THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION IS DEAD
By Alan Caruba
The Republican Party regained power in the U.S. House of Representatives after forty years of Democratic Party domination. The Republicans had a margin of 54 U.S. House seats. This had been the largest party swing since 1948.
In the U.S. Senate, the Republicans gained control with the addition of eight seats held by Republicans, and added a ninth, when Richard Shelby of Alabama switched parties. Like many Republicans, I can recall thinking that we could now look forward to changes in domestic and foreign policies that Conservatives had yearned for throughout the Reagan years.
They introduced real welfare reform and the first major tax cut in sixteen years. The Contract with America produced the first four consecutive balanced budgets since the 1920s and the first independent financial audit of the House. The Contract resulted in House committee meetings being open to the public, required a three-fifths majority vote to pass tax increases, and imposed a time limit on the terms of all committee chairs. The Contract’s broad promise was to “end … government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public’s money.” But that was a decade ago.
In a collection of commentaries, The Republican Revolution 10 Years Later: Smaller Government or Business as Usual? ($13.95, Cato Institute), Chris Edwards and John Samples have gathered together experts on all aspects of government to answer the question posed by the title. The answers are universally negative, including those of Gingrich, who noted that, “All our work (on the Contract) was done against the active, continuing opposition of the traditional party.”
After forty years as members of the minority party, those who led the GOP had become more like Democrats than Republicans, despite the effort led by U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater. Today, the GOP Senators and Congressmen have become the big-spenders they decried when the Democrats were in control. People are beginning to notice. They are noticing, too, the obeisance paid to the Republican Party’s fundamentalist religious element that appears to be in the driver’s seat on many social issues.
Commenting on the way the current Congress seems immune to any kind of fiscal prudence, Richard Armey, a co-author of the Contract, cited one of “Armey’s axioms” that says, “When we act like them, we lose.” Retired from the House, Armey noted:
For example, despite the tax cuts enacted in President George W. Bush’s first term and despite the rhetoric, corporate taxes have not been cut. The corporate tax bill enacted in 2004 did not contain major reforms. The public perception is that the GOP virtually exists to let corporations exploit the tax code, but the truth, as Chris Edwards, points out is that, “U.S. policymakers have been asleep at the switch, while nearly every other industrial country has cut its corporate tax rate in recent years.” That alone puts American companies at a competitive disadvantage.
The deficit, last seen headed for the Moon, portends bad news for the rest of us. “Future Congresses and presidents may use the deficit as an excuse to raise taxes, as President Bill Clinton did in 1993,” notes Edwards. Who has given us this deficit? “Federal outlays rose 29 percent under President Bush between FY01 and FY05.”
When he was re-elected, President Bush concluded he had to spend his political capital. “When you win, there is a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view,” he said. Wrong. Bush is President because a relatively slim margin kept him in office, as voters expressed a preference for a wartime President who vowed to fight our enemies, rather than a spineless Democrat who did not comprehend we cannot negotiate with Muslim fanatics.
The President’s popularity ratings continue their decline. Political observers have begun to conclude that he and the GOP have misread the November elections. There is more than just a touch of hubris being seen in the President’s behavior.
The Republican product these days is a government that won’t stop spending on failed programs, including the Department of Education, which the Republican icon, Ronald Reagan, proposed to shut down. Countless failed programs go merrily along wasting billions of taxpayer dollars. Though the Contract promised to “strengthen the rights of parents in their children’s education”, the opposite occurred. Total federal support for education reached about $100 billion by 1997, up 160 percent from $37.7 billion in 1990.
Yes, the original Contract and its results were impressive, but only for a short while. The few rule changes in the way Congress conducts public business did occur after the Contract with America, but a Republican Party that can’t or won’t change a Senate rule to get an up or down vote on judges is a far cry from its heady first days in 1994.
Today, the federal government continues to increase regulations, adding $800 billion to the cost of everything Americans do. The government's spending programs continue to increase. Its so-called “entitlement” programs are bankrupt. And expanding! There are more and more federal crimes added to the books. There is less and less power at the state governmental level, where the Framers of the United States Constitution wanted it.
The federal government today has the look of an asteroid headed for America at high speed.
The elections in 2006 may just resemble those of 1994, if enough voters decide it is time to wrest control of Congress from the GOP and enough Republicans decide to stay home.
Liberalism Versus Conservatism in American Politics
American Government & the U.S. Presidency
American Government & the U.S. Congress
Taxation & Government Spending
Alan Caruba is a veteran business and science writer, a Public Relations Counselor, and Founder of the National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about media-driven scare campaigns. Caruba writes a weekly commentary, "Warning Signs," posted on the Internet website of the National Anxiety Center (www.anxietycenter.com).
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