Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Ready for a scary story?

Conservatives turned out in record numbers in November to re-elect President Bush and to expand Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. But conservatives are not blind. Many see President Bush and Congressional GOP leaders as liberals—liberals that are the best viable option to slow or prevent further erosion of conservative values.

At least conservatives can admire Bush for adhering to a set of principles, even if the same can’t be said of many Congressional GOP leaders. Some liberals have openly fawned about the ability of Bill Clinton and John Kerry to appreciate the complexity of issues, while conservatives nearly wretch watching the torturous waffling of these men. While they had some idea of where Bill Clinton stood (everything was for his personal aggrandizement and self satisfaction), John Kerry still has no idea what he wants to be when he grows up.

Blue Spew
On the other side of the aisle, it seems from the rhetoric hurled about that many “blue” voters consider Bush and GOP leaders ultra conservatives, which comes as a shock to many conservatives. Conservatives don’t massively increase government spending, merely give lukewarm lip service to moral issues, or co-opt and champion liberal issues. They don’t support ineffective and corrupt foreign governments by letting their most enterprising citizens immigrate to the U.S. in record numbers, thereby sapping chances for internally driven change.

Being out of power, the liberal establishment has devolved to tantrums, name calling, and spinning bizarre conspiracy theories stranger than those that used to be the domain of the extreme right. When lacking real ideas to contribute, why not try fear mongering to maintain power? I heard one of these spooky yarns yesterday from an acquaintance that lives in a red rural Utah backwater, but who has a blue streak a mile wide.

It goes something like this: The reason Bush and the Republicans have nationalized education spending, drastically increased the size of Medicare, expanded other social programs, and are pushing for Social Security reform is to drive up the cost of these programs to the point that the nation can’t afford them. At that point it will be politically tenable for them to kill off every social program one by one until all that government funds are things that benefit greedy big businesses. It will go on like that until children are starving to death and grandmas are being thrown out of nursing homes into the street. Then another great leader like FDR will come along and we’ll have to do the whole Great Society thing all over again.

At first I laughed right out loud when I heard this spew, but then I noticed others sitting around nodding their heads knowingly. They had the same look on their faces that I’ve seen on many Scouts while telling ghost stories around campfires. Some of these people are convinced that Bush and the GOP are devoted to evil and that they seriously desire to harm people and the environment solely to promote big business avarice.

Shining the Light
When Scouts are scared in the dark they often turn on their flashlights to detect the real source of a spooky sound or shadow. Let’s shine the light of rationality on these arguments.

National education funding: This has long been at the top of the liberal agenda. If anything, they think Bush hasn’t gone far enough. Their major gripe is that it requires some accountability. That was a chit to make it palatable enough for some conservatives to support it, but much of the program is pure liberal.

Major Medicare expansion: This is a liberal dream come true. Of course, it contains a nasty little provision that prevents direct government price controls, but liberals (including John McCain) are actively working now to overcome that inconvenience.

Social program expansion: No one can call this a conservative move.

Social Security reform: Finally, something that has an air of conservatism. Allowing future generations to own their retirement rather than merely being beholden to a nanny government’s IOU. Achieving solvency is also a nice touch. However, this is only an idea and it’s anybody’s guess as to whether it will happen at all, let alone have a conservative outcome.

OK, so the score is liberals 3, conservatives 0. So what are liberals whining about? Their guy didn’t win the election, but they have gotten more of their agenda passed than ever happened under Bill Clinton. Now they’re whining that it’s going to cost too much! I've never heard them worry about that before. But I digress. Let’s continue shining our flashlight.

Republicans will expand social programs until the country can no longer afford them with the ultimate goal of dumping them: Let’s call this the Ronald Reagan cold war approach. Reagan outspent the Soviet Union until, in its determination to keep up with the U.S., it collapsed under its own weight. Liberals now claim that Bush intends to ratchet up social spending until the programs collapse under their own weight.

First off, I don’t think social programs need Republican help to achieve their logical failure points. They will naturally do that on their own unless curtailed, even if Democrats refuse to acknowledge the point. This is Economics 101 stuff. If you fund it, they will come—like they did with welfare. When we reformed welfare and required people to work, they did so as the dole dried up. Reform hasn’t been without problems, but it has been very successful.

However, the argument that Republicans are increasing the rate at which we are approaching failure point on other social programs has some merit. None of these program expansions were achieved without significant Republican support. The question is whether they are doing this with long-term ulterior motives.

To me this is the craziest claim of all. Most of our politicians in Washington can’t see past the next election cycle. The exceptions are the few that are trying to build some kind of legacy (not that this is always a good thing). The rest are usually made sacrificial lambs by their parties and fail to survive to the next term. While we have no shortage of politicians that make Faustian bargains, they are almost always done for short-term gain and not to further some secret 100-year plan by a brotherhood of shadowy high rollers intent on the destruction of America.

I know that some are going to think that I’m denying the scriptures about Gadianton Robbers with that last statement. Secret combinations exist among our politicians, all right, but not as suggested by my blue friend. I think we see a lot more of that kind of thing among our judiciary, just as it was among the Nephites’ judges and lawyers.

Let’s be realistic. Do you think President Bush and GOP leaders are so evil that they really desire the destruction of the American people and the nation’s environment? I don’t. Nor do I think that Democratic leaders want to see our nation destroyed. Some of them just want us to become less individualistic and more homogenous with other countries like France (an idea that turns conservatives' stomachs).

Republicans want to starve children and make grandma homeless: Rational people cannot seriously consider this statement. Even if our leaders were that evil, our Founding Fathers created our republic to move slowly and clumsily. Any move that would even have a hint of endangering grandma or the kids would result in political suicide for promoters.

It will take another FDR to restore our social programs: Let’s hope not. Libertarians would be happy if all of the social programs went away tomorrow, but it’s not going to happen. Libertarians feel that if we were weaned from these programs the need for them would dry up. While we might have some successes like welfare, I don’t think our social programs will ever diminish to the point that they will need to be restored by some political savior. Too many of the electorate have become too dependent on them and will refuse to give up their regular fix rather than suffer withdrawal.

So is there truth in this liberal yarn? Yes. Conservatives should have no problem admitting (and combatting) the liberalisms of Republican leaders. But the gist and intent of the story is simply outrageous. The best lies are laced with much truth. This particular lie is just a sample of the tales that are floating around in the blue strasosphere. I anticipate we will hear more similar stuff over the next four years. It ought to be placed in the same class as scary campfire stories.

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