I was thankful to see Paul Krugman get some air time on PBS's Charlie Rose on this Friday's show, but sadly he got stuck debating David Brooks, who blathered on endlessly in the segment previous to what I clipped here, calling austerity measures reasonable and chastising Republicans for being unwilling to strike a deal with President Obama on spending cuts during this debt ceiling debate debacle.
Krugman did a nice job of shooting down Brooks' talking points defending the astroturf "tea partiers" on the size of government being too large and with pointing out the extreme level of obstructionism we've seen from Republicans since Obama took office. He also expressed his concerns that many of us have with President Obama governing way too far to the right and with being way too accommodating to Republicans while this madness from the other party is going on.
ROSE: There are two questions. One, if you look at the dysfunctionality of government in this case, who's responsible for them?
BROOKS: I don't pretend it's symmetrical... I wouldn't say it's symmetrical here. I do think the president and the Democrats have been much more flexible than the Republicans have been. I say that with a little pain maybe, but that's just simply the case. The president, to his credit has made his allies extremely uncomfortable, and if you were around in Washington yesterday when the entire Senate Democratic caucus erupted in fury, you saw that first hand. And so I think the Republicans are... it's a good short term negotiating strategy, but they are not seizing a deal which should be out there for them.
I'm sort of mystified why if the president is offering a $3 trillion in the reduction of government, why they're not seizing upon that and potentially settling either for nothing or maybe $500 million. I mean, it's just mystifying to me why they don't take this deal.
ROSE: Well, then take a guess. What's the answer?
BROOKS: Well, there are a lot of things. One, they will tell you they go home and nobody wants any more taxes. We ran on that, we pledged it. Second, and I think this part is bipartisan, the hatred is so strong, there is great personal resistance to doing a deal with the devil. And they regard Obama, or Boehner and Cantor as the devil. There's just sort of this emotional resistance to getting in a room, shaking their hand and having your picture taken.
And so even beneath the substance of it there's a great deal of emotional resistance, and when... even when the president makes an offer, which is a pretty good offer for Republicans, they're always looking for the weaknesses in it.
KRUGMAN: This is a longer term story. It's not just what's happened during these negotiations. The underlying reason we have dysfunctional politics right now is the radicalization of the Republican Party. I mean, Bruce Bartlett, a Republican, or maybe now an excommunicated Republican just said basically Obama is a moderate conservative. He's basically governing to the right of Richard Nixon. But what's happened is that the Republican Party has gone so far off into an extreme right wing position that we have gridlock because basically one party cannot say yes.
They cannot say yes to anything that might be coming from the other party. In a basic sense they don't accept the legitimacy of government by the other party.
BROOKS: To be fair to them, they would say that we've had government at a certain level of GDP for decade after decades, and roughly the same, and over the last couple of years its leapt up significantly, so if we want to bring it back to that level, to the 2008 level (crosstalk) that's the argument they would make.
KRUGMAN: David, all of that is the recession. All of that is that the ratio of government to GDP is higher because GDP is down and safety net programs; unemployment insurance and Medicaid and a few other programs that respond to hard times are up. If you take that out, there has been no increase in the size of government. That's an entire myth.
BROOKS: There is a long term trend of health care spending. I mean this is, and Paul and I have come back to this a couple of times in this conversation...
BROOKS: Health care spending is the problem.
BROOKS: And so there are two wildly different views of how you address that issue. And Republicans look out and see health care spending increasing, swallowing up everything else and they say we need something like the Ryan plan in order to fundamentally reform the structure of the program. And that's not a radically irresponsible position. It's a position you can disagree with, but it doesn't make them loons, I would say.
KRUGMAN: Well... we can go on. We should also point out that we have an enormous amount of obstructionism at all levels. Right? There's a tremendous number of unfilled positions. To a large extent Obama is trying to govern now with a hollow administration because he can't get officials approved. We had my former MIT colleague, Nobel Laureate Peter Diamond rejected for the Federal Reserve Board.
This is a crazy... uhh... this is what is making America ungovernable. It is the extremism of one party. You actually have an extremely accommodating, I would say alarmingly accommodating Democratic president, but a Republican Party that just won't deal.
I found Brooks' doublespeak on these “tea party” Republicans amusing – and I use that term loosely, because there is no “tea party”, it's the extreme right wing of the Republican base – where he had to admit that they're completely incapable of governing because of their deep-seated hatred for President Obama, but he felt compelled to defend them anyway after that admission.
Naturally Brooks played the Villager game of “both sides” are equal in this segment where he tried to pretend that there is some visceral hatred by Democrats of Boehner and Cantor that somehow compares to the right wing literally losing their minds from day one after our first black president got elected, which is just nonsense. When Brooks can find some Democrats out there with posters of Boehner and Cantor as witch doctors with bones through their noses or something similarly crazed and just downright hateful someone let me know, will they?