Has the Republican Party Lost Its Soul?
My friend and Media Bloggers Association colleague Mark Tapscott, who heads the Center for Media and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, believes Ronald Reagan would be very disappointed at the reckless spending of his party.
Has the GOP Lost Its Soul? (TownHall)
President Reagan often said itÃ¢€™s hard to recall that you came to drain the swamp when youÃ¢€™re up to your armpits in alligators. Republicans like Rep. Don Young of Alaska would rather use your tax dollars to build a scenic bridge to the swamp.
Republicans took over Congress in 1994 promising in the Ã¢€œContract with AmericaÃ¢€ to cut taxes, reduce federal spending and eliminate unneeded bureaucracy. TheyÃ¢€™ve used the same message to retain majorities in both chambers for all but a couple of the succeeding years. [Actually, it was only the feckless post-election switch by Jumpin’ Jim Jeffords that cost the Republicans the majority. The GOP has emerged in control of both Houses in every election since 1994. -ed.]
Simply put, the GOP majority has been spending federal tax dollars like drunken sailors since 2001, increasing outlays by an average of 7.25 percent annually. Inflation increased by a mere 2.0 percent average in those same years.
Bush has basically stepped aside, not once exercising his veto, compared to 78 vetoes by Reagan, who had to deal with powerful Democrat majorities in the House throughout his White House years. Having a president who wonÃ¢€™t veto unleashes the big spenders. That transportation bill that Bush accepted and Young stuffed contained more than 6,500 Ã¢€œearmarksÃ¢€™ Ã¢€” i.e. pork barrel projects. Reagan vetoed a 1987 transportation bill with a mere 152 projects.
While one could argue that spending would have risen even more had the Democrats won those elections, there’s really no way of knowing. Almost certainly, the priorities for this profligate spending would have been allocated differently. Regardless, it’s hard to deny that the Republican Party has long abandoned conservatism in the fiscal sense.
Partly, this is a function of being a majority party rather than a minority party. Power is addictive and corrupting. Those in charge have the ability to spend the taxpayers’ money in a way to help further their own political ambitions; those in opposition can merely complain about it loudly and hope to score political points.
Perhaps more importantly, the Republicans have discovered that the public really doesn’t care about limited spending. When Reagan criticized “tax and spend Democrats,” the public only heard the “tax” part. The United States is, after all, a country founded partly on opposition to taxation. (One suspects the average colonist was much more concerned about “taxation” rather than the lack of “representation.”)
Americans love it when their congressman manages to nab a few billion dollars in pork for projects in their districts. I haven’t seen any polling on the subject but would be willing to bet that most Alaskans are tickled pink about the massive transportation bill. Probably, too, are most Americans. Even President Bush, who will presumably never run for political office again, was running around last week touting all the jobs the bill would create. When the rewards for irresponsibility outweigh the penalties, irresponsibility will reign.
I would note, too, that Ronald Reagan was only a great budget cutter in comparison to George W. Bush and the current Republican Congress. It’s true that he vetoed several spending bills put forth by the mostly Democratic Congresses* he faced but the fact of the matter was that spending, even non-defense spending, soared during the eight years he was in office. He talked a lot about things like cutting welfare spending, closing down the Departments of Energy and Education, and so forth but actually made little effort in those directions. He was much more concerned about rebuilding our nation’s defense and reducing the tax burden than on cutting spending.
*The Democrats controlled the House throughout his presidency and the Senate from the midway point of his second term.