David P. Barash — a professor of psychology at the University of Washington and the co-author of Payback: Why We Retaliate, Redirect Aggression and Seek Revenge — unwittingly reveals his psyche in a NYT op-ed, “Washington’s Rogue Elephants.” In Barash’s unsubtle symbolism, “rogue elephants” refers to Republicans, as he views their role in the present debate (if you can call it that) about the debt ceiling and how to avoid a default by the federal government.
Barash seems, not unsurprisingly given his profession and political leanings, to be plagued by prolonged adolescent rebellion. The rebellion, in this case, is against fiscally responsible authority figures in the Republican Party. The giveaway is Barash’s concluding comments:
[G]iven the Republicans’ continued insistence on an unobtainable wish list of spending cuts and constitutional amendments, it’s fair to conclude that Mr. Obama is facing the political equivalent of an elephant in must — a player who simply won’t play the game.
In the 1983 movie “WarGames,” an errant military supercomputer has a final moment of lucidity in which it notes, “The only winning move is not to play.” The president is best advised to do the same: declare that the other side has foregone all pretense at rational legitimacy, and simply proceed to govern as best he can for the good of the country.
This is leftist fantasizing. Obama can’t simply “govern” without Congress; it’s not up to him to decide how much to spend, nor can he constitutionally ignore the debt ceiling.
More generally, Barash hews to the typical leftist view that it’s up to Republicans to compromise; thus “the Republicans’ continued insistence on an unobtainable wish list of spending cuts and constitutional amendments.” But those things aren’t unobtainable or mere wishes; Democrats simply refuse to agree to them.
The current crisis is a spending problem. Republicans helped to create the problem, but most of them are adult enough to face up to it and offer ways to deal with it. Democrats seem unable to detach themselves from their vision of government as Santa Claus.
Democrats are suffering from a delusional disorder, but it’s evident that Barash doesn’t have the psychological chops to cure them of it.
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The Psychologist Who Played God
America’s Financial Crisis Is Now
Questioning the National Debt
Tax Expenditures Are Not Expenditures
My Negotiating Position on the Federal Debt
Miss Brooks’s “Grand Bargain”
A Tax Is a Tax Is a Tax