the size of health entitlements. As I’ve said in this space many times, I think that the Ryan plan doesn’t have a sufficiently high growth rate and it needs to be overhauled. But House Republicans made their stand. Democrats, in contrast, back extension of the most expensive components of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and, implicitly, far more Medicare spending than Chairman Ryan envisions. 

So which party needs to be transformed into one capable of seeing reason? I’d humbly suggest that the answer is both, and that both parties are ill-served by tribal cheerleaders. 

The politics of grinding those who disagree with us into the dust isn’t likely to help us achieve better policy outcomes.  

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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