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Radical Outliers


An excellent way of illustrating the nature of the Republican Party is to compare their stimulus plans to what Boris Johnson is doing:

Last week, the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party unveiled a plan to keep British workers paid and employed for the duration of the coronavirus crisis. The Tory proposal would effectively cover 80 percent of sidelined workers’ salaries, while forbidding employers who accept the government’s help from laying off staff. The policy closely resembles one implemented by Denmark’s Social Democrats, except that Boris Johnson’s wage-replacement rate is slightly more generous than the Danish left’s. Although the Conservatives have a well-earned reputation for sacrificing Britain’s vulnerable on the altar of deficit reduction, even they recognize that social welfare must take precedence over budgetary concerns in the context of a historically sudden and deep economic crisis. On Friday, Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that there would be no limit on the funding available for covering workers’ wages.


Senate Republicans have also insisted on (1) limiting an increase in unemployment benefits to three months, (2) making the bill’s cash-assistance provision a onetime payment instead of a subsidy guaranteed to recur for the duration of the crisis, and (3) capping relief funds for small business at a fraction of the level recommended by conservative economists like Glenn Hubbard and Michael Strain.

What makes Mitch McConnell’s principled stance in favor of subsidizing corporate layoffs and penny-pinching on aid to workers and small businesses most remarkable is that it runs directly counter to his party’s political interests. Donald Trump’s reelection is quite likely to hinge on whether economic growth resumes by midsummer. The bulk of the Democratic demands that McConnell is rejecting — more expansive aid to workers, consumers, state governments, and small businesses (that agree to retain their staff) — would increase the probability of a “V-shaped recovery,” and thus, of Trump renewing his lease on the White House.

Therefore, the gulf between the GOP’s response to the crisis and that of Britain’s Tories is not a product of public opinion or crass electoral concerns. Rather, it reflects the fact that the Republicans are not a normal conservative party, but a uniquely reactionary political formation. No other major party in the Western world rejects the concept of universal health care or disputes the reality of man-made climate change. The GOP is more adamantly opposed to the downward redistribution of resources, or any measure that tips the balance of power between workers and bosses in the former’s direction, than any center-right party in the developed world.

Johnson isn’t even facing an election for years! The Republican Party is just an extremist faction alone among major parties in established liberal democracies.

This is a good related question:

Maybe things have changed so much in 12 years that an economic depression won’t hurt the incumbent party in a presidential election anymore, although this seems highly unlikely. But a depression and a deadly pandemic that doesn’t spare affluent white people? For a president who was unpopular even when the economy was good and still is? It seems pretty unlikely that this isn’t going to be a major political problem for a candidate with an extremely narrow margin for error to begin with. But when you’re this sociopathic…

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