KAI RYSSDAL: David Frum has been a regular commentator for this program for years, offering the voice of the political right against Robert Reich and the views of the political left. It’s been, for the most part, a mutually agreeable relationship. We alienate different segments of our audience every other Wednesday.
A couple of months ago, though, David came to us and said, “I’m not the right guy anymore. What I think doesn’t match up with some of the more robust voices in the Republican Party today.” So as a way to say goodbye we thought we’d have him on to explain. Hey David.
DAVID FRUM: Hey, thank you.
RYSSDAL: So why this move? Why is this no longer a good fit for you?
FRUM: Well, we’ve been doing a point/counter-point here between me and Bob Reich for a couple of years. And it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve certainly learned a lot from it. But I think that there’s a kind of expectation that when you do it that you represent the broad point of view of your half of the political spectrum. And although I consider myself a conservative and a Republican, and I think that the right-hand side of the spectrum has the better answers for the long-term growth of economy — low taxes, restrained government, less regulation — it’s pretty clear that facing the immediate crisis — very intense crisis — I’m just not representing the view of most people who call themselves Republicans and conservatives these days.
RYSSDAL: Let me quote you back to yourself in a post that you made on FrumForum not too long ago. You say: “Under the pressure of the current crisis — intoxicated by anti-Obama feelings and incited by talk radio and Fox — Republicans have staked out an extreme position on the role of government.” That’s where we are in this discussion, right?
FRUM: It’s not just the role of government though. We have got a sick patient — the American economy. And we can see that the patient in the next bed — the European economy — he’s looking even sicker and there’s a real risk of contagion. And what I think we have to do at a moment like this: Have a very, very open creation of money and credit. This is not a moment for government to be cutting back. Here’s where Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes agreed. They didn’t necessarily agree about why to do this medicine, but as to what the medicine was, they did broadly agree. But it’s not the medicine that’s being prescribed now. The fact is I’m kind of an outlier. And it’s a service to the radio audience if they want to hear people explaining effectively why one of the two great parties takes the view that it does — it needs to have somebody who agrees with that great party. I’m hoping that the party will eventually agree with me, but I can’t blink the fact that I don’t agree with them on this set of issues.
RYSSDAL: You seem to be staking a lot on the hope or the expectation that in the long run the Republican Party will come back to where you are. I’m reminded of course — since you mentioned him — of John Maynard Keynes and his line about “in the long run.” In the long run, man, we’re all dead.
FRUM: Well, I hope it’s not going to take that long. And unlike Keynes, I don’t smoke so I may have a little bit more leeway in front of me. But in politics and public policy there are better and worse answers. There are things that work and things that don’t work. Right now we’re watching state governments try to balance all of their budgets at the same time in the middle of this crisis. We’ve seen half a million public sector jobs disappear. Now, if these were good times, I would applaud that. We need to see a thinner public sector — especially at the state and local level. But we’re seeing what happens when you do that as an anti-recession measure and you make the recession worse. And even though we’re in a technical recovery, incomes and employment — all of that remains lagging for people — I think that we’ve rediscovered in this crisis something that I think we all knew. Which is, there’s a reason why the people of the 1930s built some kind of minimum guarantee — unemployment insurance, health care coverage and things like that. And it’s not because they wanted to be nice. It’s because in a crisis when people lose their jobs, if there is no social safety net they loose 100 percent of their purchasing power.
RYSSDAL: I should say that for those who need their David Frum fix, he’s not disappearing. You are going where, David, to CNN for the political season, right?
FRUM: I am going to be one of a bevy of CNN commentators and I’m continuing to do most of my work writing on my website, where I can say look, here’s what I think and I don’t have to represent myself as a champion for a large numbers of people. These are my views — take them or leave them.
FRUM: Thank you very much.
RYSSDAL: Next week, Robert Reich. After that, we’ll have some new conservative voices on the broadcast.