On Guns and Inflation, Republicans Ignore the Rest of the World

At the heart of the GOP’s medium-term strategy is capitalizing on the anger over inflation. They have sought to blame him on what they claim is President Joe Biden’s overly generous COVID-19 stimulus. (Never mind that Donald Trump’s bailouts were also generous, and that those paycheck protection plans and stimulus checks didn’t pay for themselves.) Insofar as energy prices helped to inflationary pressure, they blame Democrats‘ environmental attention for preventing more oil drilling.

But looking at other countries quickly belies these inflationary arguments. Globally, gas prices are rising due to COVID-related supply shocks and, more recently, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The supply bottlenecks are due to refining capacity rather than the drilling Republicans are so focused on.

Inflation is a overall phenomenon. Yes, until recently the United States had a slightly higher rate of inflation than most other industrialized democracies. But that’s no longer true. At the last report, the American rate was 8.3%, equal to that of Spain; Britain was at 9% and the Netherlands at 9.6%. Many other countries are stuck at between 5 and 8%.

Notwithstanding Larry Summers, Biden’s March 2021 COVID relief bill is unlikely to have been more than a marginal driver of domestic inflation. As Robert Shapiro recently wrote in the Monthly, inflation has varied by industry — it’s been particularly bad in the energy sector — and the inflationary spike aligns far more closely with global supply chain issues than Biden’s stimulus. Most of the money for Biden’s infrastructure bill has yet to be spent, and when it literally hits the roads, it will likely be lessen inflation. Corporate profit, monopolization and price gouging are the direct causes, as companies make record profits despite higher material and labor inputs: obviously, they don’t just pass on the costs on consumers.

Of course, it’s important to note that the alternative to the COVID stimulus was economic collapse. Addressing climate change would be worth the cost of minor short-term economic impacts, but there is no evidence that, for example, the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline has driven up prices at the pump. And Americans still pay lower gas prices than most other developed democracies.

It’s not just inflation where Republican blinders to the rest of the world distort their messages. Virtually every major element of modern conservatism is often refuted by evidence from abroad. Republicans’ failure to recognize that American exceptionalism often means we’re doing exceptionally badly is probably unsurprising. It’s more frustrating that Democrats weren’t smarter to point this out.

GOP politicians blame gun violence on video games, mental illness, a shortage of heavily armed teachers or law enforcement, or a lack of religion in schools. Fox News even had the nerve to blame video games after a white supremacist murdered 10 people and injured three others in Buffalo, driven by hateful conspiracy theories promoted by Fox News’ own Tucker Carlson. In the wake of a Texas elementary school massacre, Republicans found themselves bluntly asserting that limiting ingress and egress was the real problem, not just a deranged 18-year-old who isn’t old enough. to buy a beer or even a handgun can buy two assault rifles on his birthday.

Let’s state the obvious: the rest of the world has video games; the United States does not have higher rates of mental illness than other countries; most other developed democracies are far less religious than the United States The United States is unique among its peers for its weak social safety net, high incarceration rates and, most importantly, its staggering proliferation of firearms. The shockingly high rate of gun violence in the United States is evident if you compare us to similar countries. Conservative lies are easily laid bare. Geography does not lie.

Similar stories can be told about health care, abortion, regulation, LGBTQ rights, and other issues. Universal health care leads to better health outcomes everywhere. Societies where access to abortion is generally available tend to have better outcomes for children and women; tighter regulation of monopolies and financialized exploitation lead to healthier economies; countries respecting LGBTQ rights are stronger than homophobic (as Ukraine is currently proving against Russia, much to the chagrin of the pro-Putin wing of the GOP). Etc.

The conservatism of the Edmund Burke variety has always had its strengths: modesty, caution and curiosity about the world. American conservatism, by contrast, has a tradition of proud ignorance. Burke could look abroad and see distinctions between the persuasive goals of the American Revolution and what he saw as the menacing and messianic nature of the French revolt. This distinction is debatable, but what is indisputable is that Burke sought answers abroad. The Republican Party today shows little interest in accomplishments abroad, except perhaps in Hungary, where CPAC recently convened, reveling in the ethnonationalism of Victor Orbán. If Republicans are incapable of global introspection and Democrats are struggling to argue that we have things to learn from the rest of the world, then voters and the media should ask themselves after the next mass shooting: is it what is happening in Europe? Should we live like this?

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