The easy narrative vs. the complex reality of America's financial issues, in short

(via Wil Wheaton) In his NY Times blog, Paul Krugman writes:

OK, joking aside, this is important. Republicans have invented a history in which it has been fiscal irresponsibility all along — and far too many centrists have bought into the premise. The reality is that we had low debt and no fiscal problem before Reagan; then an unprecedented surge in peacetime, non-depression deficits under Reagan/Bush; then a major improvement under Clinton; then a squandering of the Clinton surplus via tax cuts and unfunded wars of choice under Bush. And yes, a surge in debt once the Great Recession hit, but that’s exactly when you should be running deficits.

The point about the fake history that expunges the Clinton years is that it turns the budget into a story in which nobody is at fault because everyone is at fault, and the problem is a generic issue of runaway spending. No, it isn’t; we would have come into this crisis with very little debt if the GOP hadn’t always insisted on tax cuts.

Ron Paul's pithy response to school shootings, and related problems

ThinkProgress reports on Libertarian/Republican Congressman Ron Paul's comments suggesting that armed guards in schools would create an Orwellian police state:

Furthermore, do we really want to live in a world of police checkpoints, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, X-ray scanners, and warrantless physical searches? We see this culture in our airports: witness the shabby spectacle of once proud, happy Americans shuffling through long lines while uniformed TSA agents bark orders. This is the world of government provided “security,” a world far too many Americans now seem to accept or even endorse. School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America.

(Selection and emphasis by ThinkProgress)

This is an awesome point.  But ThinkProgress follows it up with many of the problems with Ron Paul's connected views -- which I think reflects the overall problems with Ron Paul's politics.  He's good at identifying major problems and standing up to them.  He's not so good at providing reasonable, evidence-based solutions to those problems.

Unfortunately, Paul also repeated several myths about guns in an attempt to equate calls for regulation of gun ownership with the NRA’s lunacy. His suggestion that “more guns equals less crime” is belied by the most recent research; the reverse is most likely true. Likewise, Paul’s claim that “private gun ownership prevents many shootings” is not supported by any real research. And the idea that gun control can’t work because “criminals don’t obey laws”misunderstands the several policy proposals on the table that would almost certainly save lives.

Paul appears to simply oppose any action to address gun murders, saying somewhat bizarrely that “our federal government has zero moral authority to legislate against violence.” His conclusion is the same as that of the editors of National Reviewmass murder is the price of freedom.

(Emphasis mine.)

Changing the GOP

I've heard a lot lately about the GOP needing to change to remain competitive as a party.  I honestly think that it's more likely that we'll last at least four more years of blindly ignoring reality, but it's fun to see the conversation.  This article at Slate addresses a number of directions that reformation could go.

2. Illegal immigrants epitomize American values. If the Republican argument against illegal immigrants is that they “don't share our values,” Bret Stephens writes in the Wall Street Journal, “then religiosity, hard work, personal stoicism and the sense of family obligation expressed through billions of dollars in remittances aren't American values.” So get over your ethnic hang-ups and your English-only fixation. “What's so awful about Spanish?” Stephens asks. “It's a fine European language with an outstanding literary tradition—Cervantes, Borges, Paz, Vargas Llosa—and it would do you no harm to learn it. Bilingualism is an intellectual virtue.”

[...]

4. Gay marriage is a bourgeois triumph. “Public support for same-sex marriage has risen a lot, among young people especially, and the Republican Party will have to soften its opposition to it,” writes Bloomberg’s Ramesh Ponnuru. Will counsels that conservatives “need not endorse such policies, but neither need they despise those, such as young people, who favor them.” Gerson, looking at the same poll numbers, says “it is more advisable than ever to make public arguments about morality in aspirational rather than judgmental ways.” Stephens adds:

If gay people wish to lead conventionally bourgeois lives by getting married, that may be lunacy on their part but it's a credit to our values. Channeling passions that cannot be repressed toward socially productive ends is the genius of the American way. The alternative is the tapped foot and the wide stance.

That’s a neat fusion of conservative impulses: realism about human nature, skepticism toward naïve laws, attention to cultural consequences. You can see, in these reflections, how the GOP gradually reconciles itself to same-sex marriage.

I like these changes, not because I think they're reasonable or sane, but because the more the GOP compromises their own fringe beliefs, the further to the left the Overton Window slides.