Rich Lowry: Progressives refuse to face fiscal reality

2013-12-15T00:45:00Z Rich Lowry: Progressives refuse to face fiscal realityBy Rich Lowry | Syndicated columnist La Crosse Tribune
December 15, 2013 12:45 am  • 

The “reality-based community” isn’t what it used to be.

Progressives spent much of the George W. Bush years deriding the right for disdaining reality itself and waging an associated “war on science,” such was its purported hostility to evidence. The meme arose from a highhanded blind quote from a Bush senior adviser to journalist Ron Suskind; the adviser said that people in the “reality-based community” underestimated how the United States could alter the state of things through the exercise of its power.

The left happily adopted the appellation “reality-based community.” It congratulated itself on its factual rigor and nominated for president a man whose initial appeal was based, in part, on his exquisite sense of nuance. Message: We’re more empirically grounded and intellectually supple than you.

The erstwhile reality-based community is having a tough time of it lately, though. Most infamously, Obamacare is foundering on the flagrant deceptions used to sell it, exposed every day by the workings of the law in reality.

Many liberals still don’t want to acknowledge the rather straightforward fact that if you mandate more insurance benefits in the so-called Affordable Care Act, insurance will cost more. Q.E.D. You might be able to cushion the cost increase for some people with subsidies, but not for everyone, and the underlying insurance is still more — not less — expensive.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote a particularly smug column titled “The Wonk Gap” a couple of months ago, celebrating the left’s lopsided advantage in policy analysis at the same time he pooh-poohed and took as a sign of rank ignorance the Republican contention that there would be sticker shock from Obamacare.

Krugman must consider it in extremely poor form that his own paper is kowtowing to the ignoramuses by publishing stories on how couples like Mike and Kay Horrigan of North Carolina are faring under the Affordable Care Act: “Mr. Horrigan’s coverage by a state high-risk insurance program was eliminated, then replaced by a more expensive plan. His wife’s individual plan was canceled for being substandard, then suddenly renewed — also at a higher price.”

The deceptions around Obamacare are central — both to the law and to the left’s advocacy generally. So much of liberal policy is based on Affordable Care Act-style thinking, which involves hiding and never acknowledging the costs of a given policy; giving legislation a warm and fuzzy name on the assumption that its results will live up to that label; and moralistic attacks on people who resist as fools and ogres.

Every side in a political argument tends to gild the lily, but the acknowledgment of any downside is particularly devastating to liberal presumptions. Liberals are inherently activists on domestic policy, and to make the strongest possible case for action, you need certainty, not nuance; cost-free benefits, not painful trade-offs; blissful promises, not unintended consequences.

Consider the minimum wage. Rarely do liberals truly grapple with the possibility — supported by some, but not all research — that it suppresses employment. If they did, they would be more cautious about advocating a higher minimum wage in a soft job market, and less scornful of opponents.

When Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said recently that extended unemployment benefits could keep people from searching for a job, he was denounced, literally, as a Scrooge. It doesn’t matter that there is plenty of evidence — some of it once mustered by Alan Krueger, the former head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers — on Paul’s side. He is presumed guilty of a moral failing.

The 19th-century laissez-faire thinker William Graham Sumner famously wrote of “the forgotten man” who bears the costs of feel-good economic policy. Sumner said that “he is the man who never is thought of. He is the victim of the reformer, the social speculator, and philanthropist.” The left must always pretend he doesn’t exist — and excoriate those mindful of him — even as it prides itself on its robust empiricism.

Rich Lowry can be reached at

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(36) Comments

  1. Truthsayer
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    Truthsayer - December 17, 2013 1:44 pm
    Our "markets' are flawed, fixed and fraudulent. Fast-food, retailers, and Wal-mart can pay Americans so poorly because the US government now helps these ever increasing numbers of 'working poor' with health, food and housing. Simultaneously US corporations are making more profits than ever and are sitting on more cash than ever. Corporations also now contribute their smallest amount to the Federal budget than every before.

    The 'free market" is immoral, un-Christain and un-Patriotic....yet so many poor and middle-class right wingers worship at her altar and vote for the GOP, a party on the record oppressing the working poor. Only thru a government of self-rule can safeguards against corporate exploitation find implementation. Too many laws protect banks and corporations and not enough protect the common man.

    The original Tea Party was as much a riot against the faceless, unaccountable East Indian Trading Comapny
  2. Truthsayer
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    Truthsayer - December 17, 2013 1:39 pm
    You are wrong in your assessment that wages are determined by market forces. Our "markets' are flawed, fixed and fraudulent. Fast-wood and Wal-mart can pay Americans so poorly because the US government now helps these ever increasing numbers of 'working poor' with health, food and housing.

    Simultaneously US corporations are making more profits than ever and are sitting on more cash than ever. There is an unwritten contract in Capitalism and that is that those who work full time will be compensated well enough to live without aid.

    The 'free market" is immoral, un-Christain and un-Patriotic....yet so many poor and middle-class right wingers worship at her altar and vote for the GOP, a party on the record oppressing the working poor.
  3. Truthsayer
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    Truthsayer - December 17, 2013 1:32 pm
    Icarus....All of the Nordic Nations are Socialist and they all do very, very well. Germany is bigger than any US State in terms of population, one-quarter the size of the it is an excellent comparison.

    The US is propping up no one in Europe and NATO provides Europe plenty of security. We don't live in the world of WWII, but US military policy still likes to act as if it is so. Removing our bases from Germany would briefly put a dint into their economy, but it wouldn't be a crushing blow by any means.
  4. Truthsayer
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    Truthsayer - December 17, 2013 8:51 am
    Conservatives passed Bush's Medicare Prescription boondoggle WITHOUT THE MONEY to pay for it.....They conducted two wars and created the massive big brother governmental nightmare we have now.....spending trillions to grow the size and reach of our own government upon ourselves.......and they committed this treasonous legislation WITHOUT making sure it could be paid for in the budget.

    Obama inherited a train wreck.....a government spending over a $Trllion a year more than it took in. To expect Obama to give balanced budgets and reduce the debt the day he was sworn into office is absurdity at its loudest. A few Trillion dollars added to the National Debt since Obama came into office are directly connected to Bush and the conservatives' inability to deal with the fiscal realities they, themselves, were creating.

    Who runs wars on credit and gives tax cuts in such a time of National need ? Who listens to conservatives at all? They have nothing but a history of failure to promote.
  5. Truthsayer
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    Truthsayer - December 17, 2013 8:43 am
    Progressive actually FACE our fiscal reality's......we've balanced the Federal budgets, reduced the size of government and when we pass a new law we make cuts or raise taxes to pay for them.

    Conservatives, on the other hand, put trillion dollar wars on the credit card and simultaneously hand out trillions more in tax cuts to the already wealthy....

    Reaganomics, most recently exemplified by the horrendous Bush economy, is the most fiscally irresponsible and failed economic strategy on the globe this side of North Korea. Much of it depends on military spending as a mechanism to keep the 'economy' moving. The waste, fraud, excesses and outright robbery committed by defense contractors and weapons programs has cost us trillions and trillions over the decades......and all of that money spent couldn't stop 14 Saudi's and some Afgani's from using box-cutters and striking a terror attack at the heart of our economic capitol.
  6. Icarus
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    Icarus - December 17, 2013 8:09 am
    The main reason those countries are surviving is because the US has been propping them up and providing their security. When you also consider that those countries don't even compare to the size and economy of most states in America, then you realize trying to force our large nation to function like these small nations is ridiculous.
  7. hlange
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    hlange - December 17, 2013 8:05 am
    Let me guess, that's because all foundry workers are stupid, right?
    Why do you hate the people that make the things that make your life better?
    I work in the manufacturing sector and have found that most workers who are actually making things to be intelligent and articulate. You can't be stupid and fabricate, too.
  8. Truthsayer
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    Truthsayer - December 17, 2013 7:46 am
    Tell Germany their socialist democracy destroys economies......
  9. The Cross
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    The Cross - December 17, 2013 7:09 am
    You can't follow actual logic can you? Ford paying his employees enough to keep them happy is the OPPOSITE of having a government mandated wage. Keep drinking your fluoride.

    "Harvard Study Confirms Fluoride Reduces Children's IQ"
  10. Cassandra
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    Cassandra - December 16, 2013 10:12 pm
    France, England, the Netherlands...the list of failed socialist states goes on and on.
  11. Icarus
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    Icarus - December 16, 2013 9:39 pm
    People should think about what "progressives" think they are going to "progress" to? The epoc of socialism is the failed Soviet Union. These idiots think that if given enough of our money and if given enough control of the government and if given enough control over industry, then they could make the world a better place. The evidence is that socialism destroys business, destroys initiative and destroys people.
  12. Cassandra
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    Cassandra - December 16, 2013 9:20 pm
    The quality f your letter makes me suspect you aren't actually a foundry worker.
  13. no name no slogan
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    no name no slogan - December 16, 2013 5:21 pm
    Higher paying jobs are available to people who with no special skills are education. I work at a foundry that pays between $12 and $18 an hour depending on what job you are doing. 3 out of 4 people hired quit in the first day, week or month. So lets raise minimum wage to $14/hr. How many folks are going to stay in a manufacturing job that is hard work, with an actual risk for injury or even death? Why not go to McDonald's or Walmart?
    Small manufacturing jobs aren't making the billions of dollars as McD's or Walmart. So what can my employer do to keep me there? They'd have to raise their wages to $22 or $25 an hour, and the cost of building anything in this country skyrockets.
    The CNN study about raising prices 1% is silly. Walmart and McDonald's don't operate in a microcosm. Wages are governed by market forces. McDonald's is a job a high school kid can do. If you are 34 and working there, you are doing something wrong. That doesnt mean you can't change.
  14. no name no slogan
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    no name no slogan - December 16, 2013 4:30 pm
    Talk about fiscal reality. The only way the Obama seems "fiscally responsible," is by taking TARP repayments and calling them "negative spending." This is is especially misleading because of the TARP money allocated by Bush, about all of it has been paid back (with interest, we actually made money on them). The only outstanding debt: Fannie, Freddie, GM and Chrysler ($155 billion as of January). Much of it simply written off. In fact, when you control for things like military spending and interest payments on previous debt since Richard Nixon... Nixon is the only president Obama scores higher than on growth in government spending.
  15. The Cross
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    The Cross - December 16, 2013 9:23 am
    Henry Ford VOLUNTARILY doubled his assembly line wages. It wasn't, as you allege, because he wanted to establish a solid-middle class to buy his product. Nor was it an act of charity. In the Ford's OWN WORDS, it was "one of the finest cost-cutting moves we ever made."

    He was acting in his company's best interests. His factories had been plagued with very high turnover rates and excessive absenteeism. Hiring replacement workers and training them were too expensive. Something needed to be done.

    The higher wage Ford offered made the jobs much more attractive. Morale shot up, employee turnover sharply dropped, and, most important from management's perspective, productivity surged. Henry Ford became a billionaire.

    If all employers are required to pay the same minimum salary, what incentive would people have to stay where they're at? Productivity will DECREASE moron!
  16. The Cross
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    The Cross - December 16, 2013 6:58 am
    OK, so you want to artificially manipulate the market based on something CNN said? This is preposterous. But alas, this is what they teach at government schools people. That government can and should control EVERYTHING, even the weather.
  17. GrandpaS
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    GrandpaS - December 15, 2013 8:17 pm
    And, no, I am not drunk. Just more concerned about my fellow working Americans than you and Fox News are.
  18. GrandpaS
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    GrandpaS - December 15, 2013 8:16 pm
    CNN reported that Wal Mart could give every one of their 1.4 million American employees a $3 an hour raise, and if Wal Mart raised their prices by 1%, it would cost the owners nothing. Nothing. I'd pay 1% more at Wal Mart to give all of their employees a $3 an hour raise, wouldn't you? What cost $100 last month would cost $101 after the raise increase. Are you too stinking cheap to pay that tiny increase for the benefit of so many people? It would be interesting to see how much other business's prices would ACTUALLY go up if the minimum wage was raised, and compare that to the benefits it would bring to those minimum wage workers and the economy as a whole, I really don't understand why conservatives are SOOOO afraid of paying people better wages. The business owners and CEO's are stinking rich. It would benefit individuals, families and the entire economy if they'd stop hoarding all that money so selfishly. Please read up on "Income Inequality" to get a better handle on this.
  19. tower
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    tower - December 15, 2013 7:31 pm
    Historical data would show that you are looney tunes. And in a global market you would find it hard to raise prices much. What ever happened to a totally free market?
  20. Buggs Raplin
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    Buggs Raplin - December 15, 2013 5:04 pm
    Of course, his grandma and half siblings said he was born in Kenya. His own bio-pamphlet in the early 90's said he was born in Kenya...and then there's his social security number given to those born in Connecticut..but never you mind, are such a media controlled zombie, it's not worth wasting any more words on you than I already have.
  21. The Cross
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    The Cross - December 15, 2013 3:44 pm
    Obamacare will not, and was not designed to "work". It is designed as a step towards nationalized healthcare. Just to get everyone comfortable with the idea that healthcare is a right, and the government is the only one that can "save" us.
  22. The Cross
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    The Cross - December 15, 2013 3:41 pm
    Is that really what you think of Obamacare? The insurance companies you hate WROTE Obamacare and were promise record profits for going along with it.
  23. The Cross
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    The Cross - December 15, 2013 3:40 pm
    Are you drunk? Raising the minimum wage will only make the PRODUCTS (that these same wage earners have to purchase BTW) cost more. It will result in less people being employed, and cause businessmen to look elsewhere to make a profit.
  24. GrandpaS
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    GrandpaS - December 15, 2013 12:54 pm
    Obama is a Kenyan-born socialist Muslim. Which "reality based" party advanced that story? And many of them still do.
  25. GrandpaS
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    GrandpaS - December 15, 2013 12:51 pm
    Wal Mart held a bunch of food drives and then bragged about how wonderful a company they are. The fact they left out is that much of the food collected went to their own employees. Do you think those employees would rather receive food stamps and a box of groceries once a year at Christmas, or have enough of a pay check to buy their own groceries?
  26. GrandpaS
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    GrandpaS - December 15, 2013 12:48 pm
    "When Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said recently that extended unemployment benefits could keep people from searching for a job, he was denounced, literally, as a Scrooge" Long term benefits may cause some people to milk the system, but I think most unemployed people would much rather be employed. Filling out job applications, searching the internet for openings, having to apply for 4 jobs a week, (two of which you don't even want), knocking on doors, adapting your resume to job after job after job....all of those things get to be a pain in the butt in a very short time, especially if you have a family and can't realistically accept a job that pays McWages. I'm guessing that Lowrey hasn't been job hunting for many, many years, or he'd know better. Same with most members of Congress who think we should dump on the long term unemployed, while handing financial break after financial break to the wealthy. And that, Lowrey, is REALITY. . .
  27. GrandpaS
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    GrandpaS - December 15, 2013 12:37 pm
    Veteran: If you don't back that accusation up with accurate information to support it, then I'm afraid your unfounded opinion becomes the joke.
  28. GrandpaS
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    GrandpaS - December 15, 2013 12:35 pm
    "Progressives refuse to face fiscal reality." Interesting. Lowrey makes that statement, then goes on to make the argument that raising the minimum wage would cut job growth. Um, Rich, what if more Americans made more money cuz they got their minimum wages raised? Then they'd have more disposable income and they could buy more, and companies who make the products they're buying would need to add MORE EMPLOYEES to meet the demand for their products. Rich people may kinda sorta be job creators, but without more customers, businesses aren't going to grow. By selling more products, companies not only can grow, but they have to grow, resulting in more jobs. CUSTOMERS are vital to job creation, but without good income, people can't be customers. WITH more disposable income, they CAN be customers. Several people have advanced this point, and they're right. So why does the GOP and its supporters refuse to see the truth in it? And the left is out of touch with reality?
  29. Cassandra
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    Cassandra - December 15, 2013 12:35 pm
    Democrats need to figure out that to the right, facts simply don't matter.
  30. Cassandra
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    Cassandra - December 15, 2013 12:33 pm
    Yes, Democrats are to blame because they went along with Bush's war, didn't prosecute his regime for war crimes and have allowed the people who trashed our economy to evade prosecution and jail.
  31. Cassandra
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    Cassandra - December 15, 2013 12:31 pm
    This from a man who continues to believe in trickle-down economics despite all evidence that it hasn't worked. Lowry and his cohort continue to cherry pick evidence and anecdote to support their theories that the earth is flat, the universe revolves around us and that dinosaurs and man roamed the earth at the same time. Well, his writings prove that a certain type of dinosaur still survives.....
  32. Matt Davis
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    Matt Davis - December 15, 2013 12:29 pm
    This is the whining of Republicans when their "tell a lie enough times and it becomes truth" philosophy comes back to bite them. They continue to scream about the Affordable Care Act because it hurts the profits of their insurance company masters. Fiscal reality says that government is supported by taxation and works for the people, and that Republicans have worked tirelessly to stack the deck against working people and for the corporations. Capitalism cannot function like that, and hence our problem. So of course there is a debt, because the money which should be flowing to the workers/consumers, and spent back into the economy, and taxed, is being hoarded by the very rich, legally aided by legislation designed by Republicans, ALEC, and think-tanks like the Heritage Foundation. Solution is to nationalize the financial and healthcare sectors, and align the tax code to appropriately tax the super rich.
  33. tower
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    tower - December 15, 2013 10:31 am
    Other then the Cold War, which was a national thing, tell me one issue the conservatives have been right on since 1930. They were against SS, WWII, GI Bill, integration, for Vietnam, against Medicare. They went on to have a president who vetoed the resolution against white South Africa. Got us into Iraq, spending money like drunken sailors on things we couldn't afford all the while cutting taxes for the rich. Now they have the cajones to whine about the ACA. Maybe liberals have a fiscal reality issue but the conservatives have a total reality issue.
    Lowery will say anything and write anything to justify the conservatives greed, insanity, and selfishness.
  34. Buggs Raplin
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    Buggs Raplin - December 15, 2013 10:21 am
    Brian, you continue to amaze me with your inability to see that the Democrats are just as much to blame for our woes as the Republicans. Where do Obama's biggest supporters work? Wall Street.
  35. capedcrusader
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    capedcrusader - December 15, 2013 9:27 am
    Really? How so?
  36. The Veteran
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    The Veteran - December 15, 2013 9:12 am
    Truthdestroyer Thanks for the laugh,you are a JOKE!!!!
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