The missing definition of ‘conservative’

Media political pundits using the term “conservative” should be asked to define it.

For example, the dueling talking-heads prevalent ad nauseam on FOX News discussing POTUS candidates routinely say that Donald Trump is not a conservative, particularly compared to, say, Paul Ryan who is a rock-ribbed, true-blue conservative. The Gold Standard.

In such cases, the moderator in the middle should throw a flag and call for the speaker to define “conservative” in 25-words or less, with a suitable penalty for compliance failure.  Perhaps wire their seats a low-voltage electrical charge. Ratings would climb.

If all the pols in the House and Senate who claimed to be conservatives stood up, the headcount would be impressive.  But when you follow the federal money, the actual tally of fiscal conservatives barely exceeds the number of live chickens riding the rotisserie at your local Walmart.

Recently, FOX News All-Star Dr. Charles Krauthammer very unfavorably compared Trump’s conservative creds to those of Ryan, labeling Ryan as a real conservative, in words to that effect. 

To test Dr. K’s assertion, let’s use federal money matters as an essential baseline to any fair and balanced definition of “conservative.”

Before becoming Speaker, Ryan chaired the Year 2015 Budget Resolution House Budget Committee. The press release touting the final report from the committee was dated April 1, 2014, and was entitled “The Path to Prosperity Offers a Brighter Future: Ryan unveils plan to balance the budget and create jobs.” This was one of the plan’s highlighted goals:

“Within ten years, the budget reaches balance and begins to pay down the debt.”

It projected a 2024 deadline to balance the annual federal budget. 

That April Fools’ Day the Wall Street Journal announced that “Ryan Sees Budget Balancing His House 10-Year Plan Would Cut Spending by $5.1 Trillion; Democrats Decry Cuts.”  And so goes the repetitious puppet show where Republicans call for budget cuts, Democrats cry “foul” and demand increases, and the deficit grows. Pass the popcorn. The optimistic news, had the plan been enacted, was that, while the federal debt would continue to mount for a decade (until 2024), it would be increasing at a continuously decreasing rate. It’s like the chronic alcoholic – is there any other kind? – who promises to stop drinking by decreasing their adult beverage intake over a sustained and carefully-measured time-period.  Works every time.  Or does it? Those Republicans who point back to 1981 and the Golden Era of Conservative Fiscal and Monetary Policies either forget or ignore history.  The late economist-historian Murray N. Rothbard wrote this in June 1992:

“In the spring of 1981, conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives cried. They cried because, in the first flush of the Reagan Revolution that was supposed to bring drastic cuts in taxes and government spending, as well as a balanced budget, they were being asked by the White House and their own leadership to vote for an increase in the statutory limit on the federal public debt, which was then scraping the legal ceiling of $1 trillion. They cried because all of their lives they had voted against an increase in public debt, and now they were being asked, by their own party and their own movement, to violate their lifelong principles. The White House and its leadership assured them that this breach in principle would be their last: that it was necessary for one last increase in the debt limit to give President Reagan a chance to bring about a balanced budget and to begin to reduce the debt. Many of these Republicans tearfully announced that they were taking this fateful step because they deeply trusted their president, who would not let them down.
Famous last words. In a sense, the Reagan handlers were right: there were no more tears, no more complaints, because the principles themselves were quickly forgotten, swept into the dustbin of history. Deficits and the public debt have piled up mountainously since then, and few people care, least of all conservative Republicans.”

“Conservative” Republicans have forgotten that the first step to escape a deepening debt hole is to put down the shovel, and stop digging.

Media political pundits using the term “conservative” should be asked to define it.

For example, the dueling talking-heads prevalent ad nauseam on FOX News discussing POTUS candidates routinely say that Donald Trump is not a conservative, particularly compared to, say, Paul Ryan who is a rock-ribbed, true-blue conservative. The Gold Standard.

In such cases, the moderator in the middle should throw a flag and call for the speaker to define “conservative” in 25-words or less, with a suitable penalty for compliance failure.  Perhaps wire their seats a low-voltage electrical charge. Ratings would climb.

If all the pols in the House and Senate who claimed to be conservatives stood up, the headcount would be impressive.  But when you follow the federal money, the actual tally of fiscal conservatives barely exceeds the number of live chickens riding the rotisserie at your local Walmart.

Recently, FOX News All-Star Dr. Charles Krauthammer very unfavorably compared Trump’s conservative creds to those of Ryan, labeling Ryan as a real conservative, in words to that effect. 

To test Dr. K’s assertion, let’s use federal money matters as an essential baseline to any fair and balanced definition of “conservative.”

Before becoming Speaker, Ryan chaired the Year 2015 Budget Resolution House Budget Committee. The press release touting the final report from the committee was dated April 1, 2014, and was entitled “The Path to Prosperity Offers a Brighter Future: Ryan unveils plan to balance the budget and create jobs.” This was one of the plan’s highlighted goals:

“Within ten years, the budget reaches balance and begins to pay down the debt.”

It projected a 2024 deadline to balance the annual federal budget. 

That April Fools’ Day the Wall Street Journal announced that “Ryan Sees Budget Balancing His House 10-Year Plan Would Cut Spending by $5.1 Trillion; Democrats Decry Cuts.”  And so goes the repetitious puppet show where Republicans call for budget cuts, Democrats cry “foul” and demand increases, and the deficit grows. Pass the popcorn. The optimistic news, had the plan been enacted, was that, while the federal debt would continue to mount for a decade (until 2024), it would be increasing at a continuously decreasing rate. It’s like the chronic alcoholic – is there any other kind? – who promises to stop drinking by decreasing their adult beverage intake over a sustained and carefully-measured time-period.  Works every time.  Or does it? Those Republicans who point back to 1981 and the Golden Era of Conservative Fiscal and Monetary Policies either forget or ignore history.  The late economist-historian Murray N. Rothbard wrote this in June 1992:

“In the spring of 1981, conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives cried. They cried because, in the first flush of the Reagan Revolution that was supposed to bring drastic cuts in taxes and government spending, as well as a balanced budget, they were being asked by the White House and their own leadership to vote for an increase in the statutory limit on the federal public debt, which was then scraping the legal ceiling of $1 trillion. They cried because all of their lives they had voted against an increase in public debt, and now they were being asked, by their own party and their own movement, to violate their lifelong principles. The White House and its leadership assured them that this breach in principle would be their last: that it was necessary for one last increase in the debt limit to give President Reagan a chance to bring about a balanced budget and to begin to reduce the debt. Many of these Republicans tearfully announced that they were taking this fateful step because they deeply trusted their president, who would not let them down.
Famous last words. In a sense, the Reagan handlers were right: there were no more tears, no more complaints, because the principles themselves were quickly forgotten, swept into the dustbin of history. Deficits and the public debt have piled up mountainously since then, and few people care, least of all conservative Republicans.”

“Conservative” Republicans have forgotten that the first step to escape a deepening debt hole is to put down the shovel, and stop digging.