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Rep. Jeff Flake on Republicans and Small Government

David Weigel and Katherine Mangu-Ward from Reason magazine ask Representative Jeff Flake about Republicans and small government and here is the answer.

Reason: Has the GOP given up on the ideals of small government?

Flake: Well, that’s the natural conclusion to draw. There are some—like [fellow Arizona Republican Rep.] John Shadegg and not many others—who still vote for limited government. Of course all of them still profess it, but when you look at their votes you have a hard time concluding that they really believe it. Staying in office, staying in power, has come to overwhelm everything.

So, if you think smaller government is a good idea you have to look elsewhere than the Republican party because they have abandoned that idea. This includes people such as Reagan Republicans (government isn’t the solution, it is the problem).

Flake’s only justification for voting Republican if you are a libertarian/minarchist/classical liberal is that the alternative,the Democrats, is actually worse. It really isn’t all that much of an argument, IMO. About the only policy that one can point to are tax cuts, but I’d argue that the Repbulican profligacy renders this argument quite weak. After all, these deficits will have to be paid for eventually, and when that time comes taxes will likely have to go up. So, the reason for a libertarian/minarchist/classical liberal to vote Republican: none.

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About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research.

Comments

  1. Tano says:

    Given the record of the last two administrations, in terms of who increases the scope of government the most, who increases government power over the individual, and who seems more capable of efficiently running the government that does exist, I think it clear that the “libertarian/minarchist/classical liberal” should positively prefer the Dems.

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  2. Steve Verdon says:

    I don’t think Clinton, and hence the Democrats, should get all the credit for what happened during Clinton’s terms. After all, there were Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress for most of those years. Between then and now, the Republicans have become advocates of big government.

    So, no, voting for Democrats is not an option I’m sad to say.

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  3. TJIT says:

    Steve,

    If the libertarian/minarchist/classical liberal wants to change things they should consider doing what I have done, Support the Club For Growth

    The Club supports pro growth, fiscally conservative candidates in the primaries where their efforts are most effective.

    They have had a great deal of sucess in getting pro growth candidates into congress. 7 of their 8 candidates won in Tuesdays election in the face of overwhelming losses for republicans across the country.

    The Club has supported fiscal conservative stalwarts Tom Coburn, Mike Pence, and Jeff Flake. If you look on their home page you will see they are currently endorsing Mike Pence for Minority leader.

    The club provides a great way for classical liberals to work toward restoring fiscal sanity in the congress.

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  4. [...] H/T: Outside The Beltway [...]

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  5. [...] H/T: Outside The Beltway [...]

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  6. just me says:

    Tano had the democrats been in control of congress through 6-8 years of his presidency, do you think small government would have been the result? After all it was Hillary who wanted to bring out a massive government funded healthcare program, hardly the stuff that makes small government. Many in the democratic party right now would still like to see such a program in place-hardly the stuff of small government.

    I do think that the GOP sacrificed small government principals for power, and have complained quite a bit about the big government bills that have passed, but I don’t see the democrats proposing less government spending or less government involvement, and especially less Federal government involvement.

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  7. ken says:

    I suspect Steve and people of his ilk are beyond common sense and reality based solutions to the problem, but in case I am wrong about him let me offer a solution: TAXES.

    Yes Steve, TAXES are the answer.

    The best and most effective way to make sure we have a right sized government is to pay for it. Anything else is folly.

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  8. ken says:

    Steve, I forgot to add this:

    If you really don’t want government to grow any larger the most effective way would to make sure the Americna people start paying for the government we now have.

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  9. TJIT says:

    Ken,

    Politicians respond to balance or surplus budgets by increasing spending. This happens at the local, state and national levels.

    Unless politicians learn to control entitlement and pork barrel spending no amount of tax increases will fix the problem.

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  10. ken says:

    The surest control on entitlement spending is to pay for it with taxes. Anything else is just idle talk.

    If the public wants increased entitlements then the politicians should be honest enough to levy the taxes to pay for it. This is the way it used to be until that right wing vodoo called supply side economics deceived our sheep like conservatives into believing they can have a free lunch. And politician will only regain this honesty when people like you start demanding increased taxes whenever spending goes up. That is the only way to get a government limited to the size the people are willing to support.

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  11. geezer says:

    I still don’t get the “Big Gov’t” argument. It’s big. Who’s proposing to make it smaller? How? What depts will you cut, how many people will you fire, and can the lower levels of govt/private sector handle the burden of services you’re shifting?

    Pork is stupid, selfish and wasteful. None of us should be in favor of that. Yet, pork is not “big gov’t,” but a by-product of legislative power. You can kill every single earmark and will still be left with a very big government.

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  12. superdestroyer says:

    Ken,

    I think what TJIT was trying to say is that if you set taxes at a pay as you go level for a moderate economy, the government ends up with a huge surplus during any economic boom. The elected politicians always respond to having a huge surplus by starting new programs and spending the surplus. Then, when the downturn comes, the government runs a deficit.

    The government should decide what it really needs to do and set taxes to that. Then, when the good times occurs, the government should give the surplus back as a rebate. If not, all you get is ever expanding government budgets that eventually push out the private sector (See most of Europe).

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  13. ken says:

    superdestroyer,

    Actually, the last time we had a surplus was under a democratic administration and they insisted it be used to pay down some of the accumulated debt from the reckless spending of prior republican administrations.

    So yeah, a republican administration might waste it. But democrats have a good track record of fiscal responsibility, even at the cost of their political careers. And that is the risk people like Steve and TJIT must take away from politician when they do the right thing. No politician should lose their job for being honest and responsible stewards of the public treasury.

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  14. superdestroyer says:

    Ken,

    If you could site a source where the Clinton Administration paid off any publicly held debt early, I would love to see it. If you go back and look at the 2000 presidential election, Gore was talking about adding government programs.

    You should also look at state budgets in the late 1990’s. Virtually all states were running surpluses due to the dot.com boom. Yet, they all began to run deficits as soon as the boom was over with (See Gray Davis and the Democratic controlled legislature in California).

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  15. ken says:

    superdestroyer, I thought it was common knowledge. I was a bond trader in the 90’s and the Clinton treasury was regularly announcing buy backs of the highest coupon outstanding debt. They also eliminated the three and seven year treasury auctions, reduced the size of the two, five and ten year auctions, and reduced the frequency of thirty year auctions until finally eliminating it altogether. Oh, I believe they got rid of the year bill as well. Coupons rolling down the curve were providing sufficient trader liquidity without need for more. This allowed them to focus on creating larger issues for the auctions that remained.

    Outstanding public debt was decreasing so fast that the traders and our customers were in need of alternatives to provide liquidity. The GSE’s stepped in with huge ‘benchmark’ and ‘global’ issues to fill the need.

    You can either take my word for it or look it up using google.

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  16. Steve Verdon says:

    geezer,

    Who’s proposing to make it smaller?

    Libertarians, minarchists, classical liberals, etc. Oh and Ronald Reagan, when he was alive.

    How?

    Via legislation. Back in 1996 the Republicans put ag subsidies on a “glide path” to zero. Now that is completely gone…thanks to Republicans and replaced with big fat farm subsidies–i.e. corporate welfare.

    What depts will you cut, how many people will you fire, and can the lower levels of govt/private sector handle the burden of services you’re shifting?

    Quite a few–and maybe not eliminate them, but instead reduce their size and change their scope, lots, yes.

    Pork is stupid, selfish and wasteful. None of us should be in favor of that. Yet, pork is not “big gov’t,” but a by-product of legislative power. You can kill every single earmark and will still be left with a very big government.

    Personally, this isn’t merely an issue of “pork” but on the fundamental size of the government. My view is that the government is so vast, so large, so cumbersome and what not, that it does nothing well, like protect us from things like 9/11.

    You should also look at state budgets in the late 1990’s. Virtually all states were running surpluses due to the dot.com boom. Yet, they all began to run deficits as soon as the boom was over with (See Gray Davis and the Democratic controlled legislature in California).

    Notably Ken ignored this part of the issue. And in a state where the Dems had full control. Imagine that! How about Clinton’s budgetary success was in part due to the Republicans who were very much against spending…back then. These new compasionate conservatives look alot like big government types to me who don’t like gays.

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  17. ken says:

    Steve, James Joyner gave you front page posting priveledge presumably because he believes you are something more than the complete idiot you are determined to prove yourself to be.

    You never rise above your conservative talking points when the topic is either medical insurance or government spending and tax policy. Sad really.

    But with regard to the state budget surpluses during the Clinton administration, let me point out a few facts.

    1) There were perhaps as many as five or six states whose income tax receipts benefited directly from the ‘dot com’ boom as executives exercised stock options and paid taxes on humongous huge capital gains. California and Washington were among them but can you name any others that not only had ‘dot com’ start ups and an income tax? Colorado had a few start up and an income tax but I know for a fact that Colorado was struggling with a self imposed choke on tax collection that was killing the state and local governments. Nevada had a few start ups, but no income tax. North Carolina? Don’t know.

    2) The rest of the states benefited from the lower interest rates generated by the Clinton policies and the general across the board business boom that generated.

    3) States with increased revenue mostly used it wisely. For example there were huge municipal bond refundings and paydowns of debt. What was not paid down was often times escrowed to maturity eliminating the states liability and increasing the bonds ratings to AAA.

    4) California famously reduced the automobile tax which was based upon the value of the vehicle. This reduction was supposed to last only as long as the extra income that justified it kept coming in. Sadly we know how people like you manipulated this issue in order to obtain larger budget deficits for California once revenues started to fall.

    5) Oh and New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey benefited from the tax collections on the giant sized bonuses paid to wall street analysts, traders, and investment bankers. This can be attributed largely the boom in tech issues as well.

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  18. TJIT says:

    Ken,

    You said,

    Steve, James Joyner gave you front page posting priveledge presumably because he believes you are something more than the complete idiot you are determined to prove yourself to be.

    This shows an admirable commitment on your part to civilized conversation.

    You also said

    You never rise above your conservative talking points when the topic is either medical insurance or government spending and tax policy. Sad really.

    If I understand correctly you are saying people who disagree with you don’t have opinions with supporting facts they have “talking points”. And the simple act of disagreeing with your opinion renders the other person a complete idiot.

    Is this a correct reading of your stand? Because if it isn’t you might want to rephrase your statements.

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  19. Steve Verdon says:

    ken,

    Okay and out of those states that had big surpluses how many paid down debt, how many had Republican governors and/or state legislatures controlled by Republicans, and how many had divided governments?

    My point is that when you look at a state that had big surpluses and Democrats in charge of everything what happened? A budgetary mess. So, I reject the claim that people who favor smaller government should think like you and vote like you.

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  20. Steve Verdon says:

    Oh, and did any of those states have any laws that dictated whether or not the debt should be paid down with surpluses? In short, your argument is ill supported and poorly argued…as usual.

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  21. Kent G. Budge says:

    I find the suggestion that the Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility so risible that it just isn’t possible for me to take someone who makes this claim seriously.

    Nevertheless, there is a tiny grain of truth in what Ken-with-no-T says. The voting public seems to have a remarkable inability to connect spending with taxes. It’s like some extremely primitive tribe that doesn’t connect sex with reproduction and wonders where all those babies came from.

    So, yes, in some sense taxes are the answer. Ideally, one would like a balanced budget amendment coupled with something like a flat tax, perhaps with a large individual deduction. Too progressive a tax means the great majority of voters will happily demand spending, confident that it will all be paid for by soaking the rich.

    The fly in the ointment, as Steve has already pointed out, is the business cycle. This kind of scotches too simplistic a balanced budget amendment, since you probably don’t want spending to decrease during bust periods.

    … On the other hand, if the government were really as small as it should be, perhaps its spending patterns would not perturb the economy enough to matter.

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  22. TJIT says:

    Ken,

    You said

    Colorado had a few start up and an income tax but I know for a fact that Colorado was struggling with a self imposed choke on tax collection that was killing the state and local governments.

    You miss a big chunk of the story in Colorado, this document Talking Points on TABOR has a few important details you missed. From the report

    Colorado’s early experience with TABOR was successful because of the very rapid demographic and economic growth of the state in the 1990s, due to substantial migration (30 percent population growth from 1990 to 2000) and the rapid expansion of the electronics and telecommunications industries in the state.

    Contraction in electronics and telecommunications industries occurred rapidly in 2000 and 2001, shrinking the state economy and tax collections.

    Colorado had a high tech boom that turned into a bust. Which obviously decreased revenue to the state. On top of this revenue decrease Colorado had another budget problem.

    The state’s budget problems have been made worse by the interaction of an additional constitutional provision with the TABOR revenue limit.

    Voters in 2000 approved Amendment 23, which requires the General Assembly annually to increase base per pupil funding for K-12 education by inflation plus one percentage point a year through 2010, and by inflation thereafter.

    K-12 funding now accounts for 40 percent of the Colorado General Fund budget.

    So the state was forced to increase funding even if revenues were not able to keep up with it.

    Colorado was in better shape then a lot of states in the same situation because tabor had restrained spending growth while the economy grew. However, they could not adjust to decreasing revenue caused by the bust in the high tech sector because Amendment 23 forced them to increase spending on education no matter what the revenue was. So they cut other areas to pay for the increasing education spending Amendment 23 required.

    Budgets are simple
    Revenue – Spending = Surplus / Deficit.

    Those who continually argue for tax increases to fix budget problems while ignoring spending can’t be taken seriously when it comes to deficit issues.

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