Republicans for Big Government

Any significant movement of wealth from taxpayers to tax consumers will not enhance prosperity.

Do you know anyone who voted Republican this past election in order to further President Obama's big government agenda? Or is it more likely that Republican voters sought to advance a smaller version of the federal government? And if they did, why are Republican congressional leaders offering to help the president spend us into oblivion?

I suspected that those questions might be asked when Mitt Romney was nominated to oppose Obama. My view of his campaign then and now has been that he presented a choice to the voters of big government versus bigger government, and bigger government prevailed. Romney argued during the campaign that he was at a disadvantage because the president had distributed federal tax dollars to persons and groups critical to his re-election. He has since argued that he lost the election because nearly half of Americans—some by chance, some by choice and some by force—are dependent on government for much of their income or subsistence.

His argument sounds harsh, but it's true. A formerly working and now retired couple in their mid-80s who are receiving monthly payments from the Social Security Administration into which they were forced to make payments while they were working can hardly be considered slackers. But they can be considered dupes. All of us who have fallen for the government's nonsense about it holding our money for our future use have been duped. The government doesn't hold anyone's money for him. It spends whatever it collects as soon as it receives it. When its entitlement bills come due, it uses current tax revenue, or it borrows money in order to acquire the cash to make the payments.

The president knows this. Congress knows it. The courts have endorsed it. In endorsing it, the courts have held that the government's decision to pay entitlements is a political, not a legal, one. Stated differently, the federal government has no legal obligation to pay any money to any Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid applicant. That's why those who have relied on the political wisdom of politicians, rather than their own prudential judgment, are dupes. Let me rephrase that: Those who have permitted politicians to use the force of law to compel us all to contribute our hard-earned income to a bankrupt government Ponzi scheme are dupes if they think this can work without end.

When FDR first proposed his Social Security scheme, he knew that only force and duplicity would get enough people into the system to generate the cash flow at the entry side of the Ponzi scheme to make it salable to Congress and to the American people. LBJ knew the same was the case for his expansions of Social Security with Medicare and Medicaid. What LBJ probably did not anticipate is that health insurers would largely cease offering products of primary insurance to seniors, and thus seniors would require the government entitlements into which they had mistakenly believed they were contributing, because the government would become the only game in town.

Now that the emperor has no clothes, and we are confronting more and more seniors who have been lulled into this false sense of security, and fewer young workers are even entering the job market, the government's voracious need for cash is difficult to fulfill. Earlier this year, when members of both parties in Congress recognized this ticking time bomb, they agreed to address it by punting. Now, that punted political football is falling to the earth, and no one wants to catch it. The punt they bequeathed to themselves is a tax increase for everyone and reductions in spending that even they find to be odious. The odor they dislike is the realization, to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, that they are running out of other people's money.

The president was re-elected on promises of more of the same: more borrowing, more spending and new taxes on the rich. The Republicans who got elected did so on promises of lessened spending and no new taxes, to paraphrase George H.W. Bush. The president, who is the most liberal president since Woodrow Wilson, is largely ignorant of economics 101. But his ignorance is consistent with his beliefs that the feds can continue to spend more than they collect and continue to borrow without ever repaying.

The Republicans in the House are largely more conservative than at any time since Wilson left office. One would expect them to understand the intent of the voters who sent them there and thus say no to more taxes, no to more spending and no to more borrowing. Instead we have Republican leadership in the House that actually proposed raising more revenue by eliminating deductions on income taxes. They somehow claim that they are being faithful to their stated mission of fiscal conservatism by making you pay more money but at the present tax rates. They, too, have failed economics 101.

Any significant movement of wealth from taxpayers to tax consumers will not enhance prosperity; it will crush it, and it will breed dependence on a government that is fiscally out of control. But the recipients will no doubt vote to re-elect those who gave them these payments.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    The republican leadership is on board with the obama agenda. To call them disingenuous would be an understatement. They get to tell their voters that the bloating leviathan is not their fault, but when obama is out they get a turn at the helm.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Those who have permitted politicians to use the force of law to compel us all to contribute our hard-earned income to a bankrupt government Ponzi scheme are dupes if they think this can work without end.

    It seems like that would include everyone who's earned a paycheck. The Judge is getting dangerously close in this article to suggesting Romney's claims about voters on the government dole were correct. reason needs to re-issue its Forty-Seven Percent Memo to contributors.

    As for House Republicans, they are in a no-win situation. No matter what happens and who caused it, the GOP will be blamed by Obama and his press for the consequences, which are guaranteed to be bad. They will raise taxes in a vain attempt to avoid that.

  • Skyhawk||

    That's why we need a LIFETIME limit of ONE term at ANY elected office.

    Legislative decisions made for the sole purpose of re-election is killing the system.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Yes, but some of the crazy is kept in check by voters, so that's a double-edged sword.

  • Nuked||

    Or allow more than 1 term if a super majority of voters vote you back in. Have a 2 tiered system so that in the case that the incumbent does not reach super majority, the votes for him now transfer to the voters second choice.

  • WWNGD?||

    I am always told that unlike republicans conservatives want limited government and less spending. If that is the case I can't figure out why conservatives vote republican.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    For the same reason commies vote Democrat.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Agreed. Then again, I'm no conservative.

  • sarcasmic||

    Because Republicans say that they're going to cut spending. Sure, they never do, but they say that they will.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    They want to, but the Democraps just won't let them!

  • sarcasmic||

    They want to cut spending, just as long as it doesn't put anyone out of a job or cut into someone's entitlement.

    Which leaves nothing to be cut.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Nah, cause they could cut overseas military bases and, uh, "police actions" without putting anyone (well at least not Americans) out of a job or cutting any entitlements, but they won't do that either.

  • sarcasmic||

    What about all the contractors that supply the bases, and the Americans making munitions for the "police actions"?

    Face it. There are no cuts that can be made to government that would not alienate some voting block, therefore there will be no spending cuts.

  • db||

    Bingo.

  • anon||

    http://reason.com/archives/199.....py-warrior

    I stumbled on that article last night. Anyways, he described freaking 15 years ago the plight we face today.

  • Nuked||

    I hope this sort of attitude will start alienating the "logical" voting block. Maybe it already does there just isn't enough logical voting people left.

  • Gadianton||

    Conservatives are the battered spouse of the Republican party. At election time the party is all lovey-dovey and inclusive. Then some conservative votes his principles against something the Republican leadership (PBUT) wants, and gets slapped for it.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "The Judge is getting dangerously close in this article to suggesting Romney's claims about voters on the government dole were correct."

    Dangerously close?

    "Romney argued during the campaign that he was at a disadvantage because the president had distributed federal tax dollars to persons and groups critical to his re-election. He has since argued that he lost the election because nearly half of Americans—some by chance, some by choice and some by force—are dependent on government for much of their income or subsistence.

    His argument sounds harsh, but it's true."

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I don't like to deal in absolutes and will never do it.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Oh please, every single thing you post is some absolutist statement of one sort or another.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Your hyperbole is that absolute worst thing in the history of the universe.

  • BMFPitt||

    I wouldn't be surprised if Romney got a majority of the 47% vote. Old people are his base.

  • Drake||

    I'm not a conservative talk radio listener, but yesterday I listened to Hannity on the way home. I was glad to hear him absolutely hammering the Republican establishment. His guests were the conservative Republicans kicked off committees - for being fiscally conservative. I assume Rush and the rest are doing the same.

    We are watching the GOP self-destruct. Hopefully the new Conservative Party that replaces it will be libertarian.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    It won't be. It will just grab all the social engineering crap of the current Republican party, and then repackage it and say they'll do it with laws instead of social programs.

    They're 100% sure they cannot win if they don't keep the anti-abortion anti-gay anti-immigrant crowd. And they're probably right.

    If people wanted libertarians in office they'd vote for them. Unfortunately our ideology is anathema to the voting public. And likely the non-voting public as well.

  • Drake||

    Troll some Republican blogs. Nobody is concerned with abortion right now - they are freaking out because House Republicans are acting so weak. The base wants them to be fiscally conservative and the leadership refuses.

    A corporation (which is what a political party is) that consistently disappoints their customers will lose them eventually.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    The base wants them to be fiscally conservative and the leadership refuses.

    Yet they will continue to pull the lever for them, because the other guy is just too horrible, and voting third party is just a waste!

    Please, they've got what they want, and despite some vocal concern trolling, that's all they're ever going to be.

  • sarcasmic||

    More people vote against the other guy than for their guy.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Perhaps true, but the voting booth is another one of those places where intentions don't matter.

  • sarcasmic||

    A corporation (which is what a political party is) that consistently disappoints their customers will lose them eventually.

    A monopoly can disappoint its customers all day long and get away with it because the customers have no other place to go.

  • Skyhawk||

    Yet, a large portion of voters still vote for the candidates that profess the strongest belief in religious fairy tales
    over any other policy or voting record.

    So, while they may not be talking about abortion, it is their most important litmus test when pulling the level in the voting booth.

  • Drake||

    Without doing any research, I am guessing that Congressional Republicans were far more conservative during the Harding / Coolidge Administrations. They cut spending, cut taxes, and paid down debt during the steepest recession of the 20th Century.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    a) Wouldn't work now. It was a century ago.
    b) Agrarian society and all that.
    c) Didn't learn about it in school. Never happened.
    d) Now, FDR, there's a man who knew how to stretch out an emergency!

    Or at least those are the answers I get for that.

  • dcx10music||

    Oh lord, ain't that the truth. In college we had to read a book for our western civ class that had to do with how capitalism basically got us to where we are right now, including going into detail about the early 1920s recession vs. the Great Depression. Even with all the cold, hard numbers laid out in front of them 99% of the class still insisted that FDR was the only reason we got out of the Great Depression and that the Coolidge recession didn't really exist because they never heard about it in school.

    The stupid - it won't wash off!!!

  • Robert||

    Even worse are those who say it took World War 2. Of course some of those who say it was FDR mean it that way.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Instead we have Republican leadership in the House that actually proposed raising more revenue by eliminating deductions on income taxes.

    Meh. Eliminating deductions is a good idea because it removes some of the social engineering aspect of the tax system, and also removes some of the perverse incentives the deductions create.

  • Drake||

    Yes.

    Conceding the argument that more revenue, not less spending will fix things - bad idea.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    I know it's a long shot, but actually making people feel the pain fiscally that we feel morally might at least make them pay attention.

    I seriously doubt it, but I see where Fatty is coming from.

  • Drake||

    I agree - that is why I hope Congress does nothing and gives everyone a taste of fiscal pain.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "I agree - that is why I hope Congress does nothing and gives everyone a taste of fiscal pain."

    Eventually this will happen anyway. All this maneuvering by the politicians is about who will get the blame. Why not vote present? Let Obama have exactly what he wants. If the results are continued losses in the job market and a slow growing or shrinking economy let him own it.

  • ||

    However, being willing to trade more revenue for less spending isn't a terrible idea. If we can do it by eliminating deductions that's a good trade.

  • some guy||

    To some extent, I'm with you on this one.

    The Idealist in me wants to scream "No, fuck you. Cut spending."

    But the realist in me knows that there is no chance of that working. To get spending cuts (real ones) we must appease the Democrats' need to feel like they are raising revenue and to look like they are taking from the "rich". I feel the best way to do that is by eliminating deductions. Raising tax rates has no upside, but eliminating deductions also eliminates market distortions. So start with the deductions that most benefit the "rich" and go from there.

  • anon||

    That, and when you quit giving certain groups tax advantages, all of a sudden those groups stop voting Democrat.

  • ||

    "but eliminating deductions also eliminates market distortions. So start with the deductions that most benefit the 'rich'."

    A tad contradictory

  • RightNut||

    Maybe I missed it, but what is the Judge's suggestion for Republicans? Should we just go over the "cliff"?

  • Whiterun Guard||

    One would expect them to understand the intent of the voters who sent them there and thus say no to more taxes, no to more spending and no to more borrowing.

    I think he makes it clear in the article.

    Groin-grabbingly clear.

  • Mike M.||

    Some people are having a tough time coming to grips with the election that just took place a month ago.

    Did that election really look to anyone like a popular mandate for no more taxes, no more spending, and no more borrowing?

  • anon||

    Did that election really look to anyone like a popular mandate for no more taxes, no more spending, and no more borrowing?

    Of course not. When you give shit to people, those people are going to vote for you to give them more shit.

    Does that make it right?

  • Mike M.||

    No, of course it doesn't. And yes, Mitt Romney was speaking the plain and obvious truth, whether anyone likes it or not.

    Don't like the results of the election? Well join the club people, neither do I!

  • mr simple||

    Did that election really look to anyone like a popular mandate for no more taxes, no more spending, and no more borrowing?

    That depends on how you look at it. There was no national election. There were 50 statewide elections for president and myriad other elections for congresspeople and senators. I'm guessing the people that voted in the Repubs didn't vote them in to raise taxes and increase spending. Heck, I bet most Dems didn't vote in the hopes that the government would raise taxes on them.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "I think he makes it clear in the article."

    Give him the benefit of the doubt. He probably means a little more taxes a little more spending and a little more borrowing.

  • RightNut||

    President *barrrrffff* Obama has said he wont sign any agreement that doesn't raise taxes, specifically on "high" earners. So if the House GOP wont raise taxes, we'll go over the "cliff". In that case, taxes will go up anyway. So.....?

  • anon||

    The "Cliff" is an illusion. There is no cliff.

  • some guy||

    It's more like a slight reduction in the current upward slope.

    Of course, the higher we go, the farther we have to fall...

  • RightNut||

    That is why i put it in quotations.

  • db||

    I want to see some Reason reporti g and commentary on the GOP purge of fiscal conservatives. How can this not be a suicide move for the republican party?

  • ||

    They cant even see their base much less be in touch with them. All they can see is obama's pubes.

    *shudder*

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    How can this not be a suicide move for the republican party?

    Because decades of public school has brainwashed the populace into believing that we are a "two-party system". As long as the Republican establishment possess the chuán guó xǐ, they will be seen as the legitimate "Republican Party".

  • anon||

    Also, the media are fucking us again. The "Automatic cuts" to spending aren't cuts; just cuts in projected growth of spending. Meaning, nothing changes.

  • ||

    I think this is his suggestion; "One would expect them to understand the intent of the voters who sent them there and thus say no to more taxes, no to more spending and no to more borrowing."

    However, based on their past behavior I dont see why one would expect that.

    I say we go over. Let obama own it. Four more years of a crappy economy is a perfect legacy for him. Unfortunately the repubs will be blamed and they are just stupid enough to let that happen.

    Obama...that fucker is so slick he makes an eel look like sandpaper.

  • anon||

    Unfortunately, with no new revenue and no more spending, the recession incurred would be short lived, and people might see that "doing nothing" actually -is- the best course of action. This is unacceptable for both parties, for obvious reasons.

  • some guy||

    He's also going to have to own the implementation of his signature health bill. I think that's got a better chance of ruining his legacy than anything.

  • Mike M.||

    Yep. I hate Boehner as much as anyone, but the republicans just got their asses kicked and they're a no-win situation now. They will get blamed if we "go over the cliff", and if they shut the government down they'll get blamed for that even more.

    It's time to face reality folks, a solid majority of the American people just voted to bankrupt and destroy their own country. I never thought it was possible, but it happened, and there's nothing that can be done now.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."
    Bastiat

  • Ted S.||

    What a brilliant link!

  • sarcasmic||

  • Drake||

    EVERY seat in the House of Representatives was just up for election - and the Republicans maintained control. That isn't an ass-kicking and they are stupid to act like it was.

  • Mike M.||

    It sucks, but there's just no way to rationalize away the simple reality that Obama, his cocksuckers in the media, and his agenda won.

    A majority of voters still blame BOOOOOSH for everything going on now, and they're apparently going to continue blaming republicans for anything bad that happens going forward for years to come. There's nothing we can do about it.

  • Drake||

    If they really won that big, Speaker Pelosi would be handling these negotiations next month.

  • ||

    I say we go over. Let obama own it.

    I'm not saying this would be a terrible idea. But, if we do go over, the D's will immediately propose reinstating the middle-class tax cuts, and probably attach a bunch of other spending to the bill. And the R's owuld have to vote for it.

    Which is exactly the same outcome as if the R's caved right now on tax rates.

    At least the R's have more control over the process and what else gets attached to that bill if they do it NOW rather than wait until after Christmas.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    OT: Mike Tyson squandered chance to rid the world of Brad Pitt.

    If you could go back in time and strangle Hitler Pitt in his crib, wouldn't you take the opportunity?

  • Rick Santorum||

    The Republicans in the House are largely more conservative than at any time since Wilson left office.

    CUT TAXES, SPEND MORE is not conservative. Republicans once opposed Medicare and Social Security, you know.

  • Robert||

    But that time is so long past, the TEA Party here in the Bronx started as the Campaign (or maybe Committee) to Save Medicare.

    SS & Medicare are taken as given, a baseline. They have a separate budget from the rest of federal taxes & spending. Every arrangement currently in it is understood (not legally, but practically in political terms) as vested, capitalized, owned...whatever you want to call it. Therefore its ongoing operation at current rates is not viewed as redistribution. Changes to it are viewed as redistribution, so today's "conservatives" oppose those changes as much as they oppose those forms of taxing & spending that we consider redistribution. They especially oppose redistribution across demographic lines.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "We have Republican leadership in the House that actually proposed raising more revenue by eliminating deductions on income taxes. They somehow claim that they are being faithful to their stated mission of fiscal conservatism."

    Until the Republicans in the House get rid of John Boehner as their speaker, we'll always know that they aren't serious about fiscal conservatism.

  • ||

    I'm going to reiterate my stance that right now the obsessive focus on lowering rates is doing damage to the cause.

    The bigger problem is spending, and that Republicans seem to be unwilling to make spending cuts and are willing to trade spending cuts in favor of lower tax rates. They are unwilling to make cuts to defense and are willing to bribe the Democrats with more spending on domestic programs in order to get lower taxes rates and more defense spending.

    That is the wrong approach. I'm all in favor of a comprehensive simplification of the tax code that lowers and flattens rates and eliminates deductions, but the point of that is to make the tax code fairer and more just, not to raise revenue, or lower revenue.

    The more important task is to cut spending, because cutting spending (not taxes!) is what reduces the size of government. Increasing spending and cutting taxes at the same time just leaves us with an onerous oppressive government AND an onerous debt.

    Right now we have one part that's the party of high taxes and high spending, and the other that is the party of low taxes and high spending. Which makes neither of them the party of small government. Until the Republicans demonstrate that their highest priority is LESS SPENDING not less taxes, they are going to remain the party of big government hypocrites.

  • Ken Shultz||

    We already have spending cuts built into the fiscal cliff.

    The smart thing to do from a fiscal responsibility standpoint is to go over the cliff to get the spending cuts and then introduce a bill to cut tax rates back to what they were after we go over the cliff.

  • Robert||

    I agree. "Cliff" is just a pejorative label they've given to a coincidence of spending cuts that were passed with a delayed date and temporary tax reductions' expiration date. And the temporary tax reduction was enacted earlier. So really the spending cuts were the more recently enacted. I consider this progress, and the "cliff", so called, holds no horror AFAICT.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "But his ignorance is consistent with his beliefs that the feds can continue to spend more than they collect and continue to borrow without ever repaying."

    Why do you assume he is ignorant? He knows this can't go on. Everyone does. The more reasonable interpretation is that he prefers a huge and controlling government, bankrupt or not.

    "Never let a good crisis go to waste." It's probably too late to avoid bankruptcy. He's just trying to make sure that the government that comes out the other side controls as much as possible.

  • xavier2012||

    Each party has his service object.

  • Sonderegger||

    The president knows this. Congress knows it. The courts have endorsed it. In endorsing it, the courts have held that the government's decision to pay entitlements is a political, not a legal, one. Stated differently, the federal government http://www.chaussuresfree.com/ has no legal obligation to pay any money to any Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid applicant. That's why those who have relied on the political wisdom of politicians, rather than their own prudential judgment, are dupes. Let me rephrase that: Those who have permitted politicians to use the force of law to compel us all to contribute our hard-earned income to a bankrupt government Ponzi scheme are dupes if they think this can work without end.

  • plusafdotcom||

    If you believe "The president, who is the most liberal president since Woodrow Wilson, is largely ignorant of economics 101. But his ignorance is consistent with his beliefs that the feds can continue to spend more than they collect and continue to borrow without ever repaying.", you've never heard of Cloward-Piven.

    You really think he doesn't understand what he's doing? I think he DOES, and that's even scarier than if he WERE just ignorant!

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement