by David McElroy
If you believe in the democratic system and want to be a serious part of it in this country, you can be a Democrat or a Republican. That’s it. Most of those who want small government join Team GOP, believing they’re pursuing small government. Sadly, they’re mistaken.
I have lots of friends who are still active in the Republican Party, as I once was. Many of them are very sincere believers in cutting the size of government. I certainly know some who are social conservatives and neo-conservatives, but most among my friends are fiscally conservative and fairly socially tolerant people who are opposed to big government. They honestly believe supporting the Republican Party is going to cut the size of government.
There’s absolutely no evidence to support that fairy tale.
I was reminded of that again today when I saw this story about Texas Gov. Rick Perry — a wannabe Republican presidential candidate — blasting the Obama administration for cutting jobs in NASA now that the space shuttle program is winding down. (The link comes via The Agitator, a site which is worth your daily perusal.)
Isn’t a Republican supposed to be in favor of cutting government jobs? Are NASA jobs somehow special and worthy of keeping around because we all like watching rockets launch if they have big ol’ American flags on ‘em? Even though I dearly love space travel (and am eager for humans to start taking it seriously as a business opportunity), I’d be happy if NASA were shut down this afternoon. A Facebook friend of mine had an astute observation about the end of the shuttle program:
“I heard the space shuttle program end. It sounded like a giant vacuum shutting off after sucking $192 billion into space. At least it was a success, though, by government standards. Only two of the five orbiters were destroyed.”
With many Republicans — such as Rick Perry — they’re always in favor of cutting someone else’s government program. Whatever program is sacred to them, of course, should be off-limits. (As governor of Texas, Perry was much more concerned about job losses at Houston’s NASA facilities than he was about principles of smaller government.)
For some Republicans, it’s the space program. For others, it’s farm subsidies. For yet others, it’s corporate welfare for their fat-cat donors. And they pretty much all love the prescription medicine benefit that’s going to help bankrupt the government. Medicare and Medicaid are even pretty popular with them. And don’t even think about suggesting that we get rid of Social Security, because that’s way too popular for them to pursue dumping that.
Taken together, you have a picture of hypocrisy on the issue of cutting the size of government. Even if you ignore the cost of insane, aggressive wars that a Republican president led us into in the last decade, government grew under Republicans. And if you add in the insane military costs, you have a picture of complete and utter insanity — one that proves beyond a shadow of doubt that limiting government is simply a stump speech for Republicans, not a subject they take seriously.
Where can you start if you’d like to get the facts that you won’t hear from talking heads on television? I’d like you to consider taking a look at a couple of books from scholars at the Cato Institute that lay out the case for how the Republican Party has betrayed you:
Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government — When this book was written six years ago, Republicans controlled the White House and Congress, so they had the chance to slash government’s size if they were serious about it. Instead, they massively increased the size of government. This book goes a long way toward explaining it. If you don’t want to take the time to read the book, at least listen to this Cato Institute book forum with the author, along with comments from the late conservative columnist Bob Novak.
Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservativism Brought Down the Republican Revolution — This one is from four years ago, but it’s still just as relevant today. It also has a Cato book forum you can listen to if you’re not willing to read to whole thing. The responder on this book forum was former GOP House Speaker Dick Armey. (I don’t think Armey takes nearly enough blame these days for the damage that his willingness to compromise caused, but that’s another story. They always talk tough about cutting government when they’re no longer in the position to do so.)
I don’t believe in the coercive state in the least. I think it’s coming apart at the seams and something else is going to replace it. (Actually, many different things.) That’s why I’m not terribly interested in trying to support one of the incumbent parties, even if I didn’t see the majoritarian system as immoral. I think they’re increasingly irrelevant. But even if you do still believe in the state — and believe it’s just fine to force people to do what the majority want, as long as it’s not “too much” — you should re-evaluate your loyalty to the Republican Party. Regardless of the rhetoric of its leaders, it’s no better than the Democrats when you actually give it power.
The only real difference between the parties is their cultures. The culture of the GOP is that of a more traditional middle-class white America. The Democratic Party’s culture is an amalgam of cultures that are very different from the cultural conservatism that Republicans are comfortable with. Personally, I’m more comfortable with some parts of Republican culture, too. They look and sound more like me than the Democrats do. But they’re just as committed to using force to control people as the Democrats are.
Republicans have been promising the same thing ever since at least the ’60s, but delivering very different results when given the power to make a difference. If you’re in favor of small government, get over the notion that the GOP is going to get you there.
It’s just a fantasy. It’s not going to happen.