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Resetting America’s Priorities

I must admit that conservatives have done an absolutely fantastic job at selling their agenda. Over the last 30-40 years they have been extremely consistent. We’ve heard it over and over again. The problem with America is “big government.” This can be used for anything. It’s nonspecific, which is part of its beauty. Big government can be a euphemism for city government, state government or the federal government. It can stand for all three. It doesn’t really matter. One of the overarching, big goals of conservatism has been to defund the government (everything from Planned Parenthood to NPR). If you can reduce the amount of money that the government has, all the programs that they hate (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare and the like) must also be decreased in size or even eliminated. So, now, after Wall Street bailouts and the Great Recession, we are looking at large deficits. Republicans are using this opportunity to push their agenda to reduce the size of government. The Republicans are proposing large spending cuts. These are cuts in discretionary spending. These are cuts in programs that actually help lower and middle income Americans.

If the goal is reducing our deficits then we need to realistically look at their fiscal solutions. (I don’t think that Republicans really intend to reduce the deficit. Their focus is on reducing the size of government and eliminating programs that they hate.) The quickest way to reduce the deficit is to look at both sides of the equation. First, increase revenue. Second, decrease expenses. This simple graph shows how much we can close the gap by reversing the Bush tax cuts. Until we talk about increasing taxes on those who can afford it, we are not seriously talking about deficit reduction.

By |2011-03-24T12:49:54-04:00March 24th, 2011|Budget, Congress|2 Comments

Conservative hyperbolic fear inducing rhetoric is nothing new

About four or five years ago I stopped paying attention to CPAC. On one hand, this political action conference is billed as a window into the future. Serious politicians are supposed to come and serve up their form of conservatism. In the midst of these serious politicians, we have people like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and this year, they presented for our pleasure Donald Trump. So, forgive me if I do not pay attention to what goes on at CPAC. I did notice the following:

We have seen tax-and-tax spend-and-spend reach a fantastic total greater than in all the previous 170 years of our Republic.

Behind this plush curtain of tax and spend, three sinister spooks or ghosts are mixing poison for the American people. They are the shades of Mussolini, with his bureaucratic fascism; of Karl Marx, and his socialism; and of Lord Keynes, with his perpetual government spending, deficits, and inflation. And we added a new ideology of our own. That is government give-away programs….

If you want to see pure socialism mixed with give-away programs, take a look at socialized medicine.

You will be forgiven if you thought that this was something that Mitt Romney or any the other great minds at CPAC may have said.

From Robert Reich:

The perfectly correct answer is Herbert Hoover.

Herbert Hoover didn’t deliver these words at this week’s Conservative Political Action Convention, though. He delivered them at the Republican National Convention in Chicago on July 8, 1952.

That was almost sixty years ago.

Republicans haven’t come up with a single new idea since. They haven’t even come up with a new theme.

Herbert Hoover, you may remember, didn’t have a sterling record when it came to the economy. As president, he presided over the Great Crash of 1929 and ushered in the Great Depression. He had no idea for what to do to help the nation out of the Depression except to balance the federal budget. By the time he was voted out of office in 1932, one out of four Americans was unemployed.

By |2011-02-13T12:17:29-04:00February 13th, 2011|Party Politics|Comments Off on Conservative hyperbolic fear inducing rhetoric is nothing new

Conservatives and Government

Bush and the size of government

A couple of days ago, one of my commenters correctly mentioned that conservatives want a smaller government and that conservatives have no desire to eliminate government. I can agree with both of these statements. The problem is that conservatives have no desire for government to look out for the people, whereas I believe that liberals see government as a counterbalance to the excesses of business.

The good news is that we can follow conservative philosophy for nearly 100 years. Conservatives like to write. The 1935 book, Our Enemy, the State, written by Albert Nock, is an excellent example of conservatism at its best. The things he writes seem almost exactly like Ronald Reagan. “Wherever the state is, there is a felony.” This is right out of Reagan-speak. He wailed against the New Deal as a “coup d’état.” He talked about the people ripping off the hard-working few — rich businessmen.

We can even go back to the 1880s and 1890s to see an example of conservatism at its best. Look at the combination of the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Federal Trade Commission. (The trend may have started earlier, but I cannot find any specific documentation of this.) Richard Olney was a staunch conservative and railroad lawyer who was appointed to be Attorney General. He made his name by attacking the Sherman Antitrust Act. Now he’s been placed in a position where he can actually appoint people either to enforce or not enforce the law. He chose the latter. The essence of conservatism, as I see it, is summed up in the famous letter he wrote to his old railroad boss.

“The Commission, as it functions have now been limited by the courts, is, or can be made, of great use to the railroads. It satisfies the popular clamor for government supervision of the railroads, at the same time that that supervision is almost merely nominal. Further, the older such a commission gets to be, the more inclined it will be found to take the business and railroad view of things. It does becomes a sort of barrier between the railroad corporations and the people and the sort of protection against nasty and crude legislation hostile to railroad interests… the part of wisdom is not to destroy the Commission, but to utilize it.” – From Thomas Frank’s The Wrecking Crew

Therefore, over the last 30 years, we’ve seen examples of this throughout Republican administrations. James Watt was an attorney who made his living attacking environmental protections and touting the EPA as being unconstitutional. Reagan appointed him Secretary of the Interior (the EPA is under the Department of the Interior). Although James Watt was the most egregious example, there are literally hundreds of examples throughout the Reagan and Bush administrations. The Securities and Exchange Commission was headed by somebody who did not believe in regulating Wall Street. The agency was packed with like-minded individuals. The Justice Department filled the Civil Rights division with lawyers who did not believe the 1964 Civil Rights Act was constitutional. The Justice Department actually decreased the funding to this department while Bush was in office.

The examples of conservatives using the government as a tool for business and de-funding agencies which could not align with their vision of the function of government are simply too numerous to name. The one thing that modern conservatives like Grover Norquist have done is make government work for them, make government work for business. The quickest way to become a millionaire during the Bush administration, besides winning the lottery, was winning a government contract. Privatization was the way to go. The brilliance of the conservative strategy was to sell privatization to the American people. The sales pitch was that government was inherently inefficient and that business was efficient. Therefore, if we could get the government to work more like a private business then everything would be great. The only thing that would be better would be to privatize portions of the government. This is what happened during the Bush administration.

So, in conclusion, my commenter was 100% right when he said that conservatives do not want to eliminate government totally. Conservatives simply want government to work for big business.

By |2010-06-08T14:42:49-04:00June 8th, 2010|Bush Administration, Business|Comments Off on Conservatives and Government
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