Tag Archives: Conservatives

What ‘Tax the Rich’ Gets You

Mike at the Big Stick points to a blog post by Iowahawk on the fallacy that taxing only the rich will solve anything.  It’s pretty tounge-in-cheek but the point is made: raising taxes soley on upper incomes won’t solve our fiscal problems.  Mike says it best:

The point is that while the rich are a convenient target for the Left it’s a fantasy to believe that raising taxes on them will create financial solvency. What is necessary, in my opinion, is raising taxes on all but the poorest Americans and cutting spending deeply. Anything else is pointless.

Indeed. Much has been said about the conservative fantasy that all fiscal problems can be solved by cutting the budget. But it is equally silly to think that “the rich can pay for it all.”

There is saying that Americans want Swedish-style government at Mississippi-style prices. If we want to make sure that government is well funded and sustainable, then both sides will have to give up their fantasies and come up with some mixture of spending cuts and increased taxes accross the board.  Anything else is a pipe dream.

The Ryan Budget

These days, I tend to get a little intimidated by all the super-smart bloggers who can spew all these facts and stats when it comes to budgetary issues.  So, I’m never going to be the next Ezra Klein or Tyler Cowen, but I can at least give a basic layman’s view on Paul Ryan’s plan on the budget.

At first glance, I think it’s pretty good.  One of my chief complaints with Republicans is that they either don’t have a realistic budgetary plan or most of their plans are just slash and burn without any purpose.  Ryan’s plan does have a lot of slashing of budgets, but I think he at least tries to keep the safety net somewhat intact.  For those on the Left like Klein and E.D. Kain, anything that changes the current understandings of social programs like Medicare and Medicaid is basically throwing the old and the poor on the street.  I don’t think it has to be that way.  I think some of the criticism about privatising Medicare by giving people vouchers is valid (it doesn’t at least on the surface try to rein in costs).  That said, it is a starting point and it’s good to see a Republican come up with an innovative idea.  I also think that while Ryan is willing to “go there” when it comes to entitlements, folks like Kain are correct in saying that the military also needs to be reigned in. 

Which leads me to a side issue.  David Brooks notes in his column today that America needs to re-envision its welfare state.  The system we have in place for the most part has been the system we have had for 50-70 years.  We are pushing the limits of the old welfare state model.  It’s becoming unsustainable.  This means that we have to create a new social contract that can carry this nation forward.  I think Ryan’s proposals are a good starting point.

That said, we also need to take a good look at what some call the “warfare state.”  Our defense needs are based on what those needs were back in the 1950s.  The Cold War with the Russians has been over with for 20 years and we need to design a military for our current world.  That means a smaller footprint around the world when it comes to bases and troops and that means cuts.  The world still needs the United States to take part in military action when called for, but we can’t do it with a military designed for the “Red Dawn” era.

So that’s my simple take on the Ryan plan.  I’d like to hear others viewpoints.

Scott Brown vs. Tea Party

Scott Brown was elected to the Senate last year as a darling of the Tea Party.  Since then, they haven’t been that pleased with him because he turned out to be far moderate than they expected ( a moderate Republican from Massachusetts?  Who would have thought?)

He’s certainly not going to get love from the Tea Party for his latest act: blasting the GOP leadership and by extension, the Tea Party for “irresponsible cuts” that will hurt the poor.  Here’s some of what he said in a letter and also on the Senate floor:

Since the beginning of the 112th Congress, the House and Senate have been seeking common ground to finish the appropriations work for FY 2011.  Sadly, rather than reaching a workable, bi-partisan solution to responsibly address our staggering deficit, we are repeatedly given a false choice between CR proposals that either don’t go far enough to reduce federal spending and proposals that set the wrong priorities that would disproportionately affect low-income families and seniors, while doing little to address critical, long-term issues…

Our collective work begins by having a clear understanding of the seriousness of our budget crisis and what is at stake if we fail to address it.  We can all agree that we simply cannot continue on this reckless, unsustainable course.  Reducing and eliminating needless spending and programs are appropriate, but a wholesale reduction in spending, without considering economic, cultural, and social impacts is simply irresponsible. We must also be mindful that many of the proposed spending reductions would disproportionately affect the neediest among us, including housing and heating assistance.  Likewise, some of the proposed cuts would be economically counterproductive, negatively impacting our ability to innovate and invest in research and development.

Deficit reduction is a necessary goal for our country.  But deficit reduction should not be achieved in isolation of our priorities as a government and a society.  I believe that responsible and meaningful bi-partisan support must be found and forged if we are to achieve long-term fiscal stability.  I intend to be a part of the discussions and the solutions for how to move our country forward, without eliminating programs that are successful, cost-effective, or critical to the livelihood of the neediest among us.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky responded by paying homage to the Tea Party and their “fiscal bravery:”

“[T]hanks to ordinary Americans like these speaking their minds and advocating for common sense reforms, I’m increasingly confident we’ll get our fiscal house in order,” McConnell said of the tea party movement. “Republicans are determined to do our part.”

But none of what the Tea Party or the GOP leadership is advocating is common sense, not by a long shot.  Instead of tackling the big movers of the deficit: defense and entitlement programs, conservatives have made a big deal of cutting discretionary programs, which make up only 12 percent of the budget.  That’s not bravery, it’s cowardice and cynicism.
Brown is correct that the cuts offered hurt the neediest in our society more than anyone else.  This isn’t even about balancing the budget on the backs of the poor as the Left claims, it’s just cutting something just for the hell of it.
If Republicans want to tackle the deficit then they need to go after programs that the middle class enjoy (hello mortgage interest deduction).  We need to tackle Medicare and Social Security.  But of course, dealing with those would be bring the wrath of the middle classes, especially those Tea Partiers who want to cut programs for the poor, but doesn’t want Washington to touch their Medicare.
Brown will no doubt catch hell for his stand, but he continues to get my praise and support.

Spreading the Wealth Around

A fascinating and revealing article from an old Dissent about the redistributive dimensions of early Jeffersonian thought.  The founding fathers are often portrayed, particularly by rightists, as devoutly laissez-faire.  In reality, they seemed to divide up between conservative Hamiltonian corporatists and radical Jeffersonian egalitarians, the former urging government collusion with commercialists and the latter urging some form of leveling to the advantage of small holders and craftsmen.  From the start, the only place where laissez-faire prevailed was at the federal level; states and localities had broad powers to police morals and markets.  And even at the federal level, “hands off” inherently meant favoring some against others.

“Wealth, like suffrage,” Taylor wrote in his Inquiry Into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States, “must be considerably distributed, to sustain a democratick republic; and hence, whatever draws a considerable proportion of either into a few hands, will destroy it. As power follows wealth, the majority must have wealth or lose power.”

Even the cautious and aristocratic Adams tended to agree, at least in the early days:

In the revolutionary fervor of 1776, John Adams had agreed. “The only possible Way then of preserving the Ballance of Power on the side of equal Liberty and public Virtue,” he wrote in a letter to James Sullivan, “is to make the Acquisition of Land easy to every Member of Society: to make a Division of the Land into Small Quantities, So that the Multitude may be possessed of landed Estates.” Such thinking obviously shaped Jefferson’s Draft Constitution for Virginia (1776), which stipulated that every man without property (or without adequate property) is entitled to fifty acres of public land upon reaching adulthood and, even more striking, that no one else should be permitted to appropriate public land. “Legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property,” he later wrote in a letter to James Madison.

So, contra Republican talking points, President Obama was hardly outside the American democratic tradition when he spoke of “spreading the wealth around.”  Indeed, he was squarely within it.

A Reform Agenda for the GOP

There are several competing schools of thought as to how the Republican Party can achieve wide success in a country growing evermore racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse.

One school says that the GOP must moderate, or even abandon, its social conservative themes.  The converse school says that the GOP must redouble its emphasis on social conservative themes, playing up that “old time religion.”

Another school — similar but distinct from the first — says that the GOP must look beyond its base, patronizing non-whites, non-Christians, and non-natives, as well as younger and urban voters.  The converse school says that the GOP must shore up its base, pandering vigorously to whites, Christians, and natives, as well as older and suburban-rural voters.

Each of these paths offers potential benefits and potential drawbacks.  Yet not one is truly feasible.  Is there a way to maintain and expand the fabled “big tent” without dismissing a whole wing of the party?  Is there a means of bypassing the liberalization dilemma entirely?

Adopting an agenda of reform and modernization might be the solution.  This move would allow the party to transcend divisive identity issues while presenting itself as smart, innovative, and inclusive.

What might a reform agenda entail?  The possibilities are numerous.  They include: setting congressional term limits, restructuring the electoral college, experimenting with Internet voting, retooling the primary process, expanding broadband and wireless access, introducing ballot-based referendums, combating cronyism and undue lobbyist influence through sunlight regulations, tackling the obesity epidemic, promoting energy conservation and independence, simplifying the tax code, ending prohibition of medical marijuana, creating a national community service program, and means-testing entitlements.

These ideas are neither novel nor thrilling.  Some directly challenge the interests of party bosses and sitting legislators and major campaign contributors, which is problematic.  Yet they could prove worthwhile steps toward making the Republican Party a “one nation” organization with mass appeal.  GOPers marooned in blue states have historically depended upon such good government proposals to overcome entrenched liberal opponents.

Technocratic pragmatism will never compose the heart of Republican politics.  Nor should it.  The country profits from an overtly conservative party.  Still, the GOP should consider a reform agenda if tea party radicalism and right-wing populism fail to produce victory in 2012.

Rick Snyder: One Tough Fascist?

At least, that’s what one blogger from Lansing believes:

As much as I hoped it wouldn’t be the case last November. It appears that Governor Rick Snyder is nothing more than a velvet-gloved austerity whore hell bent on engineering an IMF-style economic dismantling of Michigan’s government and economy. It’s time for true liberals and conservatives to wake up and unite against the systematic destruction of Michigan’s economy, Constitution and rule of law.

Rick Snyder is not a Republican. He is not a nerd. . . . He is a fascist. And if his plan is implemented, the merging of corporate and state power – the essence of Mussolini-style fascism – will be complete. And no Michigander will be immune from the onslaught.

On RINO Hunts, Ctd.

Bruce Gilson, who has, ahem, more experience when it comes to living, has this response to my earlier post on RINO Hunts:

I don’t think Riley’s type of thing is really new. The tension between extremist and moderate Republicans has been going on since 1964 at least (remember Barry Goldwater’s “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And … moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” in his acceptance speech). Even the “RINO” designation applied by extremists to moderates is decades old by now. One has to accept that there are some who cannot accept that the Republican Party is not ideologically homogeneous, and work around them. (emphasis mine)

Bruce makes a strong note here.  It’s easy to think that the rise of extremists within the GOP is some recent phenomenon, but the tension between the two wings of the party has been there for at least 50 years if not more.  I’ve read articles from the 1980s where this was still an issue back then. The extremists have always been like the schoolyard bully who threaten the timid moderate.  The problem is that moderates never really try to stand up to the bully.  We whine about the bully and talk about how unfair it is to be bullied, but we never face them down. 

Politics is always going to be rough game.  Moderates have to learn to fight back and stand up for themselves.  The world doesn’t care about whiners.

Republicans Stand Against Homophobia; Nobody Cares

Log Cabin Republicans reports the following:

Here at Log Cabin HQ, we’ve noticed a trend. Following the 2010 election, it seemed that every possible threat to marriage equality was front page news and fodder for endless fundraising blasts. The narrative was clear: with Republicans in charge, gay rights were in the crosshairs.  Yet when a threat is beaten back, particularly when Republicans are part of the defense, coverage by national gay media is remarkably thin. Take, for example, Wyoming, which just voted down a measure that would deny recognition to same-sex couples married in other states. Republican leadership was vital to this victory, and deserves to be recognized.

Freedom to Marry shares what went on in Wyoming and how Republicans stood up to bigotry:

The issue came up because last year, a state judge refused to grant a divorce to a lesbian couple who had gotten married in Canada. That case has been appealed to the state Supreme Court. The two Republican Senators who doomed the bill by voting against it said they could not support the bill if it did not guarantee court access for married gay couples.

The bill did pass the House, but not before a passionate debate that included some Republicans in opposition. “This bill does nothing more than to strip away liberties that have been granted by other states,” said Rep. Ruth Petroff (R). “We go from being ‘The Equality State’ to ‘The Strip-Away-Liberty State.'”

Rep. Pat Childers (R), who has a lesbian daughter, said the bill violated both the Wyoming and U.S. constitutions.

“This isn’t right,” he said. He also rejected claims that gay people are somehow not as good at raising children, saying “Both of my sons would be more than happy to let any one of my grandchildren go to my daughter to be raised.”

 The Laramie Boomerang has some more great coverage of Republicans who said yes to equality.

Since Log Cabin linked to several articles from the Advocate anti-gay Republicans, I decided to check and see if they even mentioned the defeat of this measure.  As of this afternoon, what I found on their News page was talk about former GOP Representative Chris Lee being asked to do a nude shoot for Playgirl, an article about Mike Huckabee’s swipe at Natlie Portman, and Newt Gringrich courting the Religious Right.  You’d think the leading LGBT magazine in the nation would bother to cover this issue, especially when their were some Republicans who dared to speak up. 

It’s frustrating to be hectored in your own party for being gay or supporting gay rights, but it is downright insulting when Democrats and media don’t bother to salute or notice when a Republican tries to do right on LGBT issues.

What’s So Good About the Tea Party?

Earlier this week, Ross Douthat, back from a February fast from blogging, shared what he thought were some of the more positive characteristics of the Tea Party:

 The most pungent, attention-grabbing liberal critique of the Tea Parties was that they were either racist reactionaries fomenting violent insurrection, or else the hapless dupes of plutocratic puppetmasters. But the more plausible liberal critique was that the movement’s supporters weren’t actually serious about the issues they claimed to care about the most. Sure, liberals allowed, Tea Partiers said that they cared about runaway government spending, but polls showed that most of them actually felt more strongly about tax cuts than real fiscal discipline, and believed that the deficit could be pared back without touching Medicare or Social Security or defense. Likewise, Tea Partiers claimed to care about individual liberty, but polls showed that their opinions weren’t any closer to real civil libertarianism than those of the average Bush-era Republican. Citing this data, more than a few liberals suggested that the dirty secret of the Tea Partiers was that they were just Bush-era Republicans, rebranded and equipped with newfound populist zeal, but otherwise identical to the right-wing constituency that had accepted Bush’s deficit spending and expansions of the national security state without a peep. (This Jonathan Chait post from a week ago gives the flavor of this argument.) Which meant, presumably, that the movement’s promises of a more fiscally-responsible and libertarian G.O.P. were so much sound and fury, and what we should really expect from Tea Party Republicanism was more of the same: A notional commitment to limited government and individual liberty, joined to a practical politics of deficit-financed tax cuts, defense sector bloat, and Medicare demagoguery.

But here we are, a couple months into the new G.O.P. era, and the party’s Congressional leadership has formally committed itself to providing a blueprint for entitlement reform, the immense political risks notwithstanding. At the same time, while Ron Paul-style libertarianism is hardly ascendant in the Republican Party, it’s more in evidence than at any point in the Bush era: You’ve had surprising Republican votes to delay reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act, a Republican backbencher revolt that killed the F-35 engine and — most importantly, perhaps, for right-wing libertarianism’s long-term prospects — Rand Paul’s emergence as the Republican version of Russ Feingold, making the case for civil liberties in an often-inhospitable environment.

Mike at the Big Stick agrees with Douthat’s assessment and adds this:

The Tea Party is a conservative movement and thus supporting conservative candidates and challenging moderate Republicans. Essentially they are pulling most of the GOP rightward on fiscal policy (which is what so many of us have wanted for nearly two decades). The only question mark is whether or not they can remain enough of a solid voting block to keep the GOP there until something real is accomplished. The worst thing they could do is to lose the fear factor. To that end I would love to see them support a couple fiscally conservative Democrats in 2012 against fiscally moderate Republicans. A move like that would help them maintain their clout and keep Republican incumbents on their toes.

Of course, it’s not a surprise that I don’t share Ross or Mike’s enthusiasm for the Tea Party.  I don’ t think they’re a bunch of racist reactionaries, but I don’t think they are a bunch freewheeling, pot-smoking Gary Johnson lovers either. 

I also think it’s too early to be giving the Tea Party plaudits for their budget acumen.  Yes, there are plans to deal with entitlements, but we haven’t heard of them yet, and most of the cuts they have made have are on the smallest part of the federal budget, discretionary spending.  This is hardly courageous and it tends to affect only constituencies that don’t usually support the GOP, the young and the poor.  If we are going to tackle something like the deficit and live within our means, we are going to have to “make everybody hurt.”  Here, columnist David Brooks shows what the GOP has done in DC:

In Washington, the Republicans who designed the cuts for this fiscal year seemed to have done no serious policy evaluation. They excused the elderly and directed cuts at anything else they could easily reach. Under their budget, financing for early-childhood programs would fall off a cliff. Tens of thousands of kids, maybe hundreds of thousands, would have their slots eliminated midyear.

In short, the GOP went after the low hanging fruit.  Hardly a way to get to fiscal responsibility.

The GOP talks a good game about tackling the deficit.  But in the end, they aren’t any more willing to make the hard choices on federal spending than the Democrats.

And I haven’t even talked about the Tea Party,  party diversity and social conservatism.

See Mitch Run?

David Brooks sends some love to a certain Midwestern governor:

On Feb. 11, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana met with a group of college students. According to The Yale Daily News, he told them that there is an “excellent chance” he will not run for president. Then he mounted the podium at the Conservative Political Action Conference and delivered one of the best Republican speeches in recent decades.

This is the G.O.P. quandary. The man who would be the party’s strongest candidate for the presidency is seriously thinking about not running. The country could use a serious, competent manager, which Governor Daniels has been, and still he’s thinking about not running. The historic moment calls for someone who can restrain debt while still helping government efficiently perform its duties. Daniels has spent his whole career preparing for this kind of moment, and still he’s thinking about not running.

Or so Daniels says.  While my heart leans towards a Huntsman or Johnson, Daniels is the candidate of the mind, one that can bring together Tea Party-type conservatives as well as those that might be outside the GOP tent.  I think the GOP is in need of someone that’s not a bombthrower (see Walker, Scott) and that can put for the a more intelligent and disciplined conservatism.