But both sides, I thought, agreed that the government should provide public goods -- goods that are nonrival (they benefit everyone) and nonexcludable (there's no way to restrict the benefits to people who pay.) The classic examples are things like lighthouses and national defense, but there are many others. For example, knowing when a volcano is likely to erupt can save many lives; but there's no private incentive to spend money on monitoring, since even people who didn't contribute to maintaining the monitoring system can still benefit from the warning. So that's the sort of activity that should be undertaken by government.
So what did Bobby Jindal choose to ridicule in this response to Obama last night? Volcano monitoring, of course.
Never mind the more-than-obvious point that Americans actually live near active volcanoes, as both Jonathan and Palin's press flack point out.
Krugman describes a fairly classic Republican (and libertarian) bogeyman: a service performed by the government that's supposed to sound unnecessary or ridiculous. But conservatives like Jindal face two inconvenient truths: Republicans have proven terrible stewards of government, and the wisdom of privatization (social security?) has been significantly questioned. So Republicans a largely talking to themselves - they just may not realize it yet.
Here's a hint (courtesy of MyDD friend Sam Seder) about where the talking points may be coming from:
I want to follow up on something that I mentioned last night and that Charles wrote about as well: The offensive attack Bobby Jindal and the Republican Party made on disaster preparedness during his response to Barack Obama's address to Congress.
I grew up in Portland, Oregon, about 50 miles from Mount Hood, an 11,249-foot volcano that has been active in the past few hundred years, and only about 75 miles from Mount St. Helens, the eruption of which led to dozens of fatalities not even 30 years ago. Most of my family still lives in Portland, and I am in the city on a fairly regular basis. In the event that Hood, St. Helens, or any other volcano in the region were to blow, I would most certainly want the federal government to have done all it could on the detection front so that my family had ample warning to get to safety. Do Bobby Jindal and the Republican Party begrudge me that?
At present, I live in Berkeley, California, which is nearly constantly experiencing earthquakes. It has been just two decades since an earthquake killed 69 people in the region, and just a century since another earthquake killed more than 3,000 people. By the logic presented by Bobby Jindal last night in the official Republican response to President Obama's address, should I and the millions living in the Bay Area not have the latest detection technology to ensure our safety?
And it goes beyond volcano or earthquake detection. Should the people in the Plains states not be protected by the latest in meteorological technology to alert them in the case of a twister or a dust storm? Should the people in the Rockies not be enabled to detect avalanches? Should the people in the Gulf Coast -- including the residents of Bobby Jindal's own state of Louisiana -- not have the resources to track major hurricanes?
Disaster detection is no joke, and Bobby Jindal and the Republican Party ought to know better than to play politics with people's lives.
I'll have more to say on Bobby Jindal, both later tonight on MyDD Blog Talk Radio at Midnight Eastern/9:00 PM Pacific and tomorrow in a post I have cooking in my mind, but for now here's conservative David Brooks on PBS' "News Hour":
JIM LEHRER: Now that, of course, was Gov. Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, making the Republican response. David, how well do you think he did?
DAVID BROOKS: Uh, not so well. You know, I think Bobby Jindal is a very promising politician, and I oppose the stimulus because I thought it was poorly drafted. But to come up at this moment in history with a stale "government is the problem,""we can't trust the federal government" - it's just a disaster for the Republican Party. The country is in a panic right now. They may not like the way the Democrats have passed the stimulus bill, but that idea that we're just gonna - that government is going to have no role, the federal government has no role in this, that - In a moment when only the federal government is actually big enough to do stuff, to just ignore all that and just say "government is the problem, corruption, earmarks, wasteful spending," it's just a form of nihilism. It's just not where the country is, it's not where the future of the country is. There's an intra-Republican debate. Some people say the Republican Party lost its way because they got too moderate. Some people say they got too weird or too conservative. He thinks they got too moderate, and so he's making that case. I think it's insane, and I just think it's a disaster for the party. I just think it's unfortunate right now.
Update [2009-2-24 23:25:42 by Jonathan Singer]: Per Think Progress, even Fox News didn't like Jindal. Ouch.
And I'm apparently not the only one by far that thought Jindal sounded a bit like Kenneth from NBC's "30 Rock".