Getting High On Their Own Supply, by Robert Gore

The Wall Street Journal recently had an editorial on Mike Huckabee’s presidential aspirations, “Huckabee’s Revival Campaign,” 5/6/15. It noted that evangelicals support Huckabee, but as governor of Arkansas, he was a taxer and spender. The editorial was pedestrian, but the concluding sentence revealed why this august newspaper’s editorial page is fast becoming go to humor for anyone with a fealty to facts and a disdain for political parties and the powers that be: “It’s hard to see the logic of a Huckabee candidacy in this era of conservative reform, but if anyone can sell bigger government to Republicans, it’s probably him.”

About that “era of conservative reform,” when did it begin? It must have been when Republican majorities in both houses were sworn in last January, but less than four months hardly seems to qualify as an era, and what “reform” can Republicans lay claim to in that short span? Their brain trust has proposed a long term budget that will, like most such plans, increase spending now but supposedly cut it in the future. Like most such plans, it will soon gather dust in some Congressional archive. Republican partisans will argue given opposition from President Obama, implementation is not what’s important, but rather to illustrate the difference between their party and those fiscally irresponsible Democrats in 2016.

No doubt those Democrats are fiscally irresponsible, but swallowing small government Republican mythology requires complete ignorance of: history for the last six decades; the party’s electoral base, and its foreign and military policies. The last fiscally responsible Republican president was Eisenhower; Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush, and Bush all left the national debt, and the government, larger than when they took office. All five talked good games, but you can count on one hand the number of programs they eliminated, and if those are netted out against the programs they started, you will need negative fingers.

Republican apologists blame Democratic-majority Congresses, but the second Bush had Republican Congressional majorities from 2001 to 2007 (from 2001 to 2003, the Senate was split 50-50, however there was a Republican vice-president to break ties) and the debt went from $5.769 trillion to $8.951 trillion, a 55 percent increase (Wikipedia, “History of the United States public debt”). For complete chapter and verse on Republican fiscal irresponsibility, see David Stockman’s excellent The Great Deformation (see “Entomology 101, A Review of David Stockman’s The Great Deformation,” SLL, 10/9/14). He was Reagan’s Budget Director, and he does not flinch recounting the Gipper’s spending and debt bacchanalia.

It will be smaller, not bigger government, that Republicans will have to “sell” to their own base. In 2013, the latest year for which figures are available, 23 percent of the budget went to Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care entitlements, and 22 percent went to Social Securities. Much of that spending goes to older people, the heavy-turnout group that tends to vote Republican. The demographics and economics are clear: these entitlements will, left unchecked, swallow an increasing share of the budget and drive taxes and the government’s debt to levels the economy cannot sustain.

Only a brave, or foolhardy, Republican would even bring up the subject, much less propose effective reform and have the tenacity to fight for it. The best chance the Republicans had was during the Bush presidency when they were in the majority in both houses of Congress, but pusillanimity was the order of the day. Now, the baby boom generation’s retirement is no longer on the horizon, but an ongoing fact, as the ranks of the eligible-for-benefits elderly swell. Any cuts in those benefits, increases in the age of eligibility, or taxing more affluent seniors will require an improbable and Herculean sales job. If getting their checks means that the government must continue to grow, then most recipients will swallow whatever qualms they might have about bigger government.

Here are facts of which many Republicans seem unaware. The military and intelligence agencies are part of the government. Global intervention is a “big government” program. Surveillance is a “big government” program. There is just as much waste in military and intelligence programs as there is in welfare and government medical programs (see “How to Build a $400 Billion F-35 That Doesn’t Fly,” SLL, 3/17/15 and “American F-35 vs Russia SU-30. Who wins?” SLL, 3/26/15). Finally, dollars spent on military and intelligence come from somewhere—either taxes or from borrowing that adds to annual deficits and the national debt (the military accounts for 19 percent of outlays before veterans’ benefits). Nobody has to “sell bigger government” to Republicans when it comes to defense and intelligence budgets and fighting wars all over the world; increasing the former and more of the latter will be planks in the party platform.

The Wall Street Journal’s concluding sentence is advertising copy, like “Miracle Eat All You Want Diet,” or “Natural Extract Cream Eliminates Wrinkles.” There is a saying in the advertising industry: “Don’t believe your own bullshit,” and a similar one in the illegal drug industry: “Don’t get high on your own supply.” We are not in an “era of conservative reform,” and Republicans don’t need to be sold on “big government.” The Journal and Fox News (both owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.) have come to believe their own tirelessly recirculated Republican bullshit. High on their own supply, they were genuinely surprised that Barack Obama’s base stuck with him in 2012 and that many libertarian-leaning voters, those who actually want reform and smaller government, sat on their hands for big government Mitt Romney. For 2016, they either have their fingers crossed or are unaware that a two-minute Google search—“Historical federal budget”—is sufficient to dash their mythology. Either way, it won’t stop them from riding that mythology hard, or from being any less clueless if Hillary Clinton wins.

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9 responses to “Getting High On Their Own Supply, by Robert Gore

  1. Pingback: SLL: Getting High On Their Own Supply | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  2. “If getting their checks means that the government must continue to grow, then most recipients will swallow whatever qualms they might have about bigger government.”

    Non sequitur. As the number of seniors (moi) drawing out increases the govt will be increasingly constrained. It is already reality that the discretionary slice is shrinking and only being maintained minimally by a combination of ZIRP and more deficit spending continually raising the debt ceiling. The Pols might play their tricks but short of default the numbers will win out.

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  3. Rather poor analysis. Trying to lump Reagan in with the Bushes is a long shot at best. Trying to compare defense spending with welfare spending makes for a good comedy bit but that’s about it. New military technology is expensive and its usually untried-duh, that’s why its new. But heck why not just build tried and true F-4s, and to heck with any future results. They proven and cheaper. The same kind of reasoning that denied repeaters to the US Army during the Indian Wars, and the Browning Automatic Rifle and Lewis guns to our troops in WWI. The same mentality forced avaiors to face the Japanese in Buffalos, Devastators, and P-39s and left Poland with more tanks than the USA in 1939.

    Will the GOP try small government? Doubtful as long as welfare spending is through the roof and the government acts as an ATM machine for big business, various unions, and radical groups.

    Finally any party that could nominate Dole, McCain and Romney loves not big government but Big Brother scale government. If we had honest politicians all laws and government programs would sunset every four years.

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    • I would suggest you read Stockman’s account of Reagan budgeting, defense expenditures, and debt before you say that lumping Reagan in with the Bushes is a long shot. The Reagan defense build up was in part responsible for supplying the military wherewithal for the latter string of disastrous interventions. In one sense, G.W. Bush’s military spending and deficits made more sense than Reagan’s, in that we were actually in a declared, albeit conceptually impossible, war (you can’t make war on a tactic, terrorism). The Reagan that emerges from his Budget Director’s account is befuddled and manipulated by the military establishment and their Congressional and executive branch lackeys, spending a lot of money on unnecessary weapons systems. It’s a controversial assertion, but Stockman backs it up with plenty of facts and figures.

      I would also disagree that trying to compare defense spending with welfare spending makes for good comedy. Much of the defense budget is little better than welfare spending. Commission after commission has documented the waste in the military budget, especially for useless military bases that are nonetheless big local employers. The new F-35 is a joke, as the linked articles make clear. Time and again money has been spent on costly hardware that the military does not even want or need, to pay off big contractors and generate jobs. An actual defense policy that restricted itself to defense of the US proper, as opposed to endless, costly, and countereffective global intervention, would save trillions. Conservatives can rail endlessly about welfare spending and government waste, but they somehow think that those things don’t happen when money is spent on the military and the intelligence agencies. They’re wrong and Eisenhower, the last truly fiscally responsible Republican, was right when he warned about the dangers of the military-industrial complex.

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  4. Alfred E. Neuman

    Reblogged this on The Lynler Report.

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  5. A worthy essay for the historical record it is, and compilation of the power and greed the psychopaths running things wallow in.

    But it don’t mean shit. There is no voting our way out of this. I think that is a truth is like a law of physics, immutable.

    It is time to become a plurality of people who will no longer comply or consent to this madness, or we are as culpable as these madmen. Other wise if we don’t the inevitable outcome will be a truly ugly nasty bloody miserable affair where the only vote which counts comes out the muzzle of a gun.
    I truly believe withdrawing consent and especially refusing to comply will be what changes this heinous state of affairs. It forces the sonofabitches to have to protect their ill gotten power, it forces their hand, exposes them for the liars crooks and tin pot idiots they are because they will be so scared they will make complete utter folls of themselves out of desperation and fear. If there is one thing these clowns fear most, it is our arms in our hands, not even the use of them as physical weapons, but the threat they truly are to these bastards, because the thing they fear the most of all, the one thing which they understand like no one else, is what we will do to them for what they are doing to us.
    Give it a proper think, they know exactly what they are doing to us. The malice and commission required to pull off the wonton acts of greed and accumulation of power that have substituted a form of government can only be accomplished with full understanding of the violation of every concept of honesty, lawful moral behavior, and idea of the intent of what rule of law is. Just plain old decency towards ones fellow men is a concept these lying cheating criminal mandarins willingly shit upon.

    It is plurality of people that defines everything. An armed plurality is undeniable.

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  6. Joseph Goebbels would be proud of the Democrats and Republicans.

    Like

  7. This SSl essay is spot on. Mt. Top Patriot is also quite lucid with an alternative, as voting in these prearranged sElections is a farce.
    Especially if Jebby vs. Hitlery is the “choice” offered. So, What to do?
    Go ask the Romans, or British, or any other Empire. The current peoples of the USSA aren’t the same peoples of 1940 or even 1950, let alone those of 1775. Times change, “the play” goes on……but the time for a salvage of the USSA is over because I don’t want to “save” a USSA, it ia already “foreign” to me, populated by “foreigners” domestic and imported.
    A “rebirth” might be possible………

    Like

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