There’s Winners And There’s Losers But They Ain’t No Big Deal

Jonathan Bernstein notes that the consensus is that Perry did poorly last night, “but I’m not convinced that anything important happened at all.” He links to Jonathan Chait, who disagrees:

The media seems to consider Romney the winner. Pardon the condescension, but they’re not thinking like Republican base voters. … His total liberation from the constraints of reason give Perry a chance to represent the Republican id in a way Romney simply cannot match. In this way Perry eerily apes the style of George W. Bush, who was also mocked for his intellectually vapid debating style, but who succeeded in rallying Republicans behind him.

That, to me, gets at the two most important points here.

The first point is the question of the preferences and power of the GOP elite in the 2012 election.  It’s possible that Perry’s guns-blazing stammering– almost certain to come back to bite him in the general election– put off those elites. I don’t know just who those people are, but they’re the ones who designated Bush Jr. as the nominee in 1999 by giving him like $100 million for some reason, and who refused in 2008 to give anything to Huckabee despite the genuine grass-roots enthusiasm surrounding him.

Do those few dozen or few thousand people have a veto on the nominee as they did in 2008, despite the rise of online, small-contribution fundraising and the Tea Party? An empirical question, and I have no idea what the answer is.

The second issue here is the divide between what the GOP’s talking points say vs. what the GOP base wants, importantly in this case on Social Security. Perry was, of course, directly drawing on the GOP catechism when he used “government is bad” as the lodestar for his Social Security comments. (He used the phrase “Ponzi scheme” about five times. He was, of course, telling a monstrous lie). But as Donald Kinder and Cindy Kam found, “among white voters being ethnocentric is associated—independent of self-described ideology and other factors—with decreased support for means-tested welfare”– even though “ethnocentrism helps to build support for social insurance programs among white Americans”.

So the Tea Party is founded on hatred for the government and a fanatical desire to “keep your government hands off my Medicare”.

How does all that play out for Perry? Again, empirical question, no idea what the answers are.

We saw in the debate over the debt ceiling that, even though polls suggested that rank-and-file Republicans were open to some kind of compromise on revenues, there was zero support for compromise from any GOP congressman, much less presidential candidate.

Will there be any penalty in the primaries for a Republican who says stuff that is ostensibly further to the right than the rank and file? I tend to doubt it, given that GOP politics is entirely consumed with “making liberals mad,” without any policy content whatsoever. But it’s possible that Perry is hewing too closely to the talking points without due regard for the base’s desire for them not to apply to Social Security.

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  • http://www.tarheelred.wordpress.com Pino

    (He used the phrase “Ponzi scheme” about five times. He was, of course, telling a monstrous lie).

    Andrew Sullivan kinda makes a lot of noise over there but doesn’t really provide strong arguments against the case that SS is a Ponzi scheme. Where he is correct is where he mentions that SS advertises its characteristic; funded by future workers. Traditional ponzi schemes keep this aspect quiet.

    The fact is that this IS a ponzi scheme. This can be demonstrated by the “alarming” charts that show how many workers are supporting current retirees.

    • http://poisonyourmind.com reflectionephemeral

      Social Security’s finances are publicly divulged, and it can persist indefinitely. Therefore, it is not a Ponzi scheme.

      • http://www.tarheelred.wordpress.com Pino

        Social Security’s finances are publicly divulged,

        This is absolutely true. The whole of Social Security is on the up and up. We all know what we’re getting into when we participate. This is a clear divergence from the Ponzi Scheme where, if the details were made public, the investors would flee.

        it can persist indefinitely.

        Well, in the same way that a Ponzi scheme can persist.

        • http://poisonyourmind.com reflectionephemeral

          Well, in the same way that a Ponzi scheme can persist.

          No. If we do absolutely nothing, then we’ll have to cut benefits by like 20 percent in two or three decades. A problem we have to address at some point? Yes. A crisis, much less a Ponzi scheme? Of course not.

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  • http://www.tarheelred.wordpress.com Pino

    I found a fun quote:

    Social Security is structured from the point of view of the recipients as if it were an ordinary retirement plan: what you get out depends on what you put in. So it does not look like a redistributionist scheme. In practice it has turned out to be strongly redistributionist, but only because of its Ponzi game aspect, in which each generation takes more out than it put in. Well, the Ponzi game will soon be over, thanks to changing demographics, so that the typical recipient henceforth will get only about as much as he or she put in (and today’s young may well get less than they put in).

    It’s from a long time ago, 1996?, and people are allowed to evolve their thinking. But the author is fascinating.

    • http://poisonyourmind.com dedc79

      Things we could do to stabilize social security
      1) get it over with and make the millions of illegal immigrants living in the U.S. citizens so that they start paying into the system. At some point they will be brought in and each year we wait we lose out on tax dollars even though we’ll be paying out social security to them when they reach age
      2) make the tax that funds the system slightly less regressive
      3) Do nothing and see how the changing demographics of the U.S. affect the program over time. Population growth may even out some of the disparity between the number of people paying into the system and the number of people receiving benefits

      • http://www.tarheelred.wordpress.com Pino

        Things we could do to stabilize social security

        If I couldn’t get rid of it, here’s what I’d do:

        1. See dedc79′s #1 above. Fantastic idea. It’s long past time to make these people legal citizens.

        2. See dedc79′s #2 above. I would increase the cut-off on FICA.

        3. Means test the system. No reason to pay out to people who don’t need it.

        4. Raise the retirement age.

        5. Change the inflation gauge.

        6. Privatize a portion of the 12% tax. That it, if someone making $100 a year is contributes $6 and their employer contributes $6, take 2 of that $12 and let the individual put it into a private account. They could leave it as cash, invest in traditional SS or invest it in funds–stocks or bonds. This fund would be theirs tax free. When they passed away they could will it to family members. I would further allow people to contribute MORE to that fund if they wanted.

        The parts that would choke hard core conservatives are #2 and #3. The people who would object to #1 are loons. So are the objectors to #6.

        Fair?

        • http://www.poisonyourmind.com nickgb

          re: #3, though I think it’s a fine idea, that seems hugely redistributionist of you…

          • http://www.tarheelred.wordpress.com Pino

            re: #3, though I think it’s a fine idea, that seems hugely redistributionist of you…

            It’s strategic. I’m willing to give significantly if I can get even a little bit of the system into private hands.

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