The week after President Obama was re-elected, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) insisted Republicans need to “stop being the stupid party.” He added that he and his party have “had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”
The Louisianan added that his party should “stop reducing everything to mindless slogans, tag lines, 30-second ads that all begin to sound the same.”
It all sounded quite nice, actually. Even if Jindal made a poor messenger, the message had the potential to serve as a wake-up call for a party that badly needs one.
This week, we were reminded of just shallow Jindal’s rhetoric really is, and why he’s not the Republican to lead the GOP away from “dumbed-down conservatism”; he’s the Republican who can’t let go of “dumbed-down conservatism.”
Many of us have argued that “fiscal cliff” is a wildly overwrought metaphor to describe the contractionary effects of fiscal tightening that will be phased in gradually. Bobby Jindal, in an op-ed today, seems to think the metaphor is not overwrought enough (“Today it’s the fiscal cliff, but that surely will not be the end of it; next year it will be the fiscal mountain, after that the fiscal black hole, and after that fiscal Armageddon”). But it also appears that Jindal lacks any understanding of what the fiscal cliff is or why economists think it’s bad.
Jindal’s op-ed is a truly sad display. The governor who seems eager to blaze a new intellectual trail for the Republican Party has an agenda that includes a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution (one of the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas); an 18 percent cap on federal spending (the other worst idea in the history of bad ideas); an arbitrary mechanism that would make it all but impossible for policymakers to raise taxes for any reason (which would make policymaking even more impossible); and just for the heck of it, term limits, as if having inexperienced policymakers would make our problems go away.
Taken together, Bobby Jindal, the guy who wants his party to “stop reducing everything to mindless slogans,” “stop being simplistic,” and start “trusting the intelligence of the American people,” is rolling out old, tired cliches that don’t work, crumble under scrutiny, and don’t even relate to the ongoing fiscal debate.
Indeed, Paul Krugman, lamenting the “fiscal ignoramus factor,” lamented, “You really have to wonder how someone who’s a major political figure could be this uninformed – but you have to wonder even more about the state of mind that induces you to write an op-ed about a subject you don’t comprehend at all.”
I realize Jindal has a reputation with the D.C. establishment as being a serious guy and intellectual heavyweight. It’s time for the establishment to reevaluate those assumptions.