The GOP's Civil War About Nothing

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 11 2013 10:20 PM

The GOP's Civil War About Nothing

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WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: Even I'm on board.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The government shutdown continues to be not just a battle between Democrats and Republicans, but between different factions of the Republican Party. But something worth noting about this much-hyped GOP "civil war" is that it appears to have no real content. The tensions between Ted Cruz and John Boehner and Peter King and Mitch McConnell and whomever are all about tactics. Does it make sense to try to use the shutdown or the looming debt ceiling as leverage to repeal ObamaCare? And if not that, does it make sense to use them to undermine it? And if so, how to undermine it?

What's not under discussion is anything about real policies or goals. It's very different from what you see on foreign policy or national security where Rand Paul and Justin Amash and others have been outlining a libertarian view that's in stark contrast to various more militaristic or "neoconservative" schools of thought.

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But on economic policy, beneath the sturm und drang of disagreement there's a remarkable amount of consensus. Republicans all agree that taxes should be lower, and that it's especially important to fight for lower tax rates on high earners who productivity and business investments drive the economy forward. Republicans also all agree that this tax cutting agenda requires less spending on domestic programs. And they agree that programs that bolster the incomes of low-income families (as opposed to, say, farm subsidies or war memorials) are especially pernicious because they subsidize indolence. 

The entire disagreement is about how and when to push this agenda of more money for the rich and less for the struggling. The question of whether this is the right agenda isn't really on the table.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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