President Bush is scheduled to submit his formal budget for next year to Congress later today (never mind that Congress still hasn’t passed a budget for the current year), and I am put in mind of something that’s been bugging me for some time.
Traditionally, the Republicans run as the “party of fiscal responsibility.” They are the ones who speak loudly of cutting government spending, cutting taxes to reduce the amount of money the government takes in, and the like. This appeals to those of a conservative or libertarian bent (like me), who are firmly convinced that if you ever want to discover the most inefficient, most wasteful, and most expensive way to do something, have the federal government do it. Further, as “the power to tax is the power to destroy,” the power to spend is the power to control — and some of us have some very firm ideas about just what sorts of things we think the government ought to control, and ought not.
This argument of the Republicans — “we are the party of fiscal responsibility!” — has been harder and harder to maintain in the past few years. The Bush administration, aided and abetted by an all-too-spend-happy Congress, has been spending money like a drunken Kennedy. (But I repeat myself.)
This has been a very popular argument put forth by Democrats, who gleefully point this out whenever any Republican starts talking about cutting spending or cutting taxes.
Quite frankly, I don’t see why they do that. It’s just not a winning argument.
Yes, the Republicans have been absymal on keeping spending in check the last few years. And yes, they deserve to have their noses rubbed in it.
But is it really wise for the Democrats to be doing the rubbing?
I’m trying to remember the last Democrat who was a bit of a spending “hawk,” and none comes to mind. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were a bit hawkish with their dove interests, so to speak, and carved hefty chunks of money out of Defense spending. But of all the Democratic presidential candidates I can recall, only one — Paul Tsongas, back in 1992 — even talked about bringing a sense of fiscal responsibility to the table.
I find myself working to explain the rationale for Democrats to attack the Republicans on the basis of fiscal responsibility. “We’ll do pretty much the same thing, but we’re honest about it.” “If you want higher taxes and higher government spending, vote for us — we’re the experts at it. The Republicans are a bunch of amateurs.” “Why bother electing fake Democrats, when you can have the real thing?”
Those don’t strike me as winning arguments.
If out-of-control federal spending, and the expanding role of government into more and more of our lives, is your biggest issue (it’s not mine, but it’s near the top), I don’t see how you can vote for any of the current crops of Democrats for president.
No, the Republicans don’t have a great record of late for fiscal responsibility. But dang it, at least some of them are talking about it. With them, there’s at least hope that it’ll actually happen. Unlike with the Democrats, where they’re pretty up-front about things. They out-and-out tell you that they’re going to greatly expand the role of government, take over more and more responsibilities from the states and the people, and jack the shit out of taxes to pay for it all. Of course, they won’t be taxing you and me, but “the rich” and “big business” and the like will all get tapped to pay “their fair share.” As Hillary Clinton told one group of fatcats, “we’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”
With the Republicans, they’ll at least talk a good game. And with the Republicans, there’s at least some hope that they’ll keep their promises.
That’s certainly preferable to voting for a Democrat in hopes they won’t keep theirs.