"The GOP Peddles Economic Snake Oil"

Thomas Frank's latest op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal ("The GOP Peddles Economic Snake Oil") reminds me of a quote that is often attributed to Bill Maher: "Republicans always run on the idea government is ineffective and then they get elected and prove it." And that's the gist of Frank's article.
OK, let me get this straight: The central axiom of conservative Republicanism is that government is inherently corrupt and can't do anything right.

Over many years of ascendancy, conservative Republicans have filled government agencies with conservative Republicans and proceeded to enact the conservative Republican policy wish list -- tax cuts, deregulation, privatization, outsourcing federal work, and so on.

And as a consequence of these policies our conservative Republican government has bungled most of the big tasks that have fallen to it. The rescue and recovery of the Gulf Coast was a disaster. The reconstruction of Iraq was a disaster. The regulatory agencies became so dumb they didn't even see the disasters they were set up to prevent. And each disaster was attributable to the conservative philosophy of government.

Yet now we are supposed to vote for more conservative Republicans because we learned from the last bunch of conservative Republicans that government just doesn't work.

That is the advice of Sarah Palin, Republican vice-presidential nominee, in last week's debate with her Democratic counterpart, discussing the dread prospect of universal health care: "Unless you're pleased with the way the federal government has been running anything lately, I don't think that it's going to be real pleasing for Americans to consider health care being taken over by the feds."

Conservative misrule, prompted by conservative disdain for government, proves that government cannot be trusted -- and that the only answer is to elect another round of government-denouncing conservatives.

"Cynicism" seems too small a word for this circular kind of political fraud. One reaches instead for images of grosser malevolence. It's like suggesting that the best way to recover from pneumonia is to stand in the rain for three hours. It's like arguing that the way to solve nuclear proliferation is by handing out weapons-grade plutonium to everyone who asks for it.

Consider also the perverse incentives that such a logic would establish. If we validate Mrs. Palin's thoughts on federal bungling by electing her to the high office she seeks, we are encouraging her to bungle everything that comes her way. After all, by her thinking, such bungling will not discredit her doctrines but rather confirm them, demonstrate the need for more Sarah Palins down the road. We will be asking for it, and it's not much of a stretch to predict that we will get it...