August 19, 2010
The GOP's Lost BrandBy Randall Hoven
This is not your father's America, nor is it your father's Republican Party. You have been betrayed. But if you call it betrayal, you won't be called ungrateful; you'll be called nuts -- as in wingnuts.
Conservatives and liberals alike assume the U.S. is, or was before Obama, leader of the free world and a bastion of free-market economics. Conservatives griped that ObamaCare would be socialism, nationalizing one-seventh of the economy. Liberals griped that laissez-faire capitalism in the U.S. is what drove us, and then Europe, into the Great Recession.
Here is the truth. Health care in the U.S. was already socialist back when Obama was voting "present" in the Illinois State Senate. Government in the U.S. was already spending one-fourteenth of the economy on health, about the same as, or even more than, Canada and the U.K., countries known for not only universal health care, but single-payer health care.
And what did a Republican president do when he had a Republican-majority House and Senate? He saddled Medicare, a system about to go bankrupt, with a new entitlement, prescription drugs, adding another 1% to 2% of GDP to the federal government burden. In round numbers, that is about $1 trillion over a decade in the very years the Medicare trust fund will be empty. (Like most other entitlement programs, the additional spending would happen after the president signing the legislation would leave office.)
And how was this generosity rewarded? President Obama said, when defending himself against charges of socialism, "And it wasn't on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement, the prescription drug plan, without a source of funding."
He then went on to get his own new $1-trillion health entitlement passed. (Apparently, you are not a socialist if the guy before you was.)
Health care is not the only thing. When all government spending is tallied up, government in the U.S. spent 38.6% of GDP in 2008. That was before Obama was sworn in. Australia spent less (33.7%). South Korea spent less (30.9%). Slovakia spent less (33.9%). Switzerland spent less (32.6%). Canada, that liberal country to our north with single-payer health care, spent only a little more (39.6%). At the moment, in 2010, government in the U.S. is spending about 45% of GDP, or just about the European average.
Spending doesn't capture everything, you say? OK. The Heritage Foundation tallied up ten broad measures of economic freedom across 183 countries. The result? The U.S. is no longer a "free country." It is now "mostly free," along with Macau, Cyprus, Georgia, Botswana, and eighteen other countries. We are behind the "free" countries of Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland, and even Canada (as well as the perennial Hong Kong and Singapore in the top two spots). We are one notch above Denmark (78.0 to 77.9). And those rankings were tallied before ObamaCare was law.
Waiting for the cavalry, the Republican Party, to save you? That party had everything, the presidency, House, and Senate, from 2003 through 2006. It gave us the new trillion-dollar prescription drug entitlement, Campaign Finance Reform, No Child Left Behind and whopping new ethanol mandates. It outlawed normal light bulbs (again, to take effect after the signing president leaves office).
And when this confederacy of dunces fought ObamaCare, on what grounds did it fight it? That ObamaCare would cut Medicare. Medicare spending is what is bankrupting our government and our country! It has to be cut (over time). We can do that Obama's way, government rationing, or we can do that a responsible way.
Did Republicans offer a responsible way to tame Medicare? Well, a Republican did: Paul Ryan, with his Roadmap. And in February 2010, after a year of Obama's high-pressure sales and years after Republicans lost Congress, Ryan's Roadmap had all of nine co-sponsors. Nine. Out of 178 Republicans in the House. As for the rest, it was "Don't cut my Medicare!"
As far as individual "Republicans," let me just drop the names of Jim Jeffords, Arlen Specter, Lincoln Chafee, and Charlie Crist. I don't think those traitors are the only ones ready to defect. The Republican Party seems to have a gift for losing critical members at the very moments their votes count most (see Jeffords, Jumpin' Jim). They will rail against gay marriage and flag-burning with gusto when talking to the folks back home. But when it comes to bailouts, stimuli, or new government programs and regulations, there always seem to be just enough Republican votes to get the job done. Sometimes, Republicans even do it themselves (prescription coverage, TARP, etc.).
I can't say it any better than Governor Chris Christie: "Republicans have to rebrand themselves credibly with the candidates they run, and what they espouse, as the person who will keep an eye on the cash register, who will rein in the spending and the debt."
Republicans used to have the brand of fiscal conservatism. That brand of Republican won the most electoral votes in history just 26 years ago. It took over the House of Representatives, for the first time in forty years, just sixteen years ago. With majorities in Congress, it cut capital gains tax rates, ended welfare, ended the byzantine farm program, cut federal spending to its lowest level since 1966, and ran surpluses -- just ten years ago.
We want that brand of Republicans back.
We are not nuts to want that. It is not nuts to think government can and should spend less than 40% of everything. It is not nuts to want our country to be "free" and not just "mostly free" with France and Botswana. It is not nuts to think that the way "a bill becomes a law" should be the way a bill becomes a law. It is not nuts to think the U.S. Constitution puts some restraints on the federal government. It is not nuts to agree with our founders.
"However specious the pretexts." Specious: showy, having deceptive attraction or allure, having a false look of truth or genuineness. Sound like any teleprompter reader you know?
Here's how it works: If we want expanded entitlements, more government programs, macro-economic tinkering, more federal government intrusion into education, agriculture, energy, etc., we will vote Democrat. We don't need Republicans for that. That is the Democrats' brand; let them have it. What we need is someone to oppose all that.
Our fathers' Republican said, "Government is not a solution to our problem; government is the problem." If you find that too distasteful to swallow, a bit too Tea-Party for you, please don't run for office as a Republican. Because Democrats are already a dime a dozen, and a cheap imitation of one is on nobody's November shopping list.