Saturday, May 09, 2009

Rant About Republicans

Much has been written on why the Republicans could go from contemplating a permanent majority in both houses of congress in 2004, to being an out of power minority in 2009. Its pretty simple, really. Republicans - Bush AND probably even more so Congressional Repuublicans - screwed up. They had power and they misused it badly, angering their voters and giving Democrats the opportunity to credibly claim that they could do it better. "Big Tent", my ass. Democrats were saying they would be more fiscally responsible and less interfering than the Republicans. Not a hard sell given the Eff Ups the Republicans were in the majority with budget deficits, expanding government, new entitlements, irritating regulations in airports and unending 'color coded threat levels', ham handed and pointless attempts to woo government bureaucrats into changing sides by showering them with money, and weak-kneed willingness to treat Democrats as if they were negotiating in good faith when it was clear they were not - No one respects a doormat.

Victor Davis Hanson chimes in:

"But the above are peripheral issues. The real cause of unhappiness with the Republicans was simply that they could not make a convincing case for conservatism to a changing electorate because so many of them were not acting as conservatives."

"Take the seminal issue of spending and expanding government. The last Republican to balance a budget was Dwight Eisenhower. Had President Bush — despite 9/11, Katrina, and two wars — simply limited spending increases to the rate of inflation and natural growth, then he would have entered his last years of office with balanced budgets. "

"In contrast, once Republicans started talking about federal deficits only in terms of manageable percentages of GDP rather than as real money, they forfeited the entire issue of fiscal responsibility, and lost the moral high ground. Barack Obama can get away with unprecedented and astronomical of projected deficits, in part because the Republicans are not credible any more on spending."

That last paragraph is the money quote. I was insulted to be told by Republicans that the deficit was 'no big deal' because it wasn't a large historical percentage of GNP. The LEAST I expect from Republicans is a running the budget in the black. The Republicans in charge of the House almost had it whipped in 1999-2000, no thanks to Clinton. Spending one penny over income is irresponsible and unacceptable. I was really happy on Election Night in 2004, my candidates including John Thune had won. They were going to get to work and really buckle down on the deficit and debt, cut back on government expansion, right? Right?? A year later I was disillusioned and angry. I have Standards for Republicans, I expect them to meet those standards. Just because Democrats have no standards and their voters don't seem to care does not mean the converse applies. Pointing at Democrats and saying "They would be worse, so vote for us" doesn't fly. In 2006, I sneered at Republicans because they effing didn't grasp the obvious, they lost because they were acting like Democrats and Republicans - like me - didn't vote for them.

Rant off.

Part of the issue with Republicans is that they keep blathering about process and claiming they want the same things as Democrats - just not quite so much. Real winner attitude, guys. Meanwhile, the left and the media protrays Republicans as something they are not, a fictional, even mythical idea of what Republicans believe. American Thinker has this to say:

"First, adopt a flat income tax rate in which all Americans pay the same percentage of their income as their fellow countrymen. The rich would still pay much more than the poor, but that each would pay the same percentage of his income."

Flat tax or Fair Tax, I'll take either. The tax code is arbitrary and capricious, a tool for the congress to favor their friends and punish their enemies, it distorts the free market and is destructive to economic productivity, and wastes enormous amounts of time and money. The US has the second highest corporate income taxes in the developed world, little wonder many businesses leave the US for greener pastures. We are coasting on the economic success of the past, in time this advantage will fade and we will be a poorer nation in all respects.

"Second, end to all preferences in which a person is allowed into college or employment. "

Favoritism from gov't is wrong.

"Third, return abortion policy back to state governments. Some states would outlaw abortion; some would legalize; some would regulate: that is all that overturning Roe v. Wade would mean. State legislators, not federal judges, would make laws regarding abortion."

There is this little concept called "Federalism", in which the Federal govenment keeps its pokey nose out of other people's business. If you want to pass laws about these issues, the proper place to do it is the state legislature, not DC. The Republicans were wrong to try to interfere in the Terry Schiavo case in Florida a few years ago, not necessarily because they were morally wrong, but because it was none of their business. The case should have been settled in the courts in Florida and no where else. Likewise all other such issues, like abortion, same sex marriage, employment laws, welfare, the list goes on.

"Fourth, adopt policies toward federal spending and toward entitlements that ordinary businessmen would consider fiscally sound. Government financing by Ponzi scheme is just as wrong as private confidence Ponzi schemes."

If the same rules were applied to the Government that apply to businesses, everyone in congress and the President(s) would go to jail for fraud. There is no Social Security trust fund, its all been spent. Accounting practices and oversight are at best obsolete.

"Fifth, provide competition for schools and colleges and also ensure that if tax dollars are spent to educate people, that all major political points of view are treated fairly."

Meh. Impossible goal, these federal funds are distributed by bureaucrats. The best thing would be to not allocate any taxpayer funding in the first place. Like most other issues, the Fed has no business in these matters which are state and local affairs.

"Sixth, have Congress pass laws that limit the jurisdiction of federal judges to intrude into every area of our lives. Replace a society in which unelected judges govern our lives with a society in which ordinary citizens with conflicts "agree to disagree" and in which market forces resolve economic problems. "

I think recinding laws would work better, although I agree in principle. Judges shouldn't be legislating from the bench.

"Seventh, maintain a strong military and a robust intelligence service. Build a nuclear defense system to keep us safe from rogue, nuclear armed madmen. Make protecting Americans the most important job of government."

This is the first object of good governance, yet, even under the pro-military Bush administration, military spending was only 4.5% of GNP, far below historical levels. Government expenditures as a percentage of GNP is 35% and is likely to exceed 50% at current rates. We simply have too much government on one hand and of that, too little is spent on the primary purpose of government - protection. Yes, a missile defense needs to be built, not in small part because we made promises to Poland and Japan and other nations that we would. They put their trust in us and backing out now after they put themselves in jeapordy would be a betrayal. I think we need to double our Coast Guard and deploy it to deal with pirates and other threats for which using the Navy is overkill. We should have a 500 ship Navy, perhaps not all of really expensive top of the line destroyers, but filled out with lots of Sea Fighters and littoral patrol ships.

"Eighth, adopt an aggressive policy to drilling for oil and mining for coal. Limit, for awhile, the most costly environmental regulations."

Agreed in general, but the premise is wrong. It shouldn't be "government policy" to drill for oil or mine coal, or harvest lumber or any of these resource extraction efforts. Private businesses should do these things to provide service/materials and make money. Government should simply provide unintrusive minimal regulation and uphold contract law. Politicians should say "That is nice" and stay out of it. The issue here is that politicians from both parties have learned corporations can be squeezed for brib.... er, 'contributons' as long as the threat of legislation exists. Congress and the President can destroy companies and lives with the stroke of a pen and have done so.

"Ninth, recognize that we are overregulated. Agree together, as our Founding Fathers once agreed, that whatever our politics, there is a limit to what government has the legal and moral power to do. State, or perhaps restate for modern times, the limits on government inherent in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Reach a new, common understanding of what federal power cannot do and should not do."

Complete agreement. This will not be an easy. We have a professional political class which will be unwilling to give up their power. The temptation to USE the power they have an expand it is strong, even if they think its 'for good'. I think we should start with term limits and reducing the number of days they are in session. Eliminate Baseline Budgeting, and require sunsets on ALL spending. Every government agency and program would need to be re-authorized yearly.

"Tenth, recognize that every attempt to create Heaven on Earth has failed. There is a limit as to the perfectibility of the human condition, and, at some point, more intensive efforts by state or even organized pressure groups, to make us all better will, in fact, make us all worse."

The Founders of our nation knew this. Republicans used to recognize this. Its a powerful narcotic to think you can make the world a better place if only this law were passed or that activity were regulated or some moral principle were enforced. Its not easy to step back, let people make their own decisions and not 'help' them make the 'correct' choice. We are lectured and hectored and regulated every day in every way. On radio and TV, in the tax code and in the law. Its one thing to keep people from harm eachother, quite another to coerce people into doing what someone else thinks is better for them.