Political Animal


February 15, 2013 10:20 AM Original Sin

By Ed Kilgore

In all the generally meh reaction to Marco Rubio’s much-awaited Republican Response to the State of the Union Address, a lot of people (perhaps mesmerized by the silly “slurping” incident) missed one howler in his text that was worth underlining. Paul Krugman certainly caught it, and explained why it mattered, a lot:

The financial crisis of 2008 and its painful aftermath, which we’re still dealing with, were a huge slap in the face for free-market fundamentalists. Circa 2005, the usual suspects — conservative publications, analysts at right-wing think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute, and so on — insisted that deregulated financial markets were doing just fine, and dismissed warnings about a housing bubble as liberal whining. Then the nonexistent bubble burst, and the financial system proved dangerously fragile; only huge government bailouts prevented a total collapse.
Instead of learning from this experience, however, many on the right have chosen to rewrite history. Back then, they thought things were great, and their only complaint was that the government was getting in the way of even more mortgage lending; now they claim that government policies, somehow dictated by liberals even though the G.O.P. controlled both Congress and the White House, were promoting excessive borrowing and causing all the problems.
Every piece of this revisionist history has been refuted in detail. No, the government didn’t force banks to lend to Those People; no, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac didn’t cause the housing bubble (they were doing relatively little lending during the peak bubble years); no, government-sponsored lenders weren’t responsible for the surge in risky mortgages (private mortgage issuers accounted for the vast majority of the riskiest loans).
But the zombie keeps shambling on — and here’s Mr. Rubio Tuesday night: “This idea — that our problems were caused by a government that was too small — it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.” Yep, it’s the full zombie.

It’s also pretty much the sum and substance of “Santelli’s Rant”, widely credited or blamed with launching the whole Tea Party Movement. It’s based on the rage of self-righteous, well-off people who want the inferior breeds (or as Santelli called them, the “losers”) to shut up and take their recessionary medicine instead of asking taxpayers or regulators for help.

Put aside everything else Rubio said and didn’t say on Tuesday night: his subscription to this Original Sin of the Tea Folk makes an instant mockery of his rhetorical efforts to identify himself with working stiffs. Maybe Krugman’s right and “zombie economic ideas have eaten his brain.” But the inability to acknowledge his own party’s—and yes, his own conservative movement’s—culpability for the Great Recession, and their ill-disguised efforts to make that recession good and vicious for the victims, is a moral as much as an intellectual problem.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Stetson Kennedy on February 15, 2013 10:46 AM:

    In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

    It is the carefully worded excuse that gives Rubio wiggle room. To a certain axtent, he is correct that "reckless government policies" created the housing crisis, but the give-away is that he never named what any of those policies were.

    He may be fully aware that the policies that created the crisis were the very same deregulation policies that his GOP colleagues so vigorously supported (and, unfortunately, were joined by too many dems), but by leaving it at the vague phrase he used, he can dog-whistle to his tea party friends that it was the GSE's all along.

    He's a fraud, and not a very good one, either.

  • Celui on February 15, 2013 10:55 AM:

    And now we can see (we already have seen this) that the ONLY goal of Republican obstructionism is to further their peculiar political ideology. It's always been this way, but the American citizenry has often been hoodwinked by the GOP smoke and mirrors, name-calling, innuendo, false equivalencies, bluster and bull, and the ever-increasing 'blame the victim' meme. Why these falsehoods (read: lies) aren't challenged by the media is simply to underscore how deeply the media in general is beholden to the GOP-backed money sources. Where is the commitment to the 'general good' that is the hallmark of American democracy through representative government? Well, it seems that the 'general good' is now an anachronistic goal that has been removed from government by the very forces which promise to benefit by its removal. Oligarchy at its worst.

  • Epicurus on February 15, 2013 11:29 AM:

    Color me shocked! Republican pol is hypocritical liar!! Alert the news media, I think we have an item for Page One. Please, please, PLEASE stop voting for Neanderthals. I'm begging you, as a rational human being, please stop sending these yahoos to Congress. We're still fighting a major war, recovering from the greatest financial disaster since the Great Depression, and we have to put up with childish whining and obstruction?? Grow up, GOP, and maybe you'll rehabilitate your image...in another 20 years.

  • Bokonon on February 15, 2013 11:32 AM:

    The fact that Rubio put this in his SOTU rebuttal so prominantly shows that GOP is continuing to double down. They are just trying out a new messenger for the same old message.

    I don't know how many of the GOP's brain trust even know (or care) that this big-government-caused-the-recession claim is pile of garbage. And I am not sure that it is even a good political play outside the GOP's own base. But clearly, it too important for the GOP to give up. It serves both their defense (both of their party, their ideology and their major donors). And it is the keystone for their aggressive assault on that self-same government that supposedly caused so much misery and hardship for everyone. They just keep waiting for the Ronald Reagan moment on television when this message will suddenly sell. To everyone.

    As the gay cowboys in Brokeback Mountain said, "I cain't quit you!!"

  • ex-curm on February 15, 2013 11:47 AM:


    A Washington Post blogpost also addressed this and in the comments, Republicans double-down on their blame the federal goverment argument

  • Citizen Alan on February 15, 2013 12:28 PM:

    Every time I see the name "Santelli," I immediately think of the word "tumbrel." Don't know why that is.

  • schtick on February 15, 2013 12:42 PM:

    The teapub candidates always cry the government isn't working and get elected and re-elected to prove it. Old news.

    The teapubs are re-writing the bible, re-writing science and re-writing history and the dimwit dems are letting them do it. Old news.