It’s amusing to hear Newt Gingrich proclaim that, in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, he is the “true conservative.” The Tax Policy Center shows that the Gingrich tax plan would add $1.3 trillion to the U.S. budget deficit each year. True conservatism? For his tax ideas, alone, Gingrich deserves to be laughed off the stage.
George H. Bush in 1980 said Reagan’s “supply side” tax proposals amounted to “voodoo economics.” He had it right. During the Reagan presidency, the national debt tripled — going from one to three trillion dollars.
To be conservative means to believe “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” To be conservative means to be prudent, logical, reality based. It means taking a long term view and making wise plans for a secure future. It means showing a resolve to “conserve” what is important and what is of value.
Gingrich and Republicans want to frame their wacky ideas as “conservative,” but they are not conservative at all. What Gingrich calls “true conservatism” is an ism, all right. It is a collection of irrational beliefs based on a pretend universe that demagogues like Gingrich use to manipulate the gullible. It is simply wrong to call this ism conservatism. It is “Republicanism.”
George Lakoff states, “At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.” He writes:
“The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women’s rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting, and on and on.
Budget deficits are a ruse, as we’ve seen in Wisconsin, where the governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions.”
What is astounding is how effective Republicanism propaganda is. There are true believers who actually think Gingrich and other “true conservatives” are wonderfully logical and honestly interested in advancing the general good. Long time Republican, David Frum, asks, When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality? He writes: “We used to say ‘You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.’ Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.”
In 2005, the Ohio Republican government passed a big tax cut drastically reducing taxes on corporations and changing the progressivity of the income tax system, and gave the lion’s share of the tax cut to the wealthy, those who least needed to receive it. The tax cuts, phased in over a five year period, reduced revenue to the state by $2.6 billion each year. There is no way this big change in Ohio’s tax laws could be defended as following “conservative” principles — prudently planning for the future. It could only be defended by using “pseudo-facts and pretend information.”
It was obvious, to anyone not believing in voodoo, that this tax cut would cause a big gap in the budget. In 2005 Ohio Policy Matters said, “Closer scrutiny reveals that massive cuts in state spending, or alternative tax increases, that will be required to make up for the revenue shortfall of about $2.8 billion in 2010, the fifth and final year of the tax reform plan’s phase out period.”
And so, in 2011, when it came time for the first Kasich budget — Wow. Surprise, surprise — reality slapped us in the face. The state didn’t have enough revenue. Kasich argued that the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions should be gutted via SB-5 because such action would save the state $1.3 billion.
The motive behind pushing SB-5, of course, had nothing to do with conservatism, nothing to do with dealing with the deficit. It was an attempt to advance the ism of the true believers — smaller government, less regulation, free markets — a belief system deemed worthy of fierce loyalty.
But, authentic conservatism has nothing to do with this wacky belief system of Republicanism, but instead is centered on the democratic principles that make this nation exceptional. The first goal of authentic conservatism should be, in Lincoln’s words, to produce a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Why Republicanism rejects authentic conservatism is obvious. A “government of the people” would flatly reject the irresponsible, class warfare strategies that true believers of Republicanism hold dear.
In this campaign season Democratic candidates need to educate voters that “Republicanism” is not conservatism. Democrats should co-opt the word “conservative,” should show that they have ideas that are prudent, reality based, and honor the wisdom of our forefathers. Democrats should speak boldly how “We the People” must work together to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
- Ohio’s 2005 Tax Reduction Act Was Predicted, By 2010, To Result In Yearly State Budget Shortfall of Billions, December 15th, 2008
- Ohio’s 2005 Tax Reduction Law Diminished, By 21%, The Progressivity of Ohio’s Tax Code , August 6th, 2008
- The Ascending Issue In Our Democracy Is Democracy Itself, September 17th, 2007