Politicians and pundits these days seem to be making unusually awful arguments in support of their political preferences and objectives. In some cases, you wonder if they are serious.
Vice President Biden: “There may be reasons why I don’t run, but there’s no obvious reason, for me, why I think I should not run.” Oh, sure there are, Joe. You’re going to be 73 years old in 2016. Hillary Clinton would trounce you. The media would mock you. And you’ll probably say a bunch of stuff that will embarrass your current boss.
Democrats: Obamacare will make sure you’re not “locked” into a job. Well, health-care reform wasn’t supposed to work that way; it was supposed to increase jobs and economic growth. But if Dems think they can convince working Americans to subsidize health care for able-bodied people who’d rather work part-time so they can write poetry on the couch, they should go for it.
Anti-immigration advocates: Immigration reform will imperil working Americans. First off, having people already here illegally and subject to exploitation (e.g. work below legal wages or in dangerous conditions) is a bigger competitive threat to American workers. This is one reason to bring them out of the shadows. Second, virtually all free-market economists believe the anti-growth argument is bunk, especially in regard to high-skilled workers. (If it were true that illegal immigration destroys jobs for native-born Americans, why is Texas the leader, by far, in job creation over the last few years?) Third, if they think a secure border is a necessity, there is no way to get it other than by a negotiated comprehensive immigration package (or several chunks of one), which, by the way, will also include e-Verify, guest-worker provisions (which minimize permanent, illegal migration) and regulation of visa overstays. Fourth, what would happen to the economy if 11 million people were deported or self-deported? (If you think 2.5 million jobs leaving because of the Obamacare is bad news, why isn’t 11 million exiting people even worse?)
Anti-immigration Republicans: We can’t pass immigration because we don’t trust the president to enforce it. Puleez. If the president is going to play king for a day and do whatever he wants, it is a lot easier to do so in the absence of passed legislation. More to the point, they can have it go into effect when he leaves (considering the time frame it will take to pass and advance on border security, that will inevitably be the case.)
Anti-internationalists on the right and left: We don’t have national interests in Syria. Are they still saying that? Jeffrey Goldberg tentatively argues that “this story is moving out of the humanitarian catastrophe column or the ‘this is bad for our regional allies’ column into a kind of pre-9/11 Afghanistan story.” It has actually been that way for years — ever since thousands of jihadis moved in. The ongoing war has ravaged U.S. credibility and bolstered Syria’s senior partner Iran as well as Hezbollah. As expected, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has slow-walked compliance with the chemical weapons agreement — thereby underlying that we have neglected a very real national interest, namely the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.): Democrats should give back campaign money from the purported “sexual predator” Bill Clinton. Really, does this sound like a serious person who wants to be president? Bill Clinton is overwhelmingly popular. Rand Paul too often sounds wacky (e.g. defending the Southern Avenger, arguing for containment of Iran). And holding Hillary Clinton responsible — otherwise why bring it up? — for her husband’s shenanigans smacks of sexism.
U.S. News & World Report columnist: “What the truth might be, and what few politicians would dare say, is there might simply be some value in lower economic growth.” Few politicians would say it because among these bad political arguments this may be the worst. At a most basic level this columnist may confuse a single person’s trade-off between income and leisure time with the country’s economic growth as a whole. (The CBO says Obamacare will net out a 2.5 million job loss.) As for the country, there is no one in public office or running for office rooting for the economy to slow down. If you want more opportunity, less inequality, less poverty, longer life span, more technological advancement and more prosperity, you sure better root for more growth, which is why politicians of both parties do.