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.
A GREAT NOVEL FOR PREPPER STOWBAGS!