Brooks and Krugman

Bobo is starting to get scared.  In “The American Idea and Today’s G.O.P.” he wails that American exceptionalism is built on immigration, not threatened by it, as most Republicans believe.  In the comments “gemli” from Boston points out the extremely obvious:  “Brooks tries to steer the Republican ship of fools off the rocks, but it’s a little late for this attempt at damage control. Instead of spending so much time shilling for idiots he might have tried to apply the brakes a bit sooner.”  Bobo seems to be breaking out into a flop sweat…  In “Dewey, Cheatem & Howe” Prof. Krugman says recent cases of disturbing business practices underscore the need for good regulation, which is at stake in next year’s election.  Here’s Bobo:

America was settled, founded and built by people who believed they were doing something exceptional. Other nations were defined by their history, but America was defined by its future, by the people who weren’t yet here and by the greatness that hadn’t yet been achieved.

American founders like Alexander Hamilton were aware that once the vast continent was settled the United States would be one of the dominant powers of the globe. There was also a religious eschatology — a belief, dating back to the Puritans, that God’s plans for humanity would be completed on this continent, that America would be the “last best hope of earth,” as Lincoln put it.

Herman Melville summarized this version of American exceptionalism in his novel “White Jacket”: “The future is endowed with such a life that it lives to us even in anticipation. … The future [is] the Bible of the free. … God has predestined, mankind expects, great things from our race; and great things we feel in our souls.”

Today there are some conservative commentators and Republican politicians who talk a lot about American exceptionalism. But when they use the phrase they mean the exact opposite of its original meaning. In fact, they are effectively destroying American exceptionalism.

These commentators and candidates look backward to an America that is being lost. Ann Coulter encapsulated this attitude perfectly in her latest book title, “Adios, America.” This is the philosophy of the receding roar, the mourning for an America that once was and is now being destroyed by foreign people and ideas.

Out of this backward- and inward-looking mentality comes a desire to exclude. Donald Trump talks falsely and harshly about Hispanic immigrants. Ben Carson says he couldn’t advocate putting “a Muslim in charge of this nation.”

During George W. Bush’s first term there wasn’t much difference between how Democrats and Republicans viewed the overall immigration levels. Republicans were about eight percentage points more likely to be dissatisfied with the contemporary immigration flows. But now the gap is an astounding 40 percentage points. Eighty-four percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats are dissatisfied with the current immigration level, according to Gallup surveys.

As Peter Wehner, a longtime conservative writer who served in the Bush administration, wrote in the magazine Commentary: “The message being sent to voters is this: The Republican Party is led by people who are profoundly uncomfortable with the changing (and inevitable) demographic nature of our nation. The G.O.P. is longing to return to the past and is fearful of the future. It is a party that is characterized by resentments and grievances, by distress and dismay, by the belief that America is irredeemably corrupt and past the point of no return. ‘The American dream is dead,’ in the emphatic words of Mr. Trump.”

It’s not exactly breaking news that this is ruinous to the long-term political prospects of the party. In his book “2016 and Beyond,” the veteran pollster Whit Ayres, now working for Marco Rubio, points out that given the composition of the electorate, if the G.O.P. candidate won the same 59 percent share of the white vote that Mitt Romney won in 2012, he would have to win 30 percent of the nonwhite vote to get a majority. That’s a daunting number, given that, as Dan Balz of The Washington Post points out, Romney only won 17 percent of that vote.

But it’s also bad for the spirit of conservatism. American conservatism has always been different than the conservatism found on continental Europe and elsewhere. There it was based on blood and soil, here on promise.

American free market and religious conservatives have traditionally embraced a style of nationalism that is hopeful and future minded. From Lincoln to Reagan to Bush, the market has been embraced for being dynamic and progressive. The major faiths uplift in part because they are eschatological — they look forward to a glorious future. They preach an ethos of generosity and welcome. As the researcher Benjamin Knoll has found, religious parishioners of all political stripes are more likely to support more open immigration policies than others.

But this hopeful nationalism is being supplanted in the G.O.P. by an anguished cry for a receding America.

This pessimism isn’t justified by the facts. As a definitive report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently found, today’s immigrants are assimilating as fast as previous ones. They are learning English. They are healthier than native-born Americans. Immigrant men age 18 to 39 are incarcerated at roughly one-fourth the rate of American men.

Instead the pessimism grows from a sour, overgeneralized and intellectually sloppy sense of alienation. It is one thing to think Democratic policies are wrong. It is another to betray the essential American faith and take a reactionary attitude toward life. This is an attitude that sours the tongue, offends the eye and freezes the heart.

The current crop of lunatics in the 2016 Clown Car really seems to be scaring poor, wee Bobo.  This makes me smile.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

Item: The C.E.O. of Volkswagen has resigned after revelations that his company committed fraud on an epic scale, installing software on its diesel cars that detected when their emissions were being tested, and produced deceptively low results.

Item: The former president of a peanut company has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for knowingly shipping tainted products that later killed nine people and sickened 700.

Item: Rights to a drug used to treat parasitic infections were acquired byTuring Pharmaceuticals, which specializes not in developing new drugs but in buying existing drugs and jacking up their prices. In this case, the price went from $13.50 a tablet to $750.

In other words, it has been a good few days for connoisseurs of business predators.

No doubt I, like anyone who points out ethical lapses on the part of some companies, will be accused of demonizing business. But I’m not claiming that all businesspeople are demons, just that some of them aren’t angels.

There are, it turns out, people in the corporate world who will do whatever it takes, including fraud that kills people, in order to make a buck. And we need effective regulation to police that kind of bad behavior, not least so that ethical businesspeople aren’t at a disadvantage when competing with less scrupulous types. But we knew that, right?

Well, we used to know it, thanks to the muckrakers and reformers of the Progressive Era. But Ronald Reagan insisted that government is always the problem, never the solution, and this has become dogma on the right.

As a result, an important part of America’s political class has declared war on even the most obviously necessary regulations. Too many important players now argue, in effect, that business can do no wrong and that government has no role to play in limiting misbehavior.

A case in point: This week Jeb Bush, who has an uncanny talent for bad timing, chose to publish an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal denouncing the Obama administration for issuing “a flood of creativity-crushing and job-killing rules.” Never mind his misuse of cherry-picked statistics, or the fact that private-sector employment has grown much faster under President Obama’s “job killing” policies than it did under Mr. Bush’s brother’s administration.

What are the terrible, unjustified regulations Mr. Bush proposes to scrap?

Carbon regulation must go, of course, because doing nothing about climate change has become an essential part of the Republican identity. So must Obamacare.

But Mr. Bush also proposes doing away with rules regarding the disposal of coal ash, a byproduct of coal-burning power plants that contains mercury, arsenic and other contaminants that can cause serious health problems if they leak into groundwater or are blown into the air as dust. Does trying to limit these risks sound like an arbitrary, pointless action?

Then there’s for-profit education, an industry wracked by fraud — because it’s very hard for students to assess what they’re getting — that leaves all too many young Americans with heavy debt burdens and no real prospect of better jobs. But Mr. Bush denounces attempts at a cleanup.

Oh, and he denounces the administration for “regulating the Internet as a public utility,” which can sound odd until you realize that what’s actually being regulated are Internet service providers, who face little or no competition in many local markets. Did I mention that in Europe, where Internet providers are required to accommodate competition, broadband is much faster and much cheaper than it is here?

Last but not least, Mr. Bush calls for a rollback of financial regulation, repeating the thoroughly debunked claim that the Dodd-Frank law actually encourages banks to become too big to fail. (Markets disagree: Judging by their borrowing costs, big banks have lost, not gained, since Dodd-Frank went into effect.) Because why should we think that letting banks run wild poses any risks?

The thing is, Mr. Bush isn’t wrong to suggest that there has been a move back toward more regulation under Mr. Obama, a move that will probably continue if a Democrat wins next year. After all, Hillary Clinton released a plan to limit drug prices at the same time Mr. Bush was unleashing his anti-regulation diatribe.

But the regulatory rebound is taking place for a reason. Maybe we had too much regulation in the 1970s, but we’ve now spent 35 years trusting business to do the right thing with minimal oversight — and it hasn’t worked.

So what has been happening lately is an attempt to redress that imbalance, to replace knee-jerk opposition to regulation with the judicious use of regulation where there is good reason to believe that businesses might act in destructive ways. Will we see this effort continue? Next year’s election will tell.

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