Saturday, April 16, 2016

Why can't I stop bashing Sanders? It's not policy. He's a goo-goo.

Between this blog and a couple of pieces at The Conversation (here and here), one might get the impression that I don't have much respect for Bernie Sanders.  I am actually much harder on Donald Trump, but that is apparently expected.  Funny, though.  I don't hear much from Trump supporters.  Berniacs, however, don't hesitate to let me know that they are displeased.

Currently, that takes the following form:  in one of my Conversation pieces, I point out that Bernie Sanders is really no different from Paul Ryan in that his budgets are based on magical numbers that cannot possibly add up.  Paul Ryan wants to cut taxes, and he doesn't care about the budget or the economy as a whole, so he lies about the effects of his tax cuts on both.  Bernie Sanders wants to redistribute more, and he doesn't care about either the budget or GDP, so he lies about the effects of his policies (for elaboration, see here).  Bernie Sanders = Paul Ryan*(-1).  OK, that's not quite right.  If you head on over to Voteview, which compiles "NOMINATE" scores to estimate ideology based on congressional voting patterns, you will see that Sanders comes it at -0.7170 on a -1 to +1 scale, whereas Paul Ryan's score is 0.8580, so Ryan is actually more ideologically extreme than Sanders, but my point is that they both lie in the same way for the same reason.

The answer among Berniacs is that he who walks on bong water never lies, and that the greatest economist in the history of the universe, James Galbraith, has proven beyond all doubt that Bernie's budget will cure the Zika virus, and Paul Krugman is a moron and a shill for Hillary, and you have a stupid haircut!

Anyone who wants economic analysis of the various budget plans floating around in the political muck can read an economist's blog.  But there is something else going on here.  I don't like Sanders.  And it goes beyond the fact that his policy platform is based on bogus numbers.

And most other political scientists don't like Sanders.

Why don't we feel the bern?  The answer has to do with one of the most snarky insults that political scientists can call a person:  a goo-goo.  What, you may ask, is a goo-goo?  A "good government" advocate.  A person who thinks that some "good government" reform will cure all political ills.

Goo-goos come in many varieties.  People who want to change the redistricting process.  People who want mandatory voting.  People who want to abolish the electoral college.  People who want to change the primary voting rules.

Who pisses me off most of all?  Campaign finance reformers.

And that brings me to Bernie.  Forget about Bernie's substantive policy platform.  What does Bernie want to do most of all?  He wants to pass a constitutional amendment letting him ban privately financed campaign activity.  He has claimed that this would be his first priority, and that there is no point working on anything else before it happens.  Afterwards, Congress will unanimously pass all of Bernie's socialist/utopian policy dreams!

This is bullshit.  Pure, uncut bullshit of the most pungent but agriculturally useless variety.  Let's count all the ways.

First, let's be practical.  Passing a constitutional amendment for this?  Ain't gonna happen.  Never.  No way, no how.  We have amended our Constitution 27 times.  The first ten were all at once, right after ratification.  Three of them took a civil war.  One of them canceled out another.  One of them took two centuries to ratify.  Ratifying a constitutional amendment is insanely hard.  It's supposed to be.  If amending the Constitution were easy, it would look like the California state constitution, and there would be no functional difference between statutory law and constitutional law.

The amendments we have passed have also related mostly to highly salient issues.  Slavery.  Women's suffrage.  That kind of stuff.  Have low salience amendments passed?  Sure, but that brings us to good, old Amendment 27.  And I do mean old.  That one limited congressional pay raises.  And it took 200 years to pass.

Where does campaign finance reform fit on the public salience scale?  About as low as possible.  Goo-goos, their journalist supporters, and a few others are totally obsessed with campaign finance reform, but most of the public couldn't care less about it.  Ask people to rate 20 issues from most to least important.  You will have a hard time finding any issue that receives any news attention that rates lower than campaign finance reform.

If Bernie is so deluded as to think that a constitutional amendment allowing the restriction of campaign spending will pass, he is too stupid to be trusted with presidential authority.

Next, let's talk about the effects.  This is one of the areas where political scientists and goo-goos are most at odds.  Bernie is convinced that everyone secretly agrees with his socialist agenda.  You see, the only reason anyone in Congress opposes him is that they are all bought off.  Really, if Ted Cruz weren't getting all that corporate money, he'd be taking bong hits and joining the drum circle at an Occupy rally.

No?  You don't think so?  Congratulations.  You are smarter than Bernie Sanders.

There is a pattern of statistical association between politicians' receipts from interest groups and their behavior in office.  Is that because the money buys them off, or because groups give to their ideological allies?  Pretty much the latter.  That's what empirical analysis tells us.  Everyone should go read John R. Wright's Interest Groups and Congress.  Bernie never will because Bernie has convinced himself, implicitly if not explicitly, that Ted Cruz secretly agrees with him.

Since that's bullshit, though, take away the money and how will people behave?  Basically the same.  Bernie will have just as much difficulty turning America into Denmark.  Why?  Cuz we aren't Danes.  Remember how PolitiFact's "lie of the year" a few years back was the Republican claim that Obamacare was a "government takeover" of the healthcare system?  Well, why did Republicans tell that lie?  Because Americans don't want a government takeover!  That will still be true, even if Bernie gets his silly, little constitutional amendment.  So, even if he could accomplish his constitutional goal, it wouldn't help him one whit towards his policy goals.

So, let's sum up.  Bernie Sanders has promised to spend his presidency working first towards a constitutional amendment that cannot possibly be ratified based on the false premise that doing so would allow him to pass policy initiatives that would fail anyway.

Hmmm.  Now, why is it I'm not feelin' the bern?  I don't care what you think about policy.  I don't care if you want a government takeover of the healthcare system or not.  I don't care if you want more or less redistribution.  Bernie Sanders doesn't understand politics.  He is a goo-goo.  And that just annoys me.  If you understand politics, it should annoy you too.

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