Somewhere during the the past 10 to 15 years economic policy positions in the U.S. have become cultural values: Issues like tax cuts or deficits have become as toxic in the public discourse as abortion or gay marriage. Increasingly, people seem to choose their positions not because of what the “evidence” indicates, but because they are seeking ideological markers that fit snugly into a web of tribal partisan allegiances. To pick just one defining example: It doesn’t matter whether one can prove that tax cuts are at a historic low, or have a disastrous effect on the deficit, or even how many economists point out that further cuts won’t generate revenue to pay for themselves. Opposition to taxes defines what it means to be a conservative today, just as does opposition to abortion. You can’t be a conservative who supports higher taxes — that would make you a liberal. The hardening into concrete of this faith-based economic policy value system is a relatively recent phenomenon that has incurred disastrous fallout: The U.S. is now incapable of debate or compromise. We’ve chosen sides, and all-out war is all we’ve got left.
…. From Day One of the Obama administration, Republicans warned that big deficits would lead to hyperinflation. It hasn’t happened yet, but the rhetoric hasn’t budged an iota. The shrinking size of government at all levels has been a major drag on the economy, and still, the call is to cut more spending. The data on rising income inequality are shrugged off — and greeted with demands for even higher tax cuts for the rich and complaints that the poor and middle class aren’t paying enough taxes. In every case, what passes for political debate isn’t informed by the available data, but by the starting position of the contestants.