Sunday, November 01, 2009

Faking Fiscal Conservatism

Republicans used to be, once upon a time, for fiscal conservatism, and there are a few of those left, and they're starting to murmur more, and, you know, people forget Ronald Reagan raised taxes, you know, he cut taxes, but then he raised taxes. George Bush, the father, raised taxes ~ Evan Thomas (DOB 4/25/1951) an American journalist and author who currently teaches journalism at Princeton University.

That the Republican Party is socially conservative can't be denied. Examples of Republican "social conservatism" include their homophobic defense of "traditional marriage", their phony claim that American is a Christian nation, that Christians are discriminated against and that there is a "War on Christmas". These socially conservative Republicans, represent the morally superior "Religious Right" (or "Culture Warriors", according to Bill O'Reilly). Liberals, on the other hand are godless "secular progressive" atheists whose moral decadence is responsible for all of society's ills.

As far as their political agenda goes, however, enacting their fiscal policies are paramount. The "social conservative" nonsense is simply a means to achieve that end. The socially conservative issues are how they motivate the poor, ignorant and gullible to vote against their own interests (these saps are often described as "misinformed" or "low information voters" by those wishing to be polite).

George W. Bush ended up the fall guy for some of them. Others blame the Democrats who controlled the Congress during Bush's final two years in office. They let Fannie and Freddie get out of control and the Republicans couldn't do a thing to stop them. I'm sure that if you asked any Republican that they'd blame social programs. Even though corporate welfare dwarfs the money we spend on social programs it seems to be completely off the radar of most self-identified Conservatives.

According to Conservatives the patron saint of all things fiscally conservative is Ronald Reagan, but they conveniently overlook the fact that it was Saint Reagan that increased the national debt more than all the administrations that came before him combined. Conservatives may attempt to assert that it was Congressional Democrats that ran up the debt, and poor Saint Reagan couldn't stop them. Or that Reagan needed to drive us deeply into debt to "win" the cold war.

Neither claim is true. Saint Reagan requested $29.4 billion more in spending than Congress passed. His tax cuts did not stimulate the economy and increase revenue. The nonsensical "supply side" theory was a "Trojan horse to bring down the top rate" - this according to Reagan administration Office of Management and Budget director David Stockman.

Ending Communism through an arms race that would cause the Soviets to go bankrupt when they futilely attempted to keep pace was a scam for funneling billions to the military industrial complex. Revised CIA estimates indicate that "the Soviet Union's defense spending did not rise or fall in response to American military expenditures". And Saint Reagan's military buildup actually prolonged the cold war.

To pay for the increased military expenditures - including the ridiculous boondoggle dubbed Star Wars and the inane "trickle down" economy stimulating tax cuts for the wealthy - Saint Reagan raised payroll taxes (the largest tax increase in US history) and raided the social security trust fund.

Is this fiscal conservatism?

Disciples of Saint Reagan currently bemoan the "fact" that George bush Junior strayed from the path, becoming a "Big Government Conservative". But Junior was following the Reagan playbook! First on his agenda was cutting taxes for the wealthy (and getting rid of President Clinton's surplus). Next he ignored the numerous warnings of a potential terrorist attack and was rewarded with the "new Pearl Harbor" that the "Project For The New American Century" had been praying for.

The "war on terrorism" replaced the "cold war", two illegal wars were launched, and the money flowed. A former attorney who filed dozens of civil "whistleblower" lawsuits against Iraq war contractors, Congressman Alan Grayson concluded, "The Bush administration doesn't give a damn about contractor fraud in Iraq". The reason they didn't care may have had something to do with the fact that a lot of the contracts went to bush administration cronies like Halliburton - whose stock tripled in the 2 years after the invasion.

"Fiscal conservatism" is clearly code for running the government in order to benefit the wealthy and spending as little as possible on social programs. The only problem is that people like social programs, and will vote for politicians who provide them (and vote against those who threaten to take them away). The "fiscally conservative" solution is to outsource these programs to their private sector cronies. Apparently there isn't any job the government can do for less (since anything the government does involves no profit for CEOs or stockholders) that they don't think should be outsourced at greater expense to the private sector.

One example of this during the bush administration would be the never fully funded "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB), which took a multi-million dollar testing industry and turned it into a multi-billion dollar industry. Beneficiaries of NCLB include Bush brother Neil's Ignite!, and former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett's K12 Inc. -- that would be the same Bill Bennett who wants public schools "to fail so that they could be replaced with vouchers, charter schools, religious schools, and other forms of private education". Would you hire someone to help students in public schools succeed if they had a publicly stated desire to see public schools fail?

I could go on, but this article is already running long. Instead I'll again ask - is this fiscal conservatism?

The theory of crony capitalism states that, "since businesses make money and money leads to political power, business will inevitably use their power to influence governments". Republicans (and some Democrats) call it fiscal conservatism - I call it theft.

Further Reading
[1] Was Ronald Reagan an Even Worse President Than George W. Bush? by Robert Parry, Consortium News 6/5/2009.
[2] Bush Budget Would Inflate Corporate Welfare, Slash Social Programs, The New Standard 2/8/2005.
[3] The Myth of the Gipper: Reagan Didn't End the Cold War by William Blum, Counter Punch 6/7/2004.

SWTD #25


  1. A very strong, well documented and well organized post to which I have nothing to add - just that I think you did a great job laying out the groundwork and your conclusions are sound.

  2. Despite all the evidence, the huge deficits. An education system that is failing far too many of our young. Hypocrites like John Boehner now speaking out about these things despite his years of silence, there are still nearly 40% of Americans that buy into Republican bullshit.

    Heaven forbid these fools allow facts and history to get in the way of a comfortable lie.

  3. I loved your response to those asinine republicans on Pam's blog.
    Great work...Keep it up


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