Monday, May 01, 2006

DuPont (and the rest of the Republicans) miss the big picture

In another Wall Street Journal article that I’ve had on my desk all last week, former Delaware governor Pete DuPont says it’s the spending, stupid.

Splitting up the swag ("booty, money, valuables") seems to be what the congressional Republican Party is about.

The Heritage Foundation reported last week that this sixth year of a Republican Presidency and Congress will see government expenditures of $23,760 per household--$6,500 more than when they came to power in 2001 and the highest inflation-adjusted annual spending since World War II. Excluding homeland security, domestic discretionary spending has increased 7.6% per year. Education spending is up 139%; energy spending has doubled, and the Bush Medicare prescription drug bill will add $33 billion a year to federal expenditures.

A Republican House enacted all this spending, a Republican Senate approved almost all of it (Democrats did control the upper chamber for a little under two years in 2001-02), and a Republican president signed it all. Congress has appropriated a cumulative $350 billion more than the president requested in his annual budgets, but none of that additional spending was disapproved by him--indeed, President Bush is the only president since John Quincy Adams (1825-29) never to use his veto power in a full term in office.

Last week's Specter swag grab--a $7 billion addition to domestic spending through an appropriations subcommittee that Pennsylvania's Sen. Arlen Specter chairs--was an addition that the senator says was "not sort of a gimmick; it is a gimmick." It was supported by every Democrat and a majority of the 55 Republican senators, which led Sen. Specter to conclude that the Republican party of the 21st Century is "now principally moderate, if not liberal."

Mr. Specter is pretty much on the mark about the Washington world, but he's dead wrong about America's Republicans. The national majority are neither moderate nor liberal but believe in conservative economic values: lower tax rates, controlled spending, and a market- as opposed to government-oriented economy. It is not Republicans who are liberal, it is the current Republican government that is fiscally liberal and the biggest budget-busting federal spenders since the 1960s.
That’s plain ridiculous. How can an entity be something different than the sum of its parts? This administration didn’t just miracle itself into spending orgy.

DuPont is simply unwilling to admit that there is no compelling voice within the Republican Party for capitalism. How else is it then that a plainly bankrupt redistribution of wealth scheme such as the Medicare prescription drug plan sees the light of day were it not that the Republican Party embraces altruism and rejects egoism? And the inability to catch this point is what makes DuPont’s plan to restore the party fall flat. Dupont writes:

So how can Republicans get their identity back? The current Congress is unlikely to fix itself from the inside--would a Congressional majority ever want to give up authority to do anything?--so it will be up to the American people to fix it from the outside.

First, the president must be persuaded to reduce congressional spending. He must use his rescission authority to force the Congress to vote on rescinding some $15 billion, about the average of what presidents have requested since the rescission process began in the 1970s. The president has proposed one rescission of $2.3 billion, but he must be far more aggressive.

Second, when Congress enacts legislation exceeding the president's requested budget spending levels, he should veto those spending bills. Legislators need to be forcefully reminded that spending requires executive as well as legislative approval.

Third, the president needs line-item veto authority. Most of the states governors have it and use it to control spending, and so should the President. When President Bush recently suggested a line-item veto, Mr. Lewis said the legislative branch of government had the spending power and to give any veto power to the president "could be a very serious error." But the opposite is the case: the line-item veto is a very serious improvement that the president and Republicans should pursue.

Next, Congress needs to clean up its earmark spending process. As a start it should adopt the proposal from Rep. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) that each earmark's sponsor be identified in the text of spending bills, and that a vote be allowed on specific earmark proposals. Congress should also establish term limits for Appropriations Committee members so that the congressional political establishment cannot go on swag-splitting forever.
I agree with each of the points in this technical program, yet nowhere in DuPont’s article does he address the moral reason the Republican Party has become the party of big government. This moral falling isn’t a minor issue--it is the central issue. If a representative can’t properly identify the right to life, liberty and property, how can a party of many of these representatives reverse the tide of government paternalism? It can’t, and that’s exactly what we have with the Republican party today.

The question then for Objectivists is what do we do? Good ideas, just like bad ones, don’t miracle themselves into existence. Again, I say we must be loud, articulate voices for capitalism and capitalism’s moral base, and if we elect not to be, we simply sanction our own victim-hood out of quiet default.

No comments: