Are There Fiscal Conservatives in a Pandemic? The Club for Growth Says It Doesn't Matter.

The Club for Growth prides itself on holding lawmakers accountable "by publicizing their voting record." Except, well…not right now.


On its website, the Club For Growth describes itself as "the only organization that is willing and able to take on any member of Congress on policy who fails to uphold basic economic conservative principles…regardless of party."

The Club does indeed have a long track record within conservative politics. It was the tea party movement before there was a tea party movement; the rare D.C. organization that cared more about who was paying for the government than who was getting paid by it. The Club made its name by providing grassroots activists with congressional scorecards and candidates with a sought-after endorsement for abiding by the principles of low taxes, balanced budgets, and smaller government.

The Club prides itself on "exerting maximum pressure on lawmakers to vote like free-market, limited government conservatives," as the organization's website explains. "And when they don't, we hold them accountable by publicizing their voting record."

Except, well…not right now.

The Club for Growth is not including last week's vote on the $2.3 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in its annual congressional scorecard. The bill passed the Senate without a single dissenting vote and cleared the House on a voice vote after Rep. Thomas Massie's (R–Ky.) effort to require a roll-call vote was thwarted.

David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, said in an interview with Morning Consult that the group chose not to include the vote in its scorecard because "we understand the politics of needing to show the public we're doing everything we can." (Update: The Club for Growth did issue some "key vote alerts" about aspects of the CARES Act as it was being crafted, and published guidelines for lawmakers to follow in drafting a coronavirus-response spending package.)

As Morning Consult's Eli Yokley observes, that's pretty much how conservatives are reacting across the board. Prominent conservative groups are refusing to criticize Republican lawmakers and President Donald Trump for the massive spending package, and polling shows fewer than 1 in 10 Republican voters disapprove of the measure's passage.

That tells you something about the current state of the conservative movement. When the last Republican president signed the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), otherwise known as the 2008 bank bailout, polling from Gallup found that fewer than half of all Republicans supported it. When President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $833 billion stimulus passed in the wake of the last economic collapse, only about 30 percent of self-identified conservatives approved, Gallup found.

Now, we're spending a whole lot more money with a whole lot less opposition.

As Reason Editor at Large Matt Welch put it last week: "There is no more politics of fiscal prudence in America, just a competition to see who can wag the biggest firehose."

If fiscal conservatism still held any cache among Republican lawmakers, voters, and activists, there would have been an outcry about President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress inflating the deficit to record highs over the past three years. It wasn't all that long ago that grassroots conservatives were toasting the toppling of high-ranking Republicans for lesser slights.

If it meant anything, the Club for Growth wouldn't have sided with a deficit-hiking president in his blood-feud with Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.). It wasn't all that long ago that the Club for Growth was pouring money into Amash's campaign coffers, probably because he owns a 98 percent lifetime rating on the group's scorecards—you know, the ones that apparently don't matter anymore.

The CARES Act was never going to be stopped by token opposition from the Club for Growth or its fellow travelers in the formerly influential circles of fiscal conservatism. That's not the point. Holding people accountable doesn't always mean they lose their jobs. But there is value in keeping voters informed, even if only as a way to deter future votes on similar measures. The lawmakers who voted for the CARES Act would be free to explain to voters why it was necessary to hand $60 billion—$32 billion in straight cash—to America's airlines to stop COVID-19. Voters would decide as they will.

"We hold them accountable by publicizing their voting record," is what the Club promises to do. And when you don't do that thing—you had literally one job—it sends a signal about priorities that unfortunately run a lot deeper than a single vote.

NEXT: While a Real Epidemic Raged, the Surgeon General Was Spreading Misinformation About Masks and Vaping

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  1. It was the tea party movement before there was a tea party movement;

    Well, not *any* tea party movement but before *The* Tea Party movement… you know what we mean, they’re all crusty old fiscal conservatives.

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  2. Real fiscal conservatives would look at the cost benefit analysis of throwing tens of millions of people out of work, to save a few hundred thousand and stress on the medical system for a brief period of time. Reason appears to be skirting that one.

    1. 10,000,000 unemployed in two weeks, but, hey, if it saves just one life, right JFree?

    2. Reason did run a few articles pointing out that people were ignoring the economic costs and would regret it.

  3. Boehm, again, is a fucking moron who doesn’t understand what he’s talking about.
    The Club for Growth wasn’t the tea party before the tea party – it is, and always has been, establishment never-trumper cronyist trash.
    Coke on a dick and die soon, boehm

    1. “Coke on a Dick”? Nardz you randy bastard. I knew it!

      1. i mean usually i choose boobs but to each his own, ya

      2. Oh man, comedy gold.

    2. The article points out that Club for Growth sided with Trump over his fued with Amash. It doesn’t sound that “never-Trumper” to me.

      1. From the linked article, the only place where Club for Growth is mentioned:
        “Amash’s single biggest campaign contributor throughout his career, The Club for Growth, with whom he has a lifetime rating of 99 percent and from whom he received Defender of Economic Freedom Awards for each of his first eight years in the House of Representatives, gave what Garvey described as “an indignant ‘no'” when asked if the fiscally conservative group would again back the most fiscally conservative member of Congress.”
        Nobody gives a shit what anything sounds like to your shallow ass. You’ll think what the cosmotarians tell you to think, evidently

    3. They were never-trumpers before there was even Trump! Let that sink in for a minute…

      1. Nobody here is surprised that you have no clue what’s going on in the world, as your comments consistently demonstrate cluelessness

    4. Yep. More poorly-researched trash to add to “Reason”‘s pile.

    5. So you want someone to die because they hold somewhat different opinions than you? Either you’re an immature kid or your parents were awful people to raise such an awful person.

      1. And you’re a fake ass, virtue signaling pussy.
        Boehm actively works to harm others and lies for a living. His life does no good.
        So yea, I hope he dies very soon.
        But hey, I’d love to hear your explanation why that is “wrong”

  4. As long as “fiscal conservatives” fall-in lockstep behind massive budget-busting tax cuts – using transparently phony justifications to excuse their budgetary implications – then the species of “fiscal conservatives” doesn’t even exist.

    I’ve heard one of two of these creatures were spotted in remote highlands back pre-Reagan, but by now it’s clear they’re extinct.

    1. Tax cuts don’t bust budgets. Spending does.

      1. Such a ludicrous & absurd response! But this is a world where “fiscal conservatives” no longer exist, so you’ll get this kind of up-is-down black-is-white reply. It’s as if all the brain cells that have anything to do with simple math were fried to a crisp in the vast hive mind of today’s Right.

        Really : How can anyone say something so childishly stupid as EISTAU Gree-Vance above? You could pick a preteen grade-preschooler out at random and the little child would better understand what a budget is. It’s as if ideology is an ice-pick lobotomy, and Gree-Vance has driven the pointy-end right into his very own skull. Otherwise, how could he be so damn stupid?!?

        But it proves my point: “Fiscal Conservatism” is extinct.

  5. I am not sure which will cause more economic damage, the virus, or the cure?

    1. Except the lockdown is NOT a cure.

      1. Prepare to go through this every year until a vaccine is found?
        I don’t really want to see what our country would be like if 50% of the people (the workers) have to carry the other 50%.

        1. “I don’t really want to see what our country would be like if 50% of the people (the workers) have to carry the other 50%.”
          Have you looked at the percentage of people who pay federal income tax?

      2. We really do need another word for it. Maybe just response. The response is worse than the virus.

        1. Not for the chicken littles; they’re happy that ‘daddy’ is looking our for them!

        2. Excellent point….”reaction”, “response”, “freak-out”, are a few better terms that come to mind.

      3. “economic damage” i.e. the stimulus package, not a vaccine, we are taking economics, not disease.

  6. You can’t expect free market principles to hold up in a crisis. If we score their votes now, it might show that there isn’t much difference between the parties after all.

  7. Totally off topic, but I just couldn’t resist.

    Following are excerpts from the opinion District Judge Brantley Starr filed in <a href=";Lane v. United States (underlining mine):

    The federal government here raised the talisman of police power 31 times in its motion to dismiss and an additional 19 times in its reply. This seemed unusual to the Court because the Court had thought the police power is a power reserved for the states, not for the federal government. Fearful the Court was wrong, it turned to the first place one should always turn to with such questions: the Constitution. Article I, section 8 enumerates the powers the People gave to the federal government at our Nation’s founding: the tax power, the borrowing power, the commerce power, the naturalization power, the bankruptcy power, the power to coin money, the postal power, the maritime power, and the war power. None of these powers is the police power.

    Then the Court re-read the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Of course, this did not alter the grant of limited, enumerated powers to federal government. It just reaffirmed it.


    Given that the text and structure of the Constitution yield no indication the federal government has the police power that it asserts, the Court then turned to binding case law. In 1995, the Supreme Court in United States v. Lopez observed that the Constitution withheld “from Congress a plenary police power.” Confused that the United States would base their case on a power the Supreme Court told the United States in Lopez that it didn’t have, the Court continued its search in case the Supreme Court later changed its mind after Lopez. In 2000, the Supreme Court in United States v. Morrison reiterated that the police power was a power “which the Founders denied the National Government and reposed in the States.” Again, the United States as a party was told it lacked the power it advances here. But Morrison wasn’t even the most recent time the Court reminded the United States it has no police power.


    So, not even the Supreme Court has rewritten the Constitution to give a plenary police power to the federal government.
    Perhaps there is one more place, where the collective will and knowledge of the people is expressed, that might indicate if the federal government has seized the police power from the states: the Constitution Wikipedia. But strangely, even Wikipedia has overruled neither the Constitution nor the Supreme Court.

    He wraps up with this resounding benchslap:

    Because the power at the heart of the federal government’s motion to dismiss is not a power the federal government possesses, the Court DENIES WITHOUT PREJUDICE the motion to dismiss. But the Court will allow the federal government to file, within 28 days of this Order, a new motion to dismiss based on a power it does possess.

    And this gem, from footnote 51, is delightful too:

    If validity is an issue, the Government is further encouraged to dive into the technical aspects of the statutory text and the real things it applies to: firearms. Technically correct is the best kind of correct, and this case seems to require a technical understanding to get the law right.

    I love this guy. His savage snark, playfully colloquial style, boldness in speaking truth to power, and hardheaded reliance on the text of the Constitution remind me of Scalia and Gorsuch. I want to see more of this man’s opinions.

    1. Shit. That was supposed to be Lane v. United States.
      My firstborn’s left ovary for a preview button.

    2. A judge that acknowledges the 10th Amendment? I’m not sure we’ve ever seen that one before.

    3. beautiful.

    4. Yea, that’s good stuff

    5. Not sure what is better, referencing the 10th amendment or Futurama.

  8. “fiscal conservative” is a confusing term. It could be interpreted as someone who wants to spend taxpayer money to achieve conservative goals. That interpretation is more consistent with reality.

    1. Agreed fully. But not if you use the redefined definition of “conservative” that so many here use.

      1. I have to agree with you both. If there was a truth in labeling law for Congress, a lot of self labeled “fiscal conservatives” would be fined for non compliance.

    2. It could be interpreted as someone who wants to spend taxpayer money to achieve conservative goals. That interpretation is more consistent with reality.

      And would still be preferable to either definition of “fiscally liberal”.

    3. I think it means spending either tax receipts or incurring debt in order to give directly to those who vote ‘conservative’. That’s why they get so annoyed that the other side does the same thing re the other 50% of voters

      1. The Republican Party definition of fiscal conservative is to reduce taxes on and increase spending for the groups they think are most likely to donate to their next campaign. That’s why they Increased military spending to help the defense contractors and removed state and local tax deductions to diss the libs.

        1. At least the Republican Party *has* a definition.

        2. At least the Republican Party *has* a definition.

  9. What am I supposed to do? Who am I supposed to elect to fix these things? My local ballots for everything from school board to justice of the peace offer a choice between endless variations on “a true conservative who supports our president” and “a courageous fighter for the people who will stand up to the president”. My state offices offer more of the same. National offices are a ditto.

    Who wants my vote? I will vote for literally anyone no matter how socially repugnant, no matter how much of a two-timing bald-faced liar they are, as long as they just say “I will spend less money.” It doesn’t even have to be true. Just… whisper that sweet nothing to me as you drive this nation off a cliff.

  10. >>”we understand the politics of needing to show the public we’re doing everything we can.”

    nope. everybody else did that. have a fucking principle.

  11. “Lord make me chaste, but not yet.”

  12. The truth is that fiscal conservativism seem to matter only when your out of power. The “Tea Party” conservatives were fiscally responsible until they had enough power and then spending was good. Maybe in the future we will have true fiscal conservatives, that is people who are willing to spend less and tax as necessary for what must be spent.

  13. It’s useless to try to stop these huge giveaways. The press will pillory anyone who suggests that it’s not needed.
    We live in strange times…

    1. The press aren’t the ones who write it, vote for it or sign it into law.

  14. Trumplican scum all.

    Trump is Obama’s third term.

    It was said by two different commentators during the Obama Porkulus and Obamacare roll-outs ” We are all Keynesians now.” and “We are all socialists now..” They were accurate if a bit early. Obama only let those who were already Keynesians and Socialists come out. Trump surrendered the rest of America, save a few Never-Trump Republican and Libertarian dissidents.
    Trump is a full surrender of the American Experiment in growing liberty and prosperity to collectivist and statist squabbling for slices of an ever shrinking zero sum pie.

    We can’t, yet, know if we few dissidents are more like those few first Americans in another April, that of 1775, and through much suffering and against all odds we will recreate the best of the America for which they fought; or more like those Japanese soldiers stranded on remote islands fighting on for decades, after 1945, and we are now fighting for the lost cause of American liberty and prosperity.

    1. “Trumplican scum all.”

      Stuff your TDS up your ass, so your head has some company.

    2. We’re all Keynesians now.

    3. I agree with you saying that Trump is Obama’s third term. But, I didn’t 100% realize it until this virus lockdown. I was going along with the Republicans being the “lesser of two evils” game. I will no longer vote for Trump or for Republicans. I now feel simply manipulated by the Republicans claiming to be “consertive” and wanting low taxes. I’ve lost all hope for a future with low taxes, because somebody’s got to pay for all of this.

      1. Welcome to the realization. I was in the same spot until Trump’s nomination as the Republican 2016 nominee, as a libertarian Republican. As soon as they blocked / delayed Utah’s and Alaska’s votes, expected to be against Trump to throw the nomination into open debate, I realized that I was a Libertarian deceived and betrayed by the Republicans.

  15. Eh well… whatever the GOP says. Their the party of fiscal responsibility running… [checks] a 4 trillion dollar deficit.

    1. All spending originates in the house….

      Fuck off.

  16. Man, these welfare checks and stimulus spending and staying home while I “work” is awesome. 4 more years of GOP socialism!

  17. This chart shows no inflation at all. Why should we worry about running enormous deficits and a huge debt if it’s not doing anything?

    1. Because that’s what theory says, and theory is sacred

    2. Borrowing tons of money is never a problem immediately. Wait until after this all blows over and interest rates go back up. The interest alone will become a huge chunk of the budget.

  18. The fair way to do it is to have provisions for both large and small businesses, so that if and when economic activity returns to normal, if their net incomes are above a certain amount, they have to pay it back. It is not clear to me which parts of the 2 trillion are outright giveaways, and which are loans. I have no problem with giving out checks to individuals, but mostly businesses should only get loans.

  19. There aren’t enough fiscal conservatives in DC to start a good poker game. Massie at least tried to point out that spending 2.3 trillion dollars we don’t have should be considered a big deal.

  20. The massive 2,2 trillion dollar bill recently signed into law fails most small businesses but the devil is well hidden in the details. This is in many ways a pitiful response to a problem government created. Government through its new mandates forced employers to fire workers or be responsible for paying them to not work.

    It fails to take into consideration that not all small businesses are labor or payroll intense. Some businesses with large or expensive showrooms are getting hammered by rent, others by inventory, or things like taxes, utilities, or even by having to toss products due to spoilage.

    Let me be clear, this is not about wanting more money for small business, it is about government not being able to clean us the mess it creates by simply throwing money at it. The article below delves into this subject.

    1. The thing is, the only thing the government does with any effectiveness is throw around money, so that’s always the solution to any problem.

  21. The one real opportunity we had to actually engage in real fiscal conservative policies, at least by eliminating some of the most wasteful programs, was lost some 15 years ago. At the beginning of WWII, Republicans in Congress told President Roosevelt to get rid of all the New Deal make work programs. He actually did. President Bush could have done the same by eliminating some of these programs to fund the “War on Terrror” (libertarians can argue as to its validity, I’m just mentioning this because it was a lost opportunity). He didn’t – instead, he threw more money at them. He had the opportunity because the GOP controller everything – and blew it. Look, we can’t even shrink a government agency that wants to shrink – The Post Office (technically independent, but in reality it’s still a federal agency). Fiscal conservatism has been at the rhetorical center of the conservative movement since it began 90 years ago, but nothing has really been done. In reality, there are really few fiscal conservatives left anymore, and it sadly needs to start over.

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