Blueprint for Republican Reform: Think Tanks

schoolhouseWhen Schoolhouse Rock described the process by which an idea becomes a law, they left out a few important steps. In the cartoon, earnest citizens recognize a problem in their community and call on their Congressman for help with a solution. Said Congressman, recognizing the merit of their request, sets the phone down, turns his chair toward his typewriter and drafts the bill, the hero of the program.

What’s missing from that scenario, among other things, is an element of the process that will be critical for reconstructing a healthy, relevant Republican Party. Previous posts have outlined a series of institutions and ideas Republicans should restructure in order to restore the party’s fortunes. One of those elements would be vital for a Congressman looking to respond to his constituents’ needs by drafting good legislation – think tanks.

If politics is a sausage-factory, then think tanks are the grinder. In a city starved for glamour there may be no less glamorous job. The best ones function as hives of bright minds, relied on by political leaders to deliver the research, drafting, advocacy, and analysis on which successful legislation is constructed.

Go the 1:12 mark in that famous Schoolhouse Rock video posted below. That’s the point in the process in which think tanks have perhaps their most important role. Armed with what seems like a great idea – school buses should stop at railroad crossings – it is time for our noble representative to draft a bill. It sounds easy. It is not.

Should this bill amend an existing law or add a new provision? Where does it belong in the federal code? Are there new terms it needs to define, or older terms it needs to redefine? Are there existing provisions that it would complicate, confuse, or conflict with? Will it require a Federal agency to issue clarifying regulations and if so, which agency? How do we write the bill in a manner that will prevent an agency from nullifying or over-complicating the new law?

Better yet, how much would the bill cost and who should pay for it? Must the bill be accompanied by some form of appropriation? Are there industries, lobbies, or local political interests in his district that are likely to oppose this effort? How can they be appeased? Who are their major spokesmen?

Congressmen have staff to help with this process. They also have access to resources funded by Congress and by committees to help, to a certain extent, with drafting and editing. But staff is very limited. Assistance provided by the House Legislative Council can be helpful in building a bill with effective language, but they will not help shape your legislation to meet practical political concerns. In short, to draft legislation that will successfully navigate its way toward adoption and also be effective on the ground, more often than not you need help from smart, savvy people who share your interest in the outcome.

That leaves Congressmen to rely on think tanks, interest groups, or to an increasing extent, industry lobbyists. As Republican think tanks become more intensely ideological, bent on orthodoxy in nearly every case regardless how absurd the result, representatives are forced to lean more and more on lobbyists for advice and research.

Building a Republican infrastructure willing to wrestle with reality will probably require us to construct new policy institutes rather trying to reform existing ones. There is a precedent for this.

In his book, The New Democrats and the Return To Power, Al From describes many of the steps taken by the Democratic Leadership Council in the ‘80’s to reform that party’s institutions. This passage describes their decision to support a think tank that was independent of their organization:

I liked the idea of setting up a policy institute separate from the DLC for two reasons. First, I explained, “the only way we are going to generate the amount of new ideas and high quality policy analysis I believe we should is to put together a small staff that does nothing else. Second, while I would expect the DLC to endorse most of the ideas it developed, a separate institute would give us a way to develop and test real cutting-edge ideas, even some that may be too politically hot for the DLC to embrace at first blush.”

Throughout 1988, we developed plans for the think tank. Will Marshall, who would move over to run it day to day, wrote at least half a dozen drafts of a prospectus. I courted and recruited the legendary hedge fund operator Michael Steinhardt to be its chairman and most important financial backer. I would be vice-chairman and chief executive officer.

One can still occasionally glimpse flashes of insight from mainstream Republican think tanks, but on the whole they remain loyal to dogma over discovery. What happened to David Frum and Bruce Bartlett when they expressed independent insights remains a warning to anyone who might step out of line. The best advice a Republican policy maker can get from a mainstream think tank today would come from the American Enterprise Institute. Unfortunately, the most innovative idea they have been permitted to explore so far is the concept that maybe, perhaps, under some unique circumstances, blanket tax cuts aren’t the solution to every problem.

What’s missing from the policy landscape on which Republican candidates and officials rely is any willingness to address the Four Inescapable Realities. No “think tank” is worthy of the name if it is blocked by political considerations from even considering vital, empirically-proven realities. Having an ideological focus is often central to a think tank’s mission. However, if that ideology focus fails to yield to discoveries, then the organization becomes a source of dangerous distortions.

There are few bright spots.

Republican pollster Whit Ayres has worked with Ed Gillespie to found Resurgent Republic. Though perhaps not technically a think tank (it’s a ‘social welfare organization’), the group is working to make Republicans more aware of shifting demographic trends. Based on that shift, they are trying to advocate policies more likely to support a ‘big tent’ Republican vision. Ayres, a pollster, is known for his straightforward analysis of the party’s demographic challenge, outlined in his book, 2016 and Beyond.

In a similar vein, former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis, ousted by the Tea Party in 2010, went on to lead the Energy & Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University. That group developed into RepubicEn. Through RepublicEn, Inglis has become the face of market-oriented policy responses to climate change. His work earned the 2015 Profiles in Courage Award from the Kennedy Library Foundation.

Needless to say, we need more bright spots. Inglis’ work has been groundbreaking, but his impact on Republican rhetoric has so far been limited. Similarly, Ayres work was meticulous and insightful. The GOP’s response to his air-tight case for minority outreach is Donald Trump.

Our example from Schoolhouse Rock can be helpful in understanding how a dysfunctional think tank ecosystem can potentially distort the process. When our representative turns to his typewriter at the 1:12 mark, he will rely on advice and assistance from a pool of smart people to help him meet his constituents’ needs. If the only advice he can get is that we already have too much regulation, but another tax cut will solve the problem, outcomes might be less than ideal.

The first post in this series described the need to develop a simple template of ideas around which a reform movement can coalesce. The second piece described the need to recruit and support a few pundits who can communicate that message. Next we identified a potential donor pool that might fuel further organization.

Supported by such a groundswell, it may be possible to develop think tanks as bright and insightful as RepublicEn and Resurgent Republic that also possess the influence to change the policy discussion. Achieving that goal will be vital to the next step in the process – recruiting and supporting sympathetic, electable candidates for office.

Read the rest of the elements of the Blueprint here.

Schoolhouse Rock: I’m Just a Bill

Bob Inglis’s Ted Talk

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Blueprint for Republican Reform
119 comments on “Blueprint for Republican Reform: Think Tanks
  1. […] that can form the core of a hyphenated-Republican appeal. Then we need to assemble donors and think tanks that can support the policy and campaign sides of an effort to activate new voters. Once that is in […]

  2. 1mime says:

    I want to clarify my original post on the purchase of the National Geographic Channel by 21st Century Fox. Further reading confirms that that the National Geographic Channel began in 1997 in partnership with Fox. The NG magazine and the Society have been in dire financial straits. This new purchase will ensure solvency and will result in Fox News owning 73% and National Geographic Society the balance. Only time will tell if programming content will alter. The WSJ has remained a fine journal but it is no longer non-partisan in its news coverage since its purchase by the Murdoch empire. So, there is that concern still.

    A bigger question to me is how large can the Murdoch empire become without violating anti-trust provisions?

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/national-geographic-magazine-shifts-to-for-profit-status-with-fox-partnership/2015/09/09/7c9f034e-56f0-11e5-8bb1-b488d231bba2_story.html

    • Rob Ambrose says:

      I think you’re right to be worried Mime. Soon you’ll be seeing climate change skeptical articles appearing in the prestigious scientific journal.

  3. Anse says:

    Think tanks are great for a political movement based on ideas and policy. But does that describe today’s GOP? Is Trump just a momentary hiccup, an outlier? Today I had a conversation with somebody about Trump in another forum, and I opined that Trump is the roaring Frankenstein monster created out of the Tea Party movement. My conservative adversary retorted that in fact, Trump does not count Tea Party-aligned voters as the majority of his base of support. According to the Washington Post link he provided, he was not wrong. Trump appears to be drawing out a new, perhaps formerly unheard or merely marginalized, base of angry voters who aren’t especially ideological.

    I know a lot of people would say that’s not the Tea Party, but I’ve always believed the TP was not especially ideological; their grievances had more to do with party strategy than policy. John Cornyn made this point about Ted Cruz, saying that he and Cruz agree in just about every way except one, and that’s how to accomplish their platform. I don’t think I’m wrong to say that the revolutionary vigor is the thing that attracts and drives the Tea Party the most.

    But then Trump has defied a number of expectations, trashing long-held Republican sacred cows and departing from party orthodoxy in a number of ways while offering up only one somewhat substantial position on any issue, that being immigration.

    Anyway, my point is that if Trump represents the current direction of the GOP, I don’t think any amount of intellectual think-tanking is going to make much of a difference. His people are not thinkers and are probably quite hostile to the very notion of over-thinking anything.

    • 1mime says:

      Tea Party Platform – in their own words. Maybe this will help you decide if they are ideological or not.

      http://www.teaparty.org/about-us/

      • Anse says:

        I stand by my assessment of the Tea Party. That site is just the usual Republican platform; if that’s all it were really about, there would be no need for it to exist. The Tea Party exists for one reason and one reason only: to give aging white conservatives a channel through which to vent their anger.

        Ted Cruz is a Tea Party darling. But what is Ted Cruz, really? He’s just a better-polished, more politically-attuned version of Donald Trump. That’s it.

        Conservatives in general want what the Tea Party says it wants, according to that link. What makes the Tea Party stand out is their fixation on what are, ultimately, futile gestures and militant rhetoric. Ted Cruz threatening to shut down the government for whatever the issue of the day is, for example. I actually read a Tea Partier’s blog the other day (it was in response to Jonah Goldberg’s recent lament over the Trump candidacy in The National Review) in which he stated that if other Republicans had merely stood with Cruz on his last pointless quest to shut down the government, they would have at least fulfilled their promises, whatever those may be (if I can find a link to it, I’ll share it here). So this is what the Tea Party, and the angry discontent of today’s GOP, is really about. It’s not ideology. It’s strategy, including hopelessly stupid gestures that accomplish nothing.

    • 1mime says:

      “His people are not thinkers….”

      And, their vote counts the same as every other person’s. Scary thought, isn’t it? Democracy – Be careful what you ask for…

      • Anse says:

        I’m a Democrat, and I welcome democracy. I consider it my obligation to lend my voice to the betterment of the country, and unlike many Republicans, I would never dream of standing in any right wing dolt’s stroll into the voting booth.

      • 1mime says:

        Absolutely, Anse. It’s how Democracy works. Disagree on issues, we do, but agree emphatically on the right to disagree – no matter how outrageous the actions. I don’t have to like them, and I have an equal right to object on a personal level. It gets more difficult on the national stage where disproportional amounts of money tilt the playing field ufairly – on either side. I do believe that money makes a difference in how well Democracy can function.

    • Anse, 1mime, it might help relieve your agitation if you think of Donald Trump as a high colonic for the body politic. 😉

      • 1mime says:

        One has to hope that something rational and positive will come from his candidacy….other than the presidency, of course (-:

        Actually the Don doesn’t bother me as much as those who support him. He’s always been a ham….his supporters, well, I guess they’ve always been who they are too….It’s going to make the “real” campaign if it ever starts….seem pretty boring. Somehow, I don’t think the Don will ever be the same.

      • Anse says:

        Donald Trump is political masturbation for the perpetually erect Angry Man.

  4. Rob Ambrose says:

    This seems to be getting very close to treasonous behavior. What authority does an armed group of (pathetic) civilians have to “protect” a citizen against a federal court order.

    http://www.rawstory.com/2015/09/oath-keepers-vow-to-defend-oath-breaking-kim-davis-with-guns-from-dictator-judge/comments/#disqus

    • flypusher says:

      Are these idgits just PO’ed because they couldn’t dredge up a legal excuse to shoot someone in Ferguson?

      • 1mime says:

        They are bullies, armed and dangerous and see threats everywhere. From their webpage if you can stomach reading it:

        http://oathkeepers.org/oktester/jade-helm-2015-questions-and-reflections/

      • texan5142 says:

        They need to be rounded up and charged with treason .

      • texan5142 says:

        The replies in the comment section tells me there is a bigger mental health crisis in this country than I envisioned.

      • 1mime says:

        Be happy you’re not living in TX….On NPR today, two mental disability specialists stated that TX ranks dead last in the nation in funding to treat mental disability. I guess you have to be mentally competent to understand the problem so you can adequately fund it, right? And all who are concerned about gun violence? Mental illness and disabilities (which is a broad category including autism, bi polar, depression, schizophrenia, etc) can be helped, but the cost of doing so is not a priority in the TX budget. Until there is a horrific crime. Then it’s a little late.

    • 1mime says:

      Rob, I think this group is used to “walking the line”. If government wasn’t wary of another Ruby Ridge, things might have turned out differently with Bundy. They muscle their way into tense situations and basically dare anyone to tell them to leave. My view is that they would love nothing better than to incite a response that would give them the excuse to unleash a volley of bullets. I am curious as to what our avid gun rights commentators think of this group’s tactics. Anyone want to weigh in?

      • texan5142 says:

        ISIS wanna be is what they are. They are itching to use the “tools” that they have spent much money on. They are insurgents and should be dealt with accordingly .

        1 : a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially : a rebel not recognized as a belligerent

  5. Tuttabella says:

    This link is for all you supporters of Bernie Sanders and lovers of Cool/West Coast Jazz:

    • Pseudoperson Randomian says:

      Why exactly do you support Bernie Sanders?

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Actually, I don’t support Bernie Sanders, but I’m an old school jazz lover, currently into Gerry Mulligan, and I came across this track of his called “Bernie’s Tune,” which seemed appropriate right now, and it gave me an excuse to put it out there.

      • Rob Ambrose says:

        I think the best case scenario is Bernie continuing to gain support and raise crucial issues and force Hill to the left in order to eventually win the nomination.

        But I can absolutely see why he’s gping viral. He’s speaking truth to power and almost everyone of his positions lines up with the majority. He’s tackling what many believe is the biggest issues facing America right now (and no its not The Gays, or abortion, or immigrants).

        I think he’s bang on with almost every policy position he takes. I ju st don’t think he’s the one to implement them.

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      Battle Hymn of the Republican. You sly Tutt.

  6. Rob Ambrose says:

    Wow. If you’ve lost Fox News in your fight for “religious liberty” you must REALLY be wrong.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/09/08/fox_news_on_kim_davis_lawyer_stupid_and_obtuse_video.html

    Honestly though, I can’t think of anything more likely to turn the stomachs of undecideds/independents/moderates then this country bumpkin being hailed as a hero and video of her dressed like a creepy Duggar Drone screaming and crying about “GOD IS HERE!! AND HE IS WORTHY!!” While holding her arms up to some invisible sky daddy on natonal tv.

    Fox News is right to distance themselves from her. She’s kryptonite to the conservative cause.

    • Doug says:

      You know she’s a democrat, right?

      • 1mime says:

        I would be the first to acknowledge that there are dumb Democrats. Just not as many (-: nor as dumb (-:

      • flypusher says:

        “You know she’s a democrat, right?”

        But you don’t know that her being a Dem won’t get her off the hook with the regulars here, despite all the pretty unambiguous stands most here have taken on same-sex marriage and the limits of religious liberty.

      • Turtles Run says:

        “You know she’s a democrat, right?”

        So what. Wrong is wrong. Are you claiming that if a Republican defied a court order you would cheer them on, like some Republican Presidential candidates are doing?

      • Doug says:

        No, turtles. She was elected to do a job and needs to do it or quit, although I believe jail without bond was a bit harsh. It just seemed from the tone of Rob’s post he assumed she is Republican.

      • Rob Ambrose says:

        Yes Doug I knew. It’s irrelevent because wrong is wrong.

        But as Chris has talked about before, party affiliation at the local level means almost nothing. Davis is a “democrat” because that seems like a good strategy in a country with 14,000 registered democrats vs 3,000 repubs ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rowan_County,_Kentucky )

        Her mother was clerk for 40 years and was also a democrat (when she first started, southern racists were members of the democratic party, not the GOP like they are today).

        It just so happens to be the case that if you want to be an elected official in Rowan County, being a “democrat” is the price of admission.

        And let’s not fool ourselves, when Huckabee and Cruz fly in to have a rally on your behalf, we all know which base she’s meant to appeal too.

        But again, it wouldn’t matter of she wqs Bernie Sanders campaign manager and did what she did. Wrong is wrong no matter who did it.

      • Rob Ambrose says:

        As well, it’s not “republicans ” that are currently trying to destroy America and it’s constitution. It’s small minded, bigoted, right wing fundamentalists.

        The fact that these people currently affiliate overwhelmingly to the Republican party does not mean the problem IS the Republican party.

        My beef with the GOP is only indirectly, as they are the current home to these fundies. I still believe the GOP will excise the cancer after the 2016 vote, which I think will be disastrous for republicans

  7. 1mime says:

    Finally, finally, we may be seeing the beginning of voter backlash in OK. Daily Kos reports:

    “Democrat Cyndi Munson defeated Republican Chip Carter 54-46 in a special election for a state House district that Mitt Romney carried by an overwhelming 61-39 margin in 2012. Republicans have held the seat for over 50 years, and Munson ran for it last year but lost by 13 points.

    Munson’s triumph makes her just the 15th woman and 30th Democrat in the 101-member state House, but it’s a start. Remarkably, this is also the third GOP-held state House seat to flip to the Democrats since August, following Leanne Krueger-Braneky’s win in Pennsylvania and Taylor Bennet’s victory in Georgia.”

    Small wins but important. Maybe Dems are starting to find their ground game. It’s about time.

  8. 1mime says:

    OT here. The prosecution of sitting AG Ken Paxton (facing 3 felony charges) has run smack dab into the proverbial TX wall. The 2015 law (1690), transfers all investigation of corruption of public and elected officials from the Travis County Public Integrity Unit, (created by the Legislature in the 1980s), to the Texas Rangers. There’s more. Under the old system, it didn’t matter where the corruption occurred, all cases were tried in Travis County. Not any more. The Legislature changed the law, essentially stripping the Public Integrity Unit of any authority.

    They also added this new change: if indicted by the TX Rangers, the accused official can elect to have their case tried in their home county! If you think this smacks of home cookin’, you’re on to something. Enter the indictment of AG Paxton, who, of course, has elected to have his case heard on his home turf. But, wait! Due to the voluminous amount of discovery and the complexity of the Paxton case, the cost of the prosecuting the case is going to be more expensive than Collin County authorities say it can afford, and therefore they are proposing to cap reimbursement costs to a maxiumum of $33,000, down from their originial estimate of $2 million – regardless how many hours are billed. They are also questioning whether taxpayer money should be used for prosecution of the AG. The matter is under advisement in Collin County. So, TX now separates investigation from prosecution to different entities, allows the accused to have the case tried in his/her home county, and those trying the case may not be fully reimbursed for their time and discovery if the home county has to pick up the tab.

    Quite an improvement, wouldn’t you say?

    http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_28368781/texas-dps-investigate-public-corruption

    • texan5142 says:

      Are you saying that Texas politics is corrupted or has corrupted the judicial system in order to benefit the corrupted ? No way, no wonder Paxton has that shit eating grin on his face in the mug shot.

    • Rob Ambrose says:

      Wow. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore.

      “Should taxpayers be funding this prosecution?” Is comoletely idiotic.

      Except for prosecuting murderers, rapists, or other violent offenders, I can’t think of any other type of criminal charge that deserves a full bore prosecution then political corruption among senior elected officials.

      How vigorous is a $30,000 prosecution going to be? Which is, of course, precisely the point.

  9. Tuttabella says:

    I was also thinking along the same lines of what others have posted below, that this blog is its own little think tank. I know that Chris is working with a more formal think tank in his local area, one that recommends policy that would be beneficial for the Black community.

    It would be interesting to know to what extent he presents our ideas to that formal think tank he participates in. I think it’s cool to be used as a sort of suggestion box. On the other hand, our discussions are informal, and some of our ideas are thrown out without the necessary thoughtfulness and could be misunderstood, and are not really intended to be set in stone. It’s not the same as writing a formal proposal.

    Just some thoughts.

  10. “Nothing I’ve just said makes any sense.”

    Well, Inglis at least got that right. Let’s see if I’ve got this straight… we’re going to get China, the world’s largest importer of hydrocarbons, to impose a carbon import tax, which will negatively impact all of China’s state-owned heavy industry, and cripple China’s competitive cost advantages on exports. LOL. Yeah, right.

    Oh, and while we’re at it, we’ll construct an entirely artificial market for hydrocarbons based on utterly arbitrary taxation, and we’ll call that a “free” market. Good Lord. Adam Smith is spinning so fast in his grave, that if we could just wrap him up in a copper armature, that would solve the world’s energy issues right there…

    • On the other hand, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while. Inglis may be a certifiable idiot, but…

      Only two things on this plane of existence have value: 1) energy, and 2) time. Energy, because it is required to create everything we consume (including food). Time, because we are each allotted only a finite existence. (And therefore anything that frees us from drudgery, or makes our leisure time more enjoyable, has value. It’s why professional athletes and entertainers are so highly paid… although it still doesn’t explain Miley Cyrus…)

      If we eschew Inglis’ moronic idea of picking energy favorites, and instead just tax energy equally in any form, we’d have the ultimate consumption tax (i.e., something very much like the Fair Tax, but a tax on energy rather than sales receipts). Since energy is used at every step in the production of any good (and many services), an energy tax would function not unlike a VAT, but in a much more transparent and less arbitrary fashion.

      For the tree huggers out there, a uniform (and revenue neutral) energy tax would spur all users of energy to do so more efficiently. As hydrocarbons remain our chief source of energy, increased efficiency would mitigate CO2 production.

      And we’d get to 86 the IRS. 🙂

    • johngalt says:

      Tracy, we have discussed in the past how you are not exactly the most disinterested soul when it comes to energy policy and taxes. Most reasonable people will acknowledge that some forms of energy generation are associated with more negative outcomes – externalities – than are others. Solar power is clean, as is wind, but that kills birds and, if you have a house on Nantucket, the views. Nuclear is clean, if you ignore the storage costs. Natural gas is clean-ish, at least far more so than coal. Even removing global warming, burning coal produces tangible pollution – particulates, sulfur dioxides, and CO2. Its mining is not particularly clean either. This pollution is demonstrably harmful to human health and the environment.

      Yet, burning coal was favored because it was cheap and we all like cheap energy. It was primarily cheap because we didn’t actually pay anything close to what it was actually costing us – we did not price in the externalities. We started to do that in the 1980s with the push against acid rain, via government regulations that tied the hands of utilities that had to comply with specific edicts. Was the the most efficient way to deal with this problem? Of course not – that would have been a tax that added to the cost of coal consumption in a measure commensurate with the added costs over natural gas or hydroelectric.

      But “conservatives” these days have only one response to new taxes: apoplexy. Even when they are the right solution to a societal problem, which is how to deal with products that are artificially cheap because we do not ask companies that use them to clean up their messes.

      Adam Smith recognized the potential for externalities, for the tragedy of the commons, though it was not as big a problem in Scotland in 1776 as it is today, with 10 times the population and many thousands of times the resource consumption. He would absolutely have favored pricing products to reflect their true cost.

      • Doug says:

        That’s all well and good, but Inglis is specifically talking about “carbon pollution,” not actual pollution. How would one even begin to price that?

        Despite dire predictions, the Maldives are still afloat (although their president is in jail), the polar bears are doing fine, there is no upward trend in tropical cyclones or extreme weather, and it seems to flood just about the time someone predicts a “permanent drought” due to global warming (see Australia, Southwest U.S.). Our most accurate measurement systems (RSS, USCRN) show no warming is happening, although there would be many positive benefits if it were. On the other hand, there is actual scientific evidence that the world is greening and crop yields are increasing due to the extra CO2.

        So what’s the price of a pound of CO2?

      • johng, I have no issue with building accountability for negative externalities into markets when said externalities are clearly demonstrable. Acid rain is a good example; the underlying science linking coal to acid rain is, in my studied opinion as an earth scientist, quite solid.

        On the other hand, the case for antrhopogenic global warming is, in my studied opinion as an earth scientist, tenuous at best. You may at your discretion exclude me from the “most reasonable people” group based on my opinion, but that does not in any way alter my opinion. I remain unwilling to penalize hydrocarbon-based energy production on the basis of nebulous negative externalities.

      • goplifer says:

        ***in my studied opinion as an earth scientist***

        You saw that, right?

      • Crogged says:

        It’s grand when one person whose livelihood depends on modeling attacks the methodology of other PhD’s, wonder how many of them comment on reservoir engineering in the oodles of spare time they have.

      • texan5142 says:

        ***in my studied opinion as an earth scientist***

        You saw that, right?

        Sounds like something the Captain would say.

      • Pseudoperson Randomian says:

        In my studied opinion as a doctor, the link between smoking and cancer is tenuous at best.

      • 1mime says:

        Just don’t inhale?

      • Pseudoperson Randomian says:

        OK, since I really don’t want to give people bad ideas, the previous statement was sarcastic.

        Also, if you don’t inhale smoke, I believe your risk of several types of lung cancers go down but you will have elevated risk of oral cancer

      • 1mime says:

        Just messin’ with ya, Pseudo!

      • johngalt says:

        And that, dear Tracy, is where your biases become most apparent. You are an “earth scientist”, skilled at identifying where and how to dig ancient bits of biomatter out of the ground so that other people can burn them. What we need here are climate scientists, those who study the results of burning the stuff you find. And they are in rather solid agreement that burning this stuff conveys significant externalities. Doug may be comforted that polar bear populations are growing slightly, largely because they’re not being hunted any more, or that the biggest 2015 problem in the Maldives is their political corruption, but the inability to see beyond the end of one’s own nose is rarely a positive.

        I note that there were contemporary critics of attempts to curtail acid rain who used nearly exactly the same language as today’s AGW deniers. It would be too expensive (it wasn’t). It would cost economic growth and jobs (it didn’t). Today’s Chicken Little’s have a great script from which to work.

        My answer to what a pound of CO2 emission should cost is the amount that will precipitate a reduction in its production (or an increase in its consumption) to levels that the best scientifically sound wisdom thinks is sustainable.

      • Doug says:

        “Today’s Chicken Little’s have a great script from which to work.”

        Wait….WE’RE the Chicken Littles? I always thought James Hansen was Chicken Little.

      • objv says:

        Help me out here, Tracy. I had no idea that your job was to dig “ancient bits of biomatter out of the ground” so people could pollute the earth and cause climate change.

        Last I heard, your company was developing software and mapping existing pipelines using GIS. Silly me, I thought what you were doing was contributing to the safety of the environment. Now, I find out that you are a blatant hater of the earth. How sad. : ‘ (

      • objv says:

        JG, I rarely chime in on anything connected to climate change because, well, I freely admit I have no idea of what I’m talking about. I have no background whatsoever except being the mother to two “earth scientists” (my son graduated in August).

        I can only attest that people who study geology usually take a long-term view of climate. To a geologist, a few decades is an insignificant amount of time.

        I am routinely mocked by my kids.

        Me (upon finding a piece of petrified wood): Wow, that must be hundreds of years old!!!!

        My offspring *rolling eyes*: Mom, what does that matter? Hundreds of years? You’ve got to be kidding. You really think that? Sure, I suppose the fossilized palm trees in Antarctica are also “hundreds of years old”. (At this point, I’m not appreciating the sarcasm.)

        Yes, climate changes, but geologists study change over millions – actually billions – of years. Their perspective is different.

      • goplifer says:

        It’s an interesting observation, but it reminds me of the old quote from Keynes, “In the long run we’re all dead.”

      • 1mime says:

        Well, as a book end to Citizens United, we now offer the latest private enterprise initiative to challenge our views on climate change. Pardon me if I am skeptical of any altruistism on the part of FOX. Those programs about melting glaciers? Forgetaboutit. Guess there’s more than one way to challenge evidence-based reality.

        http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/09/09/1419793/-Fox-Buys-National-Geographic-Aaarrghg?detail=email

      • Crogged says:

        So ask this guy where to drill the oil well.

        http://www.law.uh.edu/news/fall2015/0904Climate.asp

        This aversion to well considered research is baffling-but the tobacco companies didn’t like it either.

        Is climate change driven by humans pulling carbon sequestered by millions of years of geologic processes and releasing it into the atmosphere real? Yes.

        What to do about it is an entirely different subject. Maybe it will work out in the end, we can drive our cars and go play golf in February in Canada-until the methane in the permafrost starts releasing into the atmosphere………….

      • tuttabellamia says:

        OV, and to me it seems like yesterday . . .

      • tuttabellamia says:

        OV, I guess that makes you an “earth mother.”

      • objv says:

        Tutt,

        Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
        Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
        Oh, I believe in yesterday

        Crogged, old friend, I’m outa here. All I know is that I don’t know much, so I’ll leave you before I make a bigger fool of myself than I already have.

        I limit my driving, use LED lights, and keep my house cold in the winter but not in the summer. I’m willing to listen to all opinions on climate change, but honestly, I don’t know if I would be doing anything other than what I am doing right now. 🙂

      • 1mime says:

        Then you are doing all you can and your kids can be proud of their informed mom.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        OV, same here. I conserve resources, not because of climate change, but because I detest waste. I guess I’m an accidental environmentalist.

      • objv says:

        Tutt, if you saw me in my new Keen hiking sandals, you’d haven even more of a reason to call me “earth mother”. They definitely give off a hippy-dippy-trippy vibe. 🙂

        I still have to figure out what to do with the hundreds of rocks my son left at the house in my safekeeping. He didn’t have room for them in his car when he left for grad school. I’ll have to think creatively…

      • objv says:

        Thanks, Mime.

        Tutt, I detest waste as well. As I get older, I increasingly desire a simplified life.

      • Crogged says:

        One doesn’t need to be a scientist, or a doctor, or a plumber to understand what they are saying.

        http://futureahead.org/files/documents/How-To-Read-A-Book.pdf

      • tuttabellamia says:

        OV, you may be “outta here,” but thank you for gracing us with your presence, even if only for a few minutes. 🙂

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Crogged, we could all use the following:

        http://www.dalecarnegie.com/about-us/win-friends-digital-age/

      • Crogged says:

        “I’m not a scientist”, is the modern reverse of “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” with the sneaky intention of burial rather than praise .

        And a free book is a very friendly gesture.

      • “And that, dear Tracy, is where your biases become most apparent. You are an “earth scientist”, skilled at identifying where and how to dig ancient bits of biomatter out of the ground so that other people can burn them.”

        johng, my comments aren’t based on my experience as a petroleum geologist, but rather on the basis of my academic background as a stable isotope geochemist. Vast swaths of the that discipline would simply not exist, but for the fact that our planet’s climate is continuously changing over time. (Paleoclimatology is one of the primary applications of stable isotope geochemistry.) None of the temperature variations we have seen over the past several centuries are in any way out of line with those we see in the geologic record (both the recent record, and as far back as we can see). Given that industrial man was simply not around for these past temperature swings, Occam’s razor suggests that humans are not the author of our current, entirely pedestrian (from a geologic standpoint) warming.

        Note that I don’t *rule out* that the current warming may be anthropogenic, I merely do not find the evidence in support of that hypothesis scientifically compelling. Correlation does not imply causality; CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas; our best current predictive models are but primitive playthings. The prudent approach is to continue detailed observation for several centuries, at least, whilst continuing to develop and refine our modeling acumen. That may not be politically very appealing to creatures such as us, with such limited lifespans, but it’s really the *only* approach that has any scientific merit in this situation.

    • Doug says:

      Besides, it’s just plain silly to tax oil and gas since we ran out of them five years ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXHTmEUGR7c

  11. “One can still occasionally glimpse flashes of insight from mainstream Republican think tanks, but on the whole they remain loyal to dogma over discovery.”

    Of course, such an attitude presupposes that “dogma” is wrong, ipso facto. That’s a wholly rationalist, progressive view, Chris. Conservative thought, upon whose principles your party is founded, is based on a more empiricist school of thought. I refer you to Burke:

    “The science of government being, therefore, so practical in itself, and intended for such practical purposes, a matter which requires experience, and even more experience than any person can gain in his whole life, however sagacious and observing he may be, it is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes…. The nature of main is intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity: and therefore no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man’s nature or to the quality of his affairs.”

  12. RightonRush says:

    OT-Looks like another nut is going to enter the race for head
    fruitcake.
    John McAfee, Eccentric Tech Exec With Links To Drugs, Guns And Murder Inquiries, To Run For US President: Exclusive
    http://www.ibtimes.com/john-mcafee-eccentric-tech-exec-links-drugs-guns-murder-inquiries-run-us-president-2086433

    • 1mime says:

      My oh my, the talent Republicans are attracting! Well, the GOP has been criticized for years for not having a “big tent”. Guess that won’t work anymore (-:

      Just can’t get any better, or, can it? Palin’s comment that she would love to serve as Energy Sec in a Trump cabinet is gonna be hard to beat….especially with him indicating he would love to have her serve in his cabinet!!?? What a zoo.

    • 1mime says:

      At least there are some respected, highly visible Hillary supporters speaking out in her behalf. This morning I listened to a wide-ranging interview of Warren Buffett. He stated he is a “strong” Hillary supporter, thinks she handled the email issue poorly, but is the candidate that he feels will perform best in the job. He also spoke against the Citizens United ruling and all the billionaires getting involved in picking candidates. When asked what he thinks of Trump, he basically stated that the Republican Party voters are sending a message that they are real unhappy with the status quo and he included the media in that distrust loop. He praised Sanders’ campaign saying he was running it like he (Buffett) would have: honestly and direct. He noted that Biden had run twice and lost but that he could well decide to run. Bottom line, he unequivocally stated his support and belief in Hillary Clinton for President.

      That should speak volumes. Buffett picks winners.

  13. flypusher says:

    And now for the complete opposite of of think tank:

    http://www.vox.com/2015/9/7/9272275/palin-trump-energy-secretary

    The mindless “cut, cut, and cut some more” chant drones on.

  14. Ryan Ashfyre says:

    This one certainly agrees that a rebuilding of credible think tanks is an imperative if we wish to have credible policy solutions flowing towards our politics once again, but I think it just as, if not even more important to posit a credible path towards their sustained independence and a place in the people’s confidence.

    One need only look at the Heritage Foundation to see how a once respected institution has turned into just another haven for right-wing extremism. How does one keep that from happening?

    At first blush, it seems like the most obvious answer is public involvement and accountability, bolstered by a constant influx of fresh minds with differing viewpoints; a difficult feat given today’s stressful daily lives.

    With that in mind, why not tie them to higher education; killing two birds with one stone, as it were. Promote these new think tanks in high schools and college campuses around the country with forums, in civics courses, clubs, etc. Keep them sane by keeping them in touch with the real world and also help to inspire young people to become involved with the political process by letting them know that someone actually cares about their opinions and wants their voice.

    • 1mime says:

      Those are some good ideas, Ryan. It occurred to me that most community colleges offer continuing ed courses which are primarily attended by retirees. This might offer an additional avenue. We’ve talked before about the demise of debate in school. This offered great training for teaching students how to think deeply about complex issues – from both sides.

  15. Griffin says:

    Perhaps some Republican think tanks will have to be abandoned completely in order for new institutions to take their place. I don’t see anyway the Heritage Foundation could still be useful in terms of creating policy but if they collapsed than that may open the power vacuum newer think tanks need to gain influence.

    • Sara Robinson says:

      Think tanks have historically been the primary mechanism by which the wealthy have made their voices heard in the political conversation. (That was true right up until this year, when Citizens United made it possible for billionaires to buy candidates outright.) So Heritage and AEI will continue to be funded as long as the GOP’s sugar daddies find them useful promulgators of their preferred idea and policies. They’ll only collapse when those funders either lose interest or drop dead.

      Any new think tank that leans toward a progressive Republican revival will need to find its own sugar daddies. That’s the way it works. (Disclosure: I spent four years as a senior fellow at the country’s leading labor think tank, so have some familiarity with this. In any given year, we focused on what the donors wanted us to focus on. They set the agenda; we carried it out. He who has the gold, etc. etc.)

      • 1mime says:

        Which begs the question: who is “we, the people’s” think tank?

      • Sara Robinson says:

        I think, by design, it was supposed to be Congress. ; p

      • 1mime says:

        Well, that has worked out well, hasn’t it? When Think Tanks overt, stated mission is to promote a specific agenda, what separates them from lobbyists?

      • goplifer says:

        ***Which begs the question: who is “we, the people’s” think tank?***

        Actually, it’s the press.

      • Sara Robinson says:

        1mime, there very often is no daylight between think tanks and lobbyists at all. Once the policies are researched and created, lobbying is the next logical step. My former org (which has its offices on K Street, which tells you a lot right there) stood at the center of the coalition that got the ACA passed, and there was definitely a lot of, um, Congressional education on that happening out of our shop. I know AEI, in particular, does quite a bit of this as well.

      • 1mime says:

        Think tanks have an important, legitimate role in the political process. Unfortunately, errant TT are giving the good ones a bad name. The greatest fall from grace, IMO, is The Heritage Foundation. How sad. Someone in a leadership position (through power or money) changed the course of this formerly respected entity. Is there any differentiation as to how one registers…vis a vis, TT or lobbyist? Or, is it so well known in the circles that count that it just doesn’t matter.

        With so many lawyers in Congress, you’d think they could figure out some of this stuff on their own….Do meager Congressional staffing levels and absence of the non-partisan research and analysis divisions result from the dominance of TT and lobbying groups? Do members of Congress “trust” these outside groups more than they trust their internal staff?

      • Sara Robinson says:

        Chris is right. Critiquing new government initiatives was supposed to be the role of the Fourth Estate. But that fell apart when journalism stopped being a working-class trade, and became a profession instead. At that point, “access” became the coin of the realm, which made asking impertinent questions a bad career move for ambitious scribblers and talking heads.

        Which is why we all finally started blogging.

      • 1mime says:

        With greatest respect for blogging, we need people like you and Chris to sit at the planning table. Blogging is a useful, stimulating environment to explore and learn, but the people who need to hear these good ideas are not the ones who are participating…Guess this is where the donors, pundits, Think Tanks, and new voters come to the rescue, right?

      • Creigh says:

        “Which begs the question who is “We the People’s” think tank.”

        Actually, it’s GOPlifer!

      • 1mime says:

        Sara, I thought you might be interested in this blurb on how the tech industry is lobbying Congress. I could not access the full article but you may be able to do so. Without more detail it is impossible to see if there is a partisan bent or not, but would presume the tactics focus more on specific issues than general ones.

        TECH INDUSTRY EMBRACES CAUCUS-BUILDING: From POLITICO’s Tony Romm: “For all of Silicon Valley’s talk about innovation, the tech industry has come to embrace a far more traditional lobbying tactic on Capitol Hill – orchestrating the formation of congressional caucuses to increase its standing and influence among lawmakers. Over the past year, tech companies and their trade groups have encouraged members of Congress to band together in coalitions devoted to everything from electronic payments to the so-called Internet of Things to ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft . Lawmakers may run these caucuses, but the Valley’s biggest players have taken a hands-on role in their development or promotion.” http://politico.pro/1JZODfT

  16. 1mime says:

    The CBO is another example of a congressional support program that performs non-partisan analysis for budget and economic decisions. Somehow, it has survived the maelstrom of partisan destruction. How, I’m not sure. I was unfamiliar with the OTA and thesad history of its demise, (thank you, Sara). Americans are losing confidence in our Congressional leaders to perform the nation’s most basic business, hence, the candidacies of Trump, et al. If more people understood how partisan and manipulated the legislative process is, I’m afraid that would be the final nail in any credibility of the political process.

    I enjoyed the Schoolhouse bill and Inglis’ TED talk. He sounds like a fine man and is obviously young enough to achieve more great things in his life. The whole time I was reading about the benefit of the really good think tanks, I wondered “why are thre so few independent, good ones? The only answer to that is that when one has to control all outcomes, one has to control the entire process. Change that and it will improve not just the GOP but the entire governing process.

    • flypusher says:

      I saw Inglis speak in person at UH last year. A damn shame that he had to lose his House seat for the crime of saying what needs to be said (humans can and do have detrimental effects on the earth) and doing what needed to be done (TARP was bitter medicine, but I didn’t want to stick it to the banksters at the cost of everyone going over the cliff with them). But he continues to do good and vital work. I can hope to someday see the names of people he’s influenced on my ballot.

  17. stephen says:

    This is the second time you mention David Frum. His ebook “Why Romney Lost” is a master piece. A good read and gives me hope that we still have bright pragmatic Republican minds.

  18. Sara Robinson says:

    There’s also a strong argument to be made for bringing back Congress’s own policy research support infrastructure, which was killed by Gingrich & Co. back in the mid-90s. In particular: the Office of Technology Assessment, which gave Congress unbiased, non-lobbyist-influenced input on everything from the real threat of climate change to the potential of the Internet to which military systems really were worth the bang for their buck.

    You can see why various powerful interests would want this office to go away — but that’s precisely why it was so important. It was a non-partisan, non-ideological, non-lobbyist source of information that Congress members could draw on to decide what investments were worth making. (In particular, we owe OTA for the government’s smart early investments in the Interet we’re talking on right now — and Al Gore relied heavily on OTA’s info when he built Congressional support for those investments.)

    It wasn’t the only such agency that used to help keep Congress reality-based. As long as our lawmakers are relying on outside sources without an inside group to help them vet lobbyist claims, the facts they use to make decisions are going to continue to be shaped by money or ideology, and our chances of getting back to evidence-based government won’t be nearly as good.

    • Pseudoperson Randomian says:

      Is there any support for that at all in the current political landscape?

    • goplifer says:

      There isn’t, but it’s a great point. That’s precisely the kind of (very small) investment in government that can pay huge dividends.

      • 1mime says:

        Regarding think tanks: I repeat my earlier question – are low Congressional staffing levels and disappearance of non-partisan entities advisory to Congress a result of “planned obsolescence” with think tanks laughing all the way to the bank? If so, how likely is it that the independent, non-partisan TT goal will find traction? (either within Congress or without)

        Sara points out that TT fundamentally develop research to support the position of those who “fund” the TT. Fine, but what Daddy Warbucks is going to step up to offer private financial support to back an external, non-partisan alternative? It seems to me that this is precisely the area where government should be involved – creating internal, non-partisan TT that target specific areas as a counter-point to those with a partisan focus….like the CBO and the OTA Sara described. We listen to talking points ad nausea which only a few, brave, now departed have learned the hard way, is the “only way”.

        Speaking of “evidence-based reality”, once again, the ACA will have to defend against litigation, – this time by the U.S. House, which has been ruled to have “legal standing” for its claim regarding federal subsidies. Justice will appeal the ruling. Meanwhile, today, the Kaiser Foundation has released a raft of studies about health care in the U.S., beginning in the 70s through ’14. It’s interesting and points out where we are making progress, or not, and, when (time frame) the greatest change has occurred. For those who like to dig deep:

        http://www.healthsystemtracker.org/?utm_campaign=Peterson&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=21924623&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_SF20HEXM7lMVQ05EA7LMkOWsCKvTKv3GqA_bbmtMLZcUVZezg0uqYk9XLro2L34j1hF7I6bzhEv5tYTl-hRqg7X6NEQ&_hsmi=21924623

  19. […] Think Tanks – It is very difficult to build credible policy absent the influence of smart people who work out the details. Our infrastructure of policy institutes and researchers has been utterly perverted until it is impossible for Republicans to find sound, reality-based advice on policy matters. Candidates who want help building sound legislation are trapped between lobby groups and ideologically blindered “think tanks” with no concern for real-world outcomes. […]

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