The Republican Party Ignores Reality According To Former Reagan Adviser

Reality Check from WBEZ

Reality Check from WBEZ

Bruce Bartlett is a name well-known in conservative circles. He drafted President Reagan’s notable tax cut legislation, worked for the Treasury department under the first President Bush, and even wrote the book on “Supply Side Economics.” He made the declaration that “Keynesian economics is dead.” He has worked for the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute. He has written for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, Investor’s Business Daily, the New York Sun, along with dozens more conservative newspapers. He worked hard for the campaigns of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ron Paul. He is the conservatives conservative. And in the December edition of The American Conservative” he came out swinging … against the modern conservative movement and Republican party.

In his article, titled Revenge of the Reality-Based Community: My life on the Republican right—and how I saw it all go wrong” he dissects, then tears down the foundation of lies upon which the modern GOP now operate. When he dared raise any criticism against the second Bush administration, rightly noting that the tax policies and ballooning spending were the antithesis of conservative ideals, he was ignored. He ran articles and wrote books detailing out mistakes, which were widely disseminated in the mainstream media, but none of it sank in to conservative groups. He kept calling out the warning bells, that they were going to be handed their posteriors in the 2006 and 2008 elections, and yet, nobody listened. Curious, he began to study why. What he, and other alarm ringers, found was that the modern conservative movement, and the Republican party as a whole, are suffering from what is called “epistemic closure.” In simple terms, they created an echo chamber, a bubble within which they could recite and be reinforced by their own comments. Divorced from reality, think tanks become propaganda machines, no longer developing new idea, mired with their old, rehashed concepts.

This reality bubble is further isolating the conservative movement, which refuses to admit losses and instead seeks to blame others for their own failures. Mr. Bartlett refused to be dissuaded from exposing the reality of the modern conservative movement, or the Republican party. For daring to tell the truth, he was fired by the conservative think tanks, replaced by yes-men who would only recite the material which reinforced the reality bubble. He rightly pointed out that the embrace of racist rhetoric has isolated the GOP from the mainstream, and that only through shifting policies to be more accepting of minorities could they prevent being eliminated as a national party.

But, the true cardinal sin for Mr. Bartlett, the man who wrote the book on Reaganomics, came in a 2007 New York Times article, titled “How Supply-Side Economics Trickled Down.” In it, he pointed out the theoretical, and the reality, behind Supply-Side Economics. He dared to admit that it was time to move past Supply-Side, that it no longer can serve the needs of the world. He rightly pointed out that the model for it was based on a very specific set of conditions, which no longer applies to the modern world. He set out to make a new economic model, armed with years of experience, to resolve this dilemma, that the economic policy so long adhered to by the conservative movement broke down in the modern world. Instead, he found himself facing a reality he had so long fought hard to ignore.

He found that the economic crisis was not a case of undersupply, as he had advocated for over 40 years, but instead one of monetary velocity. This is of course the cornerstone of Keynesian Economics, the very school of economics which Supply Side Economics was created to eliminate. Instead of eliminating Keynesian Economics, Bartlett and other conservative economists, had proven why Keynesian Economics works in the first place. This so infuriated the conservative propaganda machine, they went into overdrive to eliminate such thoughts. They ran articles, argued at length, and even fought to eliminate any dissenting thoughts in their ranks. This resulted in primary challengers in otherwise safe districts for those who do not adhere to the disproven reality of the discredited supply-side economic school of thought. Despite the long-term proven viability of Keynesian Economics, something Mr. Bartlett begrudgingly accepted, the modern conservative is in panic mode and seek to reinforce their false-reality propaganda.

Ultimately, Bruce Bartlett has come to understand the fundamental flaw in conservative thinking. It is insular, only able to exist properly when divorced from reality. While one can be conservative, one cannot be ruled by conservatism. This demand for a reality bubble has resulted in Republican anti-science legislation geared to replace reality with their own brand of fantasy. No conservative thought can survive except in isolation, and if in isolation then it is unable to react to the realities of the moment. The modern Republican Party, and conservative movement can be summed up as a collective of putting their fingers in their ears and pretending not to hear what people are telling them.

It now is in a brutal civil war where any opinion outside of a narrow set of guidelines is akin to treason. It took Bruce Bartlett several years to learn the truth behind the concept, and now it stands poised to destroy the party of Reagan. After all, how can a movement survive when its foundations are based on the principle that there are no new good ideas, and to never learn? Reality is not static, it is ever changing. Conservatism is by design unchanging, using the same solution over, and over again, regardless on its suitability to the problem at hand. So while in the 1970’s, conservatism appeared as a radically new concept, winning appeal from those who were unfamiliar with it, today it is a tired, old concept, with only the wreckage of the past decades of economic policies to show for it. It cannot be the way forward, when it is stuck in the past. And that is the reality of the situation.