A Frank defense of ideological disagreement

Lots of blogs have been circulating video clips and transcripts from Feb.1st’s “This Week” (ABC), hosted by George Stephanopoulous, with guests Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Federal Express CEO Fred Smith, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). The show featured an ideological (some might say “partisan”) battle between Frank and DeMint.

A few interesting tidbits to point out (transcript here):

  • DeMint’s attempt to cast the solution in terms of patriotism-nationalism:

DEMINT: Well, I think all of us support the fact that we need to do something. And all of us believe that the way to move our economy forward and protect jobs is to infuse more money so that consumers have more to spend, businesses have more to invest, buy capital equipment.But there are two ways to do that, George. One is for the government to take it out of the private sector through taxes and then decide where it’s going to go through political manipulation, as they’ve done in the House. The other is just to leave more money in the private sector for consumers to spend and businesses to invest. 

And that’s the American way. And that’s — that’s the approach we’re pushing.[…]

FRANK: […] I regret Senator DeMint saying that this is the American way. Let’s — let’s just agree that we’re all Americans here, Jim, and that nobody’s got the American way versus presumably the non-American way.

This isn’t about patriotism (or the Republican’s version–nationalism) but about solutions that will work.

  • The incessant cling to defining terms through political ideology:

DEMINT: But this plan is a spending plan. It’s not a stimulus plan.


FRANK: Spending can be stimulus. I don’t understand what you think stimulus is.

DEMINT: But this is the largest spending bill in history, and we’re trying to call it a stimulus when it’s just doing the things that…


DEMINT: … you wanted to do anyway.

The repetitive characterizing of government spending as not stimulus is part of the public manipulation game being played by the Republicans. DeMint’s ideology is that the only economic stimulus that counts are tax cuts. As I wrote previously, in this economic climate, it seems highly unlikely that any tax cuts will lead to more consumer spending, which is the only way that tax cuts stimulate anything.

  • The approach to stimulus is ultimately an ideological one:

DEMINT: And so it really comes down to a basic argument: Do you want a government-directed plan or do you want the free markets to work?

This characterization of the options available is, in Obama’s terms, a false one. This is part of the “socialism” scare of the campaign–the idea that any government direction is socialism, is anti-capitalism, and that the only capitalism possible is “pure” capitalism. In the discussion, Frank makes all the right points to indicate how our society has not traditionally operated under any sort of pure capitalism–bringing up roads, education, and firefighters as some of the things not brought about by tax cuts, as only brought about by government spending and “direction.” This is not a matter of socialism vs. capitalism, as the Republicans would like to see it characterized.

And Frank rightly points out the hypocrisy of Republicans blasting government spending now in light of what Iraq has and will cost us.

  • Finally, we need to not write off the battle between the Democrats and Republicans over the spending bill as mere “partisan bickering“:

FRANK: Well, no, I differ — differ with you on that. Please. Let’s not obviate democracy. There are legitimate different philosophical differences between Jim DeMint and myself. Please don’t treat them as some sideshow.


FRANK: They’re important to democracy.

Sure, we need a bill, and soon. But we need the right bill. We need a bill that work in this particular economic context, not one that placates the ideological outlooks of both sides of the aisle. I appreciate Frank’s acknowledgment that there’s a time for tax cuts and a time for spending. We’ve had enough of the former; it’s time for the latter. It’s also time to say bipartisanship is nice, but not when one side is plain wrong.

(cross-posted to The Reaction)

Published in: on February 3, 2009 at 4:55 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] can’t half-work. Somehow, some way facts and correctness needs to triumph over ideology. The media needs to do its job and not be a mouthpiece for the Republican spin machine. Considering […]

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