Tuesday, November 29, 2005

When we act like us, we win. When we act like them, we lose

I got this in an email from state party and agree with it 100%



It's My Party . . .

November 29, 2005; Page A18

In all my years in politics, I've never sensed such anger and frustration from our volunteers -- those who do the hard work of door-to-door mobilization that Republican candidates depend on to get elected. Across the nation, wherever I go to speak with them, their refrain is the same: "I can't tell a dime's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats." Our base rightly expects Republicans to govern by the principles -- lower taxes, less government and more freedom -- that got them elected. Today, with Republicans controlling both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, there is a widening credibility gap between their political rhetoric and their public policies.

What will happen to Republicans if these freedom-loving, grassroots activists don't show up for work next fall? The elections earlier this month may be an indication of the answer.

Colorado Governor Bill Owens, once the future presidential nominee of choice among smaller-government conservatives, teamed up with liberal Democrats in the legislature to expand the state budget by billions of dollars and grab taxpayers' refunds for years to come. The Democrat big spenders got what they wanted, but it has left the Republican Party fractured and effectively ended Gov. Owens' future as a Republican leader. Here is one of Armey's Axioms: Make a deal with the devil and you're the junior partner.

At the national level, where President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress are presiding over the largest expansion of government since LBJ's Great Society, things are no better. Our political base expects elected leaders to cut both tax rates and spending, because they know that the real tax burden is reflected in the overall size of government.

Instead, we have embarrassing spectacles like the 2005 highway bill. Costing $295 billion, it is 35% larger than the last transportation bill, fueled by 6,371 earmarks doled out to favored political constituencies. By comparison, the 1987 highway bill was vetoed by Ronald Reagan for containing relatively few (152) earmarks. Overall, even excluding defense and homeland security spending, the growth rate of discretionary spending adjusted for inflation is at a 40-year high.

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All of our leaders are complicit in this spending spree. President Bush has yet to veto a single spending bill. The House leadership refuses to reign in appropriators, claiming, as one of them preposterously put it, that "there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget."

I have always believed that good policy is good politics for Republicans. Reagan won against an incumbent president in 1980, declaring in his first inaugural address that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." I beat an incumbent Democrat in 1984, against the dire predications of my party's political experts, on an aggressive agenda of smaller government and Social Security reform based on large personal retirement accounts. In 1994, Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years, running on the "Contract with America," a clearly articulated public policy agenda based on smaller, smarter government.

Conversely, when we let politics define our agenda, we get in trouble. The highway bill is one example, where the criterion of choice was politics. An even better example was 2003's expansion of Medicare to cover prescription drugs. This was an explicitly political effort to take health care "off the table" for the 2004 elections. I said at that time, on this page, that the proposed legislation was "a case where bad politics has produced a bad policy proposal." I predicted that the deal was "bad news for senior citizens and possibly even worse political news for the Republican Party." Here is another one of Armey's Axioms: You can't get your finger on the problem if you've got it in the wind.

Bad policy is bad politics. The 2003 expansion of Medicare enacted by Republicans has dramatically increased the financial pressures on an already broken program, and it has become a political albatross around the necks of Republicans who voted for it.

As the party of smaller government, Republicans will always have a more difficult job governing than Democrats do. Government naturally wants to expand. It is always easier for politicians when both you and your political base truly believe that there is a new government program to solve any problem, real or imagined. We will always have to work harder and be more entrepreneurial than our political opponents when it comes to implementing reforms.

To succeed in the future, the Republican Party must get back to basics. We need, in effect, another Republican takeover of Congress, reaffirming a commitment to less government, lower taxes and more freedom. As in 1994, this revolution will be driven by the young Turks of the party -- the brave backbenchers more inspired by Reagan than the possibility of a glowing editorial on the pages of the New York Times. Indeed, this is already happening.

A serious effort to slow the growth of the federal budget is being driven by a small group of House Republicans led by Reps. Mike Pence, Jeff Flake and Jeb Hensarling. Against their own leadership's wishes, this brave group and others from the Republican Study Committee gathered outside the Cannon House office building in September to kick off "Operation Offset," a modest proposal to pay for the extraordinary costs associated with Hurricane Katrina with savings from other parts of the budget. Top on the list: cuts in highway pork and a suspension of the soon-to-be-implemented expansion of Medicare.

It would have been easier not to have overspent in the first place, but the Republican Congress must reestablish its credibility as the party of spending restraint and fiscal responsibility.

Likewise, the Republican Congress must make the most important elements of the Bush tax cuts permanent, particularly repeal of the death tax, lower income tax rates and dividend tax relief. These proposals deserve substantial credit for the current strength of the American economy. Success would represent real steps toward our ultimate goal of tax reform and a simple, fair and flat income tax.

While prospects for retirement security seem unlikely before 2006, I'm counting on able legislative entrepreneurs like Sen. Jim DeMint to drag his colleagues, kicking and screaming, into a serious, adult debate about the most important policy challenge facing our generation. Personally, I've never quite understood the bed wetters' fears when it comes to Personal Retirement Accounts. How could you possibly lose by saving future retirees -- our children and grandchildren -- from another broken government promise?

None of this will be easy. The good news for Republicans willing to do this heavy lifting is that the "ideas" of the left are bankrupt. Notice that the brightest liberal politicians, like Hillary Clinton, always move toward our policy ground as they prepare to run for national office. Why would Republicans want to act like them when they act like us in order to win?

One final Armey Axiom: When we act like us, we win. When we act like them, we lose.

Mr. Armey, House Majority Leader from 1995 to 2003, is chairman of FreedomWorks, a national grassroots advocacy organization.


Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, It's elementary. Even as a candidate, I would advocate a reduction of all congressional salaries by 15 grand annually and freeze them for five years. $7 million a year is not a great sum but it's a beginning and it puts true conservative's money where there mouths are.

But remember we must not only commit to true fiscal conservatism, but SOCIALLY as well. We have a pro-life, pro-family, less government platform that lays it all out for us. Have we been in a coma, or what?

Anonymous said...

Less government? Hmm, that sounds conservative but not very Republican these days! I guess we want the government in those other people's lives.
I guess we like to grow huge deficits and then blame the poor, all while we call ourselves Christians. Maybe we should look at our county commissioners who give themselves big raises then say they have to raise taxes!

Anonymous said...

“serious effort to slow the growth of the federal budget is being driven by a small group of House Republicans led by Reps. Mike Pence, Jeff Flake and Jeb Hensarling.” That’s almost funny. You don’t mention the “extraordinary costs” associated with the misguided and unnecessary war in Iraq, but instead the gop wants to cut human programs that actually help people instead of multi-million dollar corporations like Halliburton and big oil.
The tax-the-little-guy and spend Republicans. It’s so funny the gop wants to just keep throwing money at the rich instead of trying to help maintain the disappearing middle class and bridge the huge, widening gap between the poor and the rich. Oh well, the cheap labor pool just keeps getting bigger in this country, and I think that’s the real goal of the gop.