TCS Daily


The GOP: Drinking Itself Sober

By Douglas Kern - July 18, 2006 12:00 AM

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned: I have succumbed to the Three Deadly Republican Spending Rationalizations.

I'm not alone, you know -- seems that legions of congressional Republicans have joined me in my shame. I'm old enough to remember when "rock-ribbed Republican" was a synonym for green-eyeshade style spending restraint. But I'm young enough to know that, when it comes to government spending these days, the two major parties only offer you a choice as to which group of drunken sailors will be tearing through your tax dollars like a paycheck after six months underway.

I can't claim ignorance, Father. In Republican school I mastered all the basic Republican commandments: Thou Shalt Not Criticize a Fellow Republican in Public. Thou Shalt Not Be Soft on Crime. Honor Thy Elders by Waiting For Thy Turn Before Running for Major Office. I confess that I have been complicit in the violation of the most ancient Republican commandment: Thou Shalt Spend as Little Taxpayers' Money as Possible, and Thou Shalt Cut Needless Spending Always and Everywhere. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

My handy Republican catechism tells me that The Three Deadly Republican Spending Rationalizations are:

1) "This program will be expensive, wasteful, and corrosive to the virtues that make a free society function, but it's popular, and we need it in order to keep the Republican majority."

2) "This program will be expensive, wasteful, and corrosive to the virtues that make a free society function, but it's necessary in the name of national security."

3) "This program will be expensive and wasteful, but it will actually improve the virtues that make a free society function, because it uses the power and affluence of a large central government to subsidize independence, self-discipline, decentralization, and the rejection of the welfare state mentality."

After much prayer and discernment, I am pretty sure that I've got the first rationalization licked. Is there anyone left who really believes that yet another pork barrel project will buy love for the Republican Congress? Democrats are ever so much better at spending big fetid steaming piles of taxpayer money, and Republicans can't indulge in such shameless spending without looking like bigger hypocritical nincompoops than usual. The race to installment plan socialism is a race that Republicans can't win.

But Father, the second rationalization tempts me badly. Why, just the other day I was composing a paean to the joys of telecommuting. I discussed all kinds of advantages that would ensue if employees could work from their homes for just one day per week: reduced gas usage, reduced stress on the national transportation infrastructure, less money wasted on sundry business expenses (dry cleaning, shoe shining, lunches at restaurants, etc.), lower day care costs, and less micromanagement. As I found myself writing the words "...the kind of project that the federal government should gently encourage," I realized to my horror that I was writing the same self-indulgent pinko twaddle that I routinely mock when I read it from other writers. Government subsidies to support my own wacko preferences and nutty save-money-in-the-long-run schemes? Preposterous! But just as my finger drifted toward the delete key, a terrible sinful thought invaded my mind: perhaps my plan could be justified as a sop to national security. Yeah, that's the ticket! We've got to get people out of the cities in order to reduce the casualty count for the next 9/11. And what's more, those surviving workers would be better able to support America's economy after a devastating attack. Within mere minutes, an inane argument for some penny-ante social engineering scheme became a patriotic duty to save lives -- and all tarted up in the language of fighting terrorism, no less. The road to a bloated Department of Homeland Security budget is paved with just such good intentions.

But this casuistry isn't the worst sin, Father. The worst sin is the third rationalization -- the belief that Big Program X will be the Trojan horse that defeats the welfare state. It's the program that will destroy the free market in order to save it. It's the gamble that, unlike every other expensive federal action, this expensive federal action will be the kerosene that douses the flames of oversized indifferent bureaucracies. Republicans fall prey to this temptation all the time. Yes, the No Child Left Behind Act is expensive, and intrusive, and top-heavy with federal direction -- but it introduces those precious vouchers everywhere, like little time bombs of freedom waiting to explode in the faces of the teacher unions. Yes, the federal money directed toward religiously oriented charities is not the sort of spending that would make Ayn Rand smile -- but when the public sees that religious charities are more effective than those lousy public bureaucrats, the support for a big federal welfare state will decline.

It's the political equivalent of drinking yourself back sober.

Has this rationalization ever been true? Has any big government plan genuinely led to an increase in national virtue, or a decrease in government intrusiveness? Even the most "successful" big government projects -- the GI Bill, the national highway system, federally subsidized housing loans -- have mixed records in this regard. And the least successful projects have been wretched disasters. Oh, sin, how do you trick us into making the same mistakes, again and again?

Now, Father, there's a reason I'm making my confession here and not with Father Thomas Paine over at Our Lady of the Wholly Autonomous Libertarianism. Conservatives don't reject out of hand the possibility that a big government program might support virtuous lives in a free society. But the dice are stacked so heavily against such a program that it hardly seems worth the bother to look for one. Once, conservatives and libertarians alike knew that big government programs create lethargic bureaucracies that evict common sense and personal insight in the name of common standards and impersonal administrative inertia. We knew that even the best-intentioned programs inculcate an unvirtuous reliance upon the beneficence of Uncle Sucker, even as they create unforeseen and undesirable changes in society that the cleverest of policy makers cannot predict. Even the most desirable of conservative goals will degenerate into a fiasco if given a stodgy centralized department, an outsized budget, and a dubiously-Constitutional federal mandate with which to cram that goal down the throats of the states. But the Republican Party started to forget these lessons when the keys to the kingdom fell into its lap.

This, Father, is the Republicans' dilemma. The modern Republican lives in a Washington he hates -- it's too rich, too powerful, too centralized, too self-important. And yet the modern Republican wields all the power at the command of this bloated monstrosity. He sees the nail of big government, and he wants to hit it with the nearest available hammer -- more big government. I'll just cut off the head of one more Hydra, he thinks, and this time it won't sprout two more heads, because I have a clever plan. The modern Republican is Gandalf, having won the primary against Frodo, and fidgeting with the Ring of Power in his palm. So much good I could do, so many people I could help, if I only slipped it on, and besides, you just know that Saruman would wear the Ring if his party took Congress...

For these and my other political sins, Father, I ask for the voters' mercy. What's that? My penance is to abolish earmarking and to make the abolition of wasteful spending an immediate legislative priority? You want me to renew the push for the elimination of superfluous federal departments in order to devolve real power to the states? And you want me to take up the fight yet again for private Social Security investment funds in lieu of compulsory participation in the world's biggest Ponzi scheme? You actually want me to act like small government is a moral good unto itself, and not just a means to the end of a strong economy?

Aw, geez, Father, couldn't I just say some Hail Condis instead?

Douglas Kern is a lawyer and TCS Daily contributing writer.

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48 Comments

Acts of penance
Prove that this kind of pleading is not just another election year cynical Republican tactic.

1. Adopt voluntary Republicans only ethics rules that ban:
a. lobbyist sponsored "fundraisers" (bribe sessions)
b. commission based fundraising (skimming)
c. revolving door staff -> lobbyist transitions
d. special interest drafting of laws
e. "emergency" spending except in true emergency (i.e. not Iraq)
f. lobbyist sponsored trips, meals, tickets, etc.
g. of course, earmarks
2. Require long range budget projections that include all scheduled spending and income (i.e. no artificial "sunsetting" of tax breaks, excluding "emergency" spending, etc.)
3. Treat social security in an actuarially correct way.

Personally, I don't think any of this can happen. Sleeze is the glue that keeps Republicans in power.

LG - what about the Dems??
I'm not going to defend the profligate spending by the Republican Congress, but I'm not going to let the Dems get a pass either.

By not suggesting that the Dems take your pledge are you attempting to suggest that they are not sleazy and need no restraint??

I would add one more ban to your list:
4) no keeping bribe money in your freezer if you are a Congressman

More Idiocy from Liberal GoodforNothing.
Are you for freaking real? Aren't you the same guy who thinks government is an all wise, all knowing, all powerful force of good?

Can you possibly compose a more transparently vacant comment than the thousands of blitherings you've already posted? Apparently, your imbecility knows no bounds, nor does your selective outrage.

Sleaze was invented and perfected by Democrats.. the ones you listed and then a few more.. house bank scandal, having books bought by dad (JFK) or friendly union (Jim Wright) or buying your seat with your own earnings(Corzine,), etc.

And finally "treat social security in an actuarially correct way" You guys on the left designed and implemented SS, you ran it for nearly 5 DECADES and as soon as somebody mentions reform, your legions of left-wingers come out with hyperbole about the elderly having "their" benefits 'cut".

The R's aren't disciplined in spending, but they are reacting to an electorate thats been trained for generations that their every need (retirement, medicine, disaster relief, childcare, wtc, etc) is somehow the responsibility of the massa in Washington. Now we live with a government whose entire mission is to keep us dependent on conspicuous benefits and inconspicuous costs.

YOU want us taxed and YOU want the government to spend without regard for any limit. The first rule of economics is "everything is scarce", the first rule of politics is to ignore the first rule of economics.




Start with elimating the department of energy...
...Does not the recent rapid rise in gasoline prices prove the ineptitude and uselessness of the department of energy. Please end it now. Then close the departments of education and commerce. Bring back the troops from Germany and Japan.




as usual
LG declares that it's the lobbiests who are the problem.

The liberal solution to any and every problem is first turn to govt, and secondly to ensure that only they have access to govt.

As to his second two points. It has been his Democrats who have blocked the implementation of both. Over and over again.

pornography
For libbiewannabegoodman, beanie boy, and hammie.

Well, the only downer there is that it doesn't have anything about cutting and running. Now, watch, hammie will post an article in response instead of an original thought.

Germany, yes. Japan, no.
They were originally in Japan for the strageic deterrence of Korea. Looks like they need it again.

-- SSgt, USMC-R

Amen Brother!!
Amen!!

Who is the sinner?
Penance means identifying your own sins, renouncing them, atoning for them. It does not mean counterattacking by listing the sins of your neighbors. If Kern thinks his party has sinned, which he claims to, he should say how his party will repent. More likely, the post is just hot air.

Spoken like a good sociocrat
If only the GOP could adopt those wonderful practices the sociocrats are so famed for:
1-Ressurection of voters from cementaries
2-Vote often
3-Promote good citizenship by registering convicted felons
4-Sell pardons
5-Collect foreign government campaign contributions
6-Who cares what you swear to do as long as your elected-sociocrats always, always keep their campaign promises (sic)
7-Always tell the public your opponents are morons and ignore the fact that sociocrats were bred from the left side of the IQ curve.

Finally, always run war heros like Kerry, Gore, Murtha.

Combine that with men of character and integrity as demonstrated by Carter and Clinton.

The Dept of Education
Their motto is billions wasted with negative results. Can anyone point to one accomplishment of this department besides employing people like Roy or Eric?

Always passing the buck
It is not unusual to hear a GOP-head passing the buck back to the Democrats. Pride and arrogance has you still rooting for the team that's abandoned all that your party once supported. It's time for you to wake up and realize the Republicans do not believe in limited government as they once did. They do not believe in limited spending as they once did. They do not believe in you, unless it's time to vote. Democrats? They're the same people as the Republicans only they want to blow all of our tax dollars on different projects. Nobody wants to give taxes to the feds unless you are the feds. All of them have corruption flowing through their veins, because it takes corruption to win elections, obviously. One thing is for sure - none of you Bushites have taken a lick of responsibility for voting that moron into office. You still bark back in support of the biggest idiot ever to sit in the white house. Why? Pride and arrogance. You bark about welfare for U.S. citizens, yet you believe it is ok for our tax dollars to go to the Iraqi citizens for basically the same reasons? You'd rather help foreigners than your own citizens? That must be a Republican strategy because it happens everytime we have one of your team-mates in there. That is anything but patriotic. Give me an amount that I have to pay, and I'll pay the charities and/or funds that I want my money to go to. If I want to pay for housing for poor people then some of my funds can go to that. If I want my taxes to go to road repair then I can throw some at that dept. Why should I have to pay taxes to a stupid Christian church so they could spread their goodwill through myth? The same reason that you pay taxes to welfare.

Of course, it's hot air....
It's only another Republican who feels slighted by his party of morons. This is nothing more than a guy apologizing in public for his voting sins.

Convicted Felons?
Those convicted felons, it turns out, were not convicted felons at all, but names like John Jones from New York, who the Republicans had forced their votes to be dropped because there was a convicted felon from Kentucky named John Jones. You may want to research your statements before opening your mouth. When you do, you can see just how small your brain truly is.

I can...
They were able to lure your party of idiot righties in to play the game. Next up, the no child left behind joke.

that's hilarious...
cutting and running... Instead let's keep our troops there to die. That's true support. Let's support the troops who were put there by misleading information and all-out lies, then keep them there so idiots supporting Bush could feel like they didn't make any mistake by voting for their redneck brethren.

Convicted felons or how sociocrats found happiness in prisons
Hey brainless, one wonders what Jessie was doing in prisons? Perhaps he was looking for Clinton or his staff members but to hear the Rev. AL, it was to get votes. Well one can sympathize with the sociocrats, I mean these folks do reflect the values of the party.

I mean there are only so many dead who you can ressurect.

So tell us again lame brain about the honesty of the dhimmiecrats. By the way, its nice to see that you prove the dhimmiecrats recruit from the left side of the IQ curve.

Anyone who calls Bushies the right defines himself
More proof of what happens when you elect a wanna be sociocrat rather than a genuine Marxist.

Protocols of Berkeley
More displays of the education and reality based viewpoints of the Berkeley bong crowd. Such brillant wisdom and grasp of the issues. Do you depend on Michael Moore for all your braying?

sinning
Repenting your sins is not a suicide pact.

Secondly, you misidentify the source of the sin. The sin is spending too much money. The sin was not taking lobbiest money.

That you want the Republicans to commit suicide is not unusual. That you wrap yourself in righteous language while calling for this suicide is also not unusual.

That you can't understand the depths of your hypocrisy is sadly, not unusual either.

typical liberal
Bush is a moron, as is everyone who supports him.

Who needs to argue positions, it's so much easier to throw insults.

some were, most were not.
...

it's better to bring them home so we can all die?
The troops have won, the mopping up is still going on. It took over a decade to fully pacify Germany and Japan.

lib parrot
Ol' Polly there has no original thoughts of his own, much like someone else I mentioned.

People like him...
Bask in their safety and spit upon the country that gave them their freedoms.

They forget that this is the Land of the Free BECAUSE of the Brave.

Its a shame that they do not recognize they owe their liberty to better men than these trolls
I'd rather count myself among th rednecks that defend America than one of these self annointed trolls who aren't fit to shine their shoes.

Sociocrats never feel let down by their leaders
How could they. When Clinton uses cigars for new exciting purposes we know every Marxists feel the same thrill. When Murtha demonstrates his senilitiy and urges cut and run all good dhimmies are awe struck by his wisdom.

But thats why they're sociocrats abd easily impressed.

A decade?
By what definition? Both of those countries conceeded defeat in'45. These guys in the mideast play by different rules (old school) and will go inter-generational with this deal. I guess thats why they like to call it the "long war".

yes, a decade
While the govt conceeded defeat, terrorists continued to attack allied soldiers for up to a decade after the war ended.

What has happened to the Party
I've been a Republican since I could walk - never voted for a Democrat once. But the party has abandoned everything I though it stood for. We (or is it they) now have total control in Washington and yet they spend as profligately as any Democrat I've seen. It is disgusting and I feel real rage. So you Republicans who are planning on running for reelection take note. There will be penance!

Better ways to say it!
As a former Catholic, I found "Three Deadly GOP
Rationalizations" unnecessarily irreverent.

Confessing to our Almighty God and Father for our thoughts, words and deeds which offend Him is both
deeply spiritual and meaningful for those of us who live to please Him, no matter what denomination of Christianity we choose.

Indeed, Republican legislators have often failed to live up to our standards but there are numerous other ways to communicate this to your readers!

I hope that your lives, too, are directed towards honoring our Lord and Savior and that publishing this parody was a mere oversight.

typical simpleton
I try to enlighten you with facts of how your favorite party has changed and all you can do is throw insults back. How surprising....

Last Acceptable Prejudice
is anti-Catholicism. It is now spreading to include other Christians, hence the vilification of evangelicals and the "religious right" amongs the self appointed secular illuminati.

The point is well taken. Can you imagine a parody written with such disregard for say, Islam, even if such an affront wouldn't reasonable invite the fear of physical peril for the author?

?
Ok, now can you try to make any sense? You can't even insult without making a moron of yourself. Like I said, research your info before spouting your idiocy. You might want to drop your pride first, open your sheep-like mind a bit, and do this thing called THINKING. Your problem is that you're too lazy to work to figure out the true story behind anything, but instead you'll listen to Fox News, believe it, then go to pass your moronisms off to your sheep friends, when your not in here making yourself look like an idiot.

What are you?
You keep bashing Democrats and I'm right there with you. Now let's get real and bash Republicans too. Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot that you can't think independently. The GOP-heads are your buddies, even though they are no different than the democrats and in the process of destroying the country. Why do you hate Democrats but support their mirror-image the GOP'S? Because Bush is a redneck? Or do you just support war-mongers, liars, and all people whose IQ matches their shoe size?

He is the right
Bush is the right and your vote for him proves it. Now, nobody expects people like you to take responsibility for voting the idiot into office, since your party never takes responsibility for anything you do, nor do they hold anyone accountable for the mass amounts of mistakes they've made. Instead, you'll pass the buck and claim you never knew he was such a neo-con. Just like Bush, you never bothered to figure out anything about what it is you're embarking on, but just act and hope the result turns out in your favor. You with your vote. Bush with things like "We had no idea there would be an insurgency!" We knew there would be! We even spouted it on numerous occassions, because we all knew they all fight like the Afghani's fought the Russians - insurgency style. Next time you decide to vote in a war-monger, you might want to listen to people who think more than your party members do, which is obviously not much. Bush is the icon of the Righties - he's your new God, deal with it.

What facts?
all you have done is throw accusations.

I know to a liberal feelings are facts, and you are feeling upset by the fact that the world is ignoring you.

Learn to live with it.

This is what the Left is
Thank you for demonstrating what the mainstream sociocrat voter understanding of reality is. Little wonder you're in a minority party led by such statesmen as Clinton, Carter, Schumer, Reid, Dean and Pelosi.

With your vision and policies we can all look forward to the American voters restoring huge majorities to the party of Marxists in the next election.

And I thought Michael Moore was an incoherent idiot.

Gee a more literate troll than Eric
But with approximately the same IQ. You might try to use logic, reson, marshall a few facts, or provide some evidence to refute my statements, but that would requyire an education, knowledge, and of course having the genes to think intelligently.

In place of this we have an example of what the Left calls intelligent discourse. Now we understand why they elected people like Pelosi, Schumer and Clinton.

Why little troll I'm right there bashing the GOP
In fact many readers here will attest for my dislike of Bush. However one suspects your dislike of crooked Democrats falls into the category of Eric's patriotism.

Facts, we don't need no stinkin' facts goes troll boy
Ah we are not worthy to be witness to the mountain of evidnce you have so expertly marshalled to refute the readers comments. Such knowledge and wisdom must be the result of years of education. So when do you start the process?

I've seen Eric make more coherent arguments.

Ponzi risk to the economy...
In 2005, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the United States was $11.750 trillion. IRS took in $2.14 trillion, SSA $587 billion, State Income plus Sales taxes $551 billion and local Property taxes $184 billion. Therefore, the major taxes harvested $3.462 trillion in 2005 and that was 29.5% of the 2005 GDP.

The Gross Domestic Product is defined as the total market value of all final goods and services produced in the country in a given year, equal to total consumer, investment and government spending, plus the value of exports, minus the value of imports.

This is the "top line". Revenues. Not "bottom line" Profits. Profits as a share of GDP were only 9.96% for 2005.

http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/webfeatures_snapshots_20060330

By this calculation, the various bodies of government in the United States are taking some 300% of the profits generated by the economy each year. How is this possible?

The economy is growing at a pace of 3.6%. Growth throws cash. Inflation is also sitting at 3.6%. Inflation makes long term debt cheaper to pay off. There is hidden value built into our industrial base as commercial real estate improvements are expensed rather than capitalized. There is "market value" equity building up in residential real estate that is not shown as income until those properties are sold. Gains buried in our investment portfolios of stock and bonds are also normally not counted.

But we might borrow cash against real estate, investment portfolios and against a balance sheet's ability to "make the payments". If we can come up with the cash we can stay in the game. Even if we are actually losing money.

If the economy keeps growing, if inflation is mild and if we can borrow enough money to pay our bills then we might continue. Depending on the actual value of our unrecognized equities (including "depreciated plant") the US Economy might have a positive net present value. Or perhaps not. If not then we might, indeed, be living inside an immense Ponzi.

Our virtual "National Balance Sheet" has retained earnings that are supported by lots of assets at current market value. Until those assets are sold these values (such as the excess equity in our homes ) are paper profits. Maybe those values will, indeed, hold up. We better hope so.

Of course, the informal economy is huge. Estimates run from not less than 5% to as high as 30% of the Gross Domestic Product. At $400 billion the worldwide drug trade alone generates large untaxed profits, none of that revenue is counted in the GDP and much of it is transacted in US dollars. Many of those dollars are laundered here.

Nevertheless, our tax burden as a share of the annual GDP is probably not sustainable in terms of the wealth we are actually creating. The answer? Keep growing our economy and start shrinking this government.

Nice comment
Unfortunately the very nature of government is to grow and in the end the government will inflate the economy (actually it has done this for years the penny gumball I used to buy as a kid now costs a quarter) will ruin most of the middle class but will eliminate that debt.

What's wrong?
You can't argue my point with any reason, or is it that you know I'm right and it kills you? Assuming you have the capacity to think, sheep-boy, try thinking of a response to what I said, instead of dodging the issue and throwing out more insults. Or did you reach the limit of your intelligence at "Duh?"

what points have you made
naked assertions are not points.

How could one refute such evidence?
You make so many brillant points and marshall such evidence. You are second only to Eric in such mastery and your braying. Keep trying for first.

Actually, this can go on as long as we keep playing...
We certainly have not exhausted our opportunities here in America. But America is growing slowly and the opportunities created by "rapid growth" are in the "developing" nations. Americans and American companies need to participate in these global opportunities. So we should be able to continue our own GDP growth for decades more as long as we stay engaged in the larger market.

This means that we should be willing to outsource our manufacturing to low cost labor markets when this is appropriate and we should transfer technologies into such arenas so that our local managers might launch their own operations. We can then convert our manufacturing (in that country) model into more of a distribution (from that country) role as we grow into a more competitive part of the industrial food chain. Therefore, our own GDP grows along with the global economy. Our vaue-added "creation of wealth" evolves.

We can talk more about the need to slow down our government's expansion. You are correct, they are self-perpetutating and both parties want to justify their expanding existance by intruding more and more into our personal lives and into the management of social matters that might be better left to us.

I'm not so positive
Outsourcing is the logical outcome of bad labor unions and a government attempting to impose a nanny state. By driving jobs overseas we aren't made more competitive we only seek to avoid confronting the problem. Having spent most of my life overseas I'd rather dominate the market sector in Kansas than dominate El Salvador. The Third Wrold's markets just don't have the same potential in anywhere near the medium terms, and I won't mention the short term or risk factors.

The idea that transferring technology somehow will assist our economy is at best dicey. Most counterfeiting today comes from machinery that we exported, bad move. Most similar actions are just as counter productive. Far better to concentrate on improving manufacturing and technologies so that cheap labor becomes an unimportant part of the equation.

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