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Republicans Without a Party (A Taxpayer's Lament)
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Thirty-Three
by Brian S. Wise
16 September 2003Taxes

Where is a Republican supposed to turn when he sees $450 billion deficits?


In the mail Saturday, a letter from the Heritage Foundation, computer signed by Edwin Feulner, who would like to know if I was aware that “President George W. Bush’s historic 2001 and 2003 tax cuts will expire thanks to a provision forced into law by liberals in Congress?”  Did I know that “liberals in Washington are pushing to immediately repeal President Bush’s tax cuts and raise taxes by $2 trillion?”  (The emphasis is theirs.)  Am I at all concerned that “liberals like Ted Kennedy are working to bring back cruel taxes such as the Death Tax on families and the Marriage Penalty?”  In the event I was unaware and suddenly concerned, I should know that “The new crusade among liberals in Congress to raise YOUR taxes is a top concern of The Heritage Foundation.”

It just so happened I was fully aware of those things, and others casually mentioned in this letter.  (For example, the Bush tax cuts have thus far provided $69 billion is disposable income to American families, a fact noted in a Heritage Foundation worksheet.)  In the meantime, President Bush has yet to veto a single spending bill.  And for all the complaining about the $1 billion a week currently being spent in Iraq (from the Left and some on the Right), a majority of Congressional Republicans will vote (or have voted) to send to the President, and he will sign, a Medicare prescription drug benefit entitlement program that will cost over $750 million per week at its inception, an expenditure becoming much higher in a very short period of time (you can bet your ass).

So on and so forth.  Republicanism has long demanded a certain fiscal responsibility; it is for the best that the federal government spend as little as possible because it earns for itself none of what it spends, and therefore the less it spends, the less it takes from the people, who can do better things with their money than government can.  (For example, revive lagging economies.)  If you cut taxes you are doing something positive; if in conjunction with tax cuts you increase federal spending by three percent (including a 12 percent increase in discretionary spending) before the cuts have a chance to work their magic, you end up producing things like $450 billion deficits.  Throw into the mix a federal entitlement that will add as many as $5 trillion extra to the federal budget over the next decade and we are now talking about deficits from which we can never recover, the sort of deficits tax cuts cannot reach.

Not to miss the upshot, Stephen Moore makes this point in the new National Review (dated 15 September): “The Republican failure to cut spending stands in stark contrast to the Bush administration’s stellar record in chopping anti-growth taxes.  In the Reagan years, supply-siders forecast that we would eventually grow our way out of budget deficits, and they were soon proven correct: With 4 percent real economic growth and 3 percent spending growth each year, tax revenues caught up with and surpassed federal expenditures.  But on the new spending path Republicans have put us on, we would need about 8 percent economic growth for six straight years to get close to a balanced budget.

What of the “war on terrorism?”  Staking out and destroying Islamic extremists is expensive business.  Absolutely, but “the huge burst in education spending, the hike in farm aid, and, of course, that colossal new entitlement … are wholly unrelated to national security.  The administration’s central failing in economic policy may be its unwillingness to set and enforce spending priorities.  In almost every national-security crisis in U.S. history, the demand for more guns has meant less spending for butter; this administration has approved large budget increases for both.”

Republicans--in particular Eleventh Commandment Republicans, those who took President Reagan’s cue about never speaking ill of others in their party--are otherwise inconvenienced by their party’s ideology (that is, as it is employed by those occupying office in Washington, DC).  Given even the Tragedies and both wars, there is not (and should not be) one Republican worth his salt who can stare down the face of $500 billion deficits and shake it off as the acceptable price of doing business.  It could soon be the case that many Republicans, including this one, find themselves adrift, men and women without a party.  And not necessarily because they left the party, to borrow once again from President Reagan, but because the party left them.

Brian Wise is the lead columnist for IntellectualConservative.com.

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