Here We Go Again, the Washington Post Tells Us that Politicians Are Philosophers

May 09, 2020

It is bizarre how reporters continually feel the need to tell us about politicians’ philosophies. Why on earth would they think that politicians are guided by any philosophy? Politicians get elected by getting the support of key constituencies, not by having wonderful philosophies. I would not think that is a seriously contested claim.

This is why everyone should be upset at a Washington Post article on the prospects for another big economic rescue package when it tells us:

“As some states move to reopen, a deep philosophical divide has emerged between the two parties about the proper role for the federal government in producing an economic recovery. Many Republicans say they should focus on creating the best conditions possible for people to go back to work. That would include steps such as limiting liability protections for businesses and reducing regulations, issues that a group of House Republicans discussed with Trump Friday at the White House, participants said. 

“Democrats, by contrast, believe they need to keep pumping money into the economy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is working to assemble another enormous relief bill with a price tag likely to top $2 trillion that she could bring up for a vote as soon as this coming week.”

Why on earth would anyone believe that this dispute has anything to do with philosophy? Republicans have the overwhelming support of business people. The proposal to exempt them from liability to workers and customers is an enormous gift to this powerful group of supporters. If a politician gives a big real estate tax break to a big contributor who is heavily invested in real estate would the conclusion be that the politician has a philosophy that it is important to give tax breaks to real estate?

Similarly, the Democratic Party receives considerable support from unions and poor and minority communities that are likely to benefit hugely from a new rescue bill that will provide substantial relief to state and local governments, to the Postal Service, and extend the unemployment benefits put in place last month. Whatever Pelosi’s personal philosophy, it is likely that her need to respond to these constituencies is playing a more important role in her actions right now.

It is also worth mentioning that “creating the best conditions possible for people to go back to work,” likely means actually creating safe workplaces for workers. By reducing the incentive to create safe workplaces, the Republican efforts to remove liability for employers with unsafe workplaces goes in the opposite direction of the goal this article attributes to them.

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