Jonathan Chait has modified his applause for the deficit-reduction plan released by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles to make an exception for its cavalier treatment of domestic discretionary spending, which he calls the “gaping flaw” in the two men’s report.
"Ideas have consequences," conservatives intoned during the Reagan era, boasting of their think tanks, journals, and networks of well-financed academics. When I first came to Washington 20 years ago, there was still some truth to this. The conservative intellectual machinery, though heavily weighted toward public relations, still managed to produce a steady flow of fresh-seeming ideas and credible advocates. The center-left, on the other hand, was burdened by stale assumptions, interest-group demands, and a technocratic approach to governing.
Former White House senior adviser Karl Rove (AP Photo/John Beale)
When the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC came out last January, I declared myself a "Citizens United minimalist." It's not that I thought the decision was correct -- it wasn't, particularly in the precedents it overturned unnecessarily and the way it undermined the very basis of regulation of money in politics. But I believed that the specific change in the law created by the decision -- allowing corporations to engage in independent spending to influence elections, just as individuals already could -- would not be all that significant in practice.
Kentucky Senator-Elect Rand Paul (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
Six years ago, pollster and political scientist Stan Greenberg published a book, The Two Americas, in which he broke down the American electorate of the middle Bush era into new categories. Two of those categories -- the only two I remember -- were the "F-You Boys" and the "F-You Old Men." The categories are so perfectly named that they require little explanation. These economically frustrated men were part of the core Republican coalition but were attracted to rebellious-seeming movements like Ross Perot's 1992 presidential candidacy or pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura's Minnesota gubernatorial campaign.
As The New York Times reported last month, many of the big political money committees on the Republican side take the form of 501(c)4 nonprofits. (c)4’s are tax-exempt but contributions to them are not, and they are allowed to engage in lobbying and some political activity, as long as electoral politics is not their “primary activity.” On the left, most c(4)s are the lobbying arms of organizations like the Sierra Club.