The 'Conservative' Republican Budget

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Now that the taxpayer’s friend Ron Paul is no longer in Congress, it is hard to have anything but disdain and loathing for the entire pack of crooks and liars known as congressmen.

Nevertheless, there are six Republican members of the House of Representatives that are to be commended, at least this once, for voting against both of the Republican budgets that were recently brought up for a vote.

Rick Crawford (AR), Randy Forbes (VR), Chris Gibson (NY), David McKinley (WV), Walter Jones (NC), and Joe Heck (NV) voted against the Republican budget that passed (budget committee chairman Paul Ryan’s “The Path to Prosperity”), and the one that failed to pass (the Republican Study Committee’s “Back to Basics”).

The Republican Study Committee’s “Back to Basics” budget is the “conservative” Republican budget. Although not as bloated as Ryan’s “The Path to Prosperity” budget, it is worth looking at because it shows just how firmly committed to the welfare/warfare state even the “conservative” Republicans are.

The Republican Study Committee is “the caucus of House conservatives.” There are currently 168 members out of the 232 Republicans in the House. According to the group’s website:

The Republican Study Committee is a group of House Republicans organized for the purpose of advancing a conservative social and economic agenda in the House of Representatives. The Republican Study Committee is dedicated to:

  • a limited and Constitutional role for the federal government,
  • a strong national defense,
  • the protection of individual and property rights,
  • and the preservation of traditional family values.

The RSC reviews each piece of legislation under consideration on the House floor using six guiding principles, printed on our “Conservative Check Card” and listed below:

  • Less Government – Does the bill tend to reduce government regulations, size of government, or eliminate entitlements or unnecessary programs?
  • Lower Taxes – Does the bill promote individual responsibility in spending, or reduce taxes or fees?
  • Personal Responsibility – Does the bill encourage responsible behavior by individuals and families and encourage them to provide for their own health, safety, education, moral fortitude, or general welfare?
  • Individual Freedom – Does the bill increase opportunities for individuals or families to decide, without hindrance or coercion from government, how to conduct their own lives and make personal choices?
  • Stronger Families – Does the bill enhance the traditional American family and its power to rear children without excessive interference from the government?
  • Domestic Tranquility, National Defense – Does the bill enhance American security without unduly burdening civil liberty?

This sounds good on the surface. What problem could a libertarian or advocate of a federal government strictly constrained by the Constitution possibly have with reducing regulations, eliminating entitlements and unnecessary programs, reducing taxes and fees, curtailing interference, hindrance, and coercion from government, enhancing security, encouraging personal responsibility, and not burdening civil liberties?

No problem at all. But we do have a major problem with Republicans who tout their conservative credentials, proclaim their allegiance to the Constitution, and spout libertarian rhetoric about limited government, responsibility, and freedom that they don’t actually believe.

For example, let’s take a piece of legislation that would repeal an aspect of the drug war. Introduced in the House on February 5 was the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013 (H.R.499). How many members of the Republican Study Committee would vote in favor of this bill if they had the chance? You could probably count those in favor on one hand. Yet, such legislation is certainly in line with the Constitution and the RSC’s “six guiding principles.”

Ending the drug war would reduce government regulations and reduce the size of government. It would reduce the taxes needed to fund the Drug Enforcement Administration and much of the federal justice system. It would encourage individuals and families to provide for their own health, safety, and moral fortitude. It would enhance the family by no longer destroying it by putting family members in prison for drug possession or trafficking. It would stop the tremendous violations of civil liberties that occur in the course of fighting the drug war. And it would above everything else increase opportunities for individuals and families to decide, without hindrance or coercion from government, how to conduct their own lives and make personal choices.

Okay, so the members of the Republican Study Committee fail miserably when it comes to doing the right thing about the drug war. But let’s take a look at their “conservative” budget.

The RSC budget is said to be based upon seven “common-sense principles”:

  • The budget should strengthen Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to ensure their long-term sustainability.
  • The budget should balance in ten years or less without raising any taxes.
  • The budget should reduce spending and make the federal government more effective and efficient.
  • The budget should terminate federal programs that are unconstitutional, duplicative, or harmful.
  • The budget should implement reforms to Washington’s broken budget process.
  • The budget should keep taxes low and include pro-growth tax reform.
  • The budget should repeal President Obama’s job-killing healthcare law.

These principles are a mixed bag.

The first principle is something that every liberal Democrat in Congress would wholeheartedly embrace. Not sure why Republicans, and especially those who consider themselves more conservative than the typical House member, want to strengthen income transfer programs.

The second principle is a pathetic joke. The budget should be balanced next year, not in ten years. Not raising taxes is, of course, always a good thing, but calls by Republicans to “close loopholes” and “eliminate deductions” effectively raise taxes while they are saying that they oppose tax increases.

The third and fifth principles are just meaningless political talk about reductions, reforms, and efficiency that one hears during election campaigns.

The fourth, sixth, and seventh principles are certainly laudable, but in the hands of Republicans they become thoroughly corrupted. First, even though at least ninety percent of federal programs are clearly unconstitutional or harmful, Republicans never seem to be able to recognize this. Second, to Republicans, low taxes mean something like the tax rates under the so-called Bush tax cuts. But what is so great about the federal government being able to confiscate up to 35 percent of one’s income? And third, if Republicans just wanted to repeal Obamacare, then that would be well and good. The problem is that they want to replace it with some form of Republicare instead of medical freedom. If Republicans were serious about getting the government out of healthcare, they would be calling for the repeal of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act that they passed in 2003.

There are some good things about the RSC budget. It proposes to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Labor Relations Board, the Economic Development Administration, AmTech, the Legal Services Corporation, the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program, the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, regional commissions, the Essential Air Service program, the Foreign Market Development Program (FMDP), Market Access Program (MAP), Wool and Mohair Subsidies, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, the Direct Payment Program, and funding for entity that provides abortions.

The RSC budget also proposes to reduce funding for Community Development Block Grants, International Trade Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, and the Premium Subsidy in the Crop Insurance Program.

The problem here is that all of these things together constitute a very minute portion of the federal budget. There is no language about the wholesale elimination of the Departments of Education, Energy, and Homeland Security. There are no proposals to abolish the TSA and end foreign aid. And there is certainly nothing to be found about getting rid of the DEA and ending the war on drugs.

The RSC budget is not tepid for political considerations, but for philosophical ones. Even if it had been passed by the Republican-controlled House instead of being rejected by a majority of Republicans 104-132, there was absolutely no chance whatsoever that it would have passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate. So why be timid about slashing government spending?

The three largest spending items in the federal budget are Social Security, defense, and Medicare, in that order. (Real defense spending is actually over $1 trillion according to economist Robert Higgs.) But all it takes is a brief look at the approach of the RSC budget to these three things to see just how committed to the welfare/warfare state even the “conservative” Republicans are.

The bloated defense budget is off limits according to the conservative members of the Republican Study Committee:

Within the discretionary spending total, the RSC budget funds defense at the same level as the House Republican budget, growing from $552 billion in FY 2014 to $678 billion in FY 2023. It is the position of the RSC that to “provide for the common defense,” as called for both in the preamble to the Constitution, as well as Article I, Section 8, is the first duty of government. President Reagan was right that budgetary decisions should be based on a sound defense strategy, not the other way around. It is both unwise and unreasonable to expect that America’s defense should be constrained in order to provide funding for programs that are constitutionally questionable or under-performing.

No matter how much they may criticize other aspects of the federal government, conservatives love the warfare state and its military. (They also love contributions from defense contractors.)

The RSC budget proposes to safeguard Social Security by raising the full-retirement age to 70 to reflect longevity and changing the formula for cost of living adjustments (COLA) by adopting a more accurate measure of inflation. It proposes to save Medicare by slowly increasing the Medicare eligibility age and transitioning to a solvent premium-support system, as proposed by the House Republican Budget – in 2019. This reform, we are told, “would have no impact on individuals 60 and older”; that is, those who vote.

What the “conservative” RSC budget is proposing is that the two main pillars of the welfare state – Social Security and Medicare – be propped up instead of taken down. Even though these two programs are immoral welfare programs that foster dependency, redistribute income, transfer wealth from one generation to another, and shift responsibility from the individual to society, no one was expecting that any Republican budget – conservative or otherwise – would call for their immediate and wholesale elimination. But certainly at the very least there should have been some sort of recognition of the nature of these programs, recommendations for their gradual and humane demise, and substantial reductions in their funding.

This, of course, would be politically unpopular. That is why Republicans who criticize welfare and entitlements can still defend Social Security as insistently and incessantly as Democrats. That is why conservatives who attack government programs and spending can still talk about safeguarding and saving the very programs beloved by liberals.

The “Back to Basics” of the “conservative” Republican budget only means to go back to the level of government that existed during the Bush years. It shows that Republicans are firmly committed to the welfare/warfare state.

The Republican Party is hopeless statist and interventionist at home and abroad. It cannot be reformed. It cannot be made libertarian. It cannot be re-branded. It cannot be trusted to form a coalition with libertarians. It is the enemy of the Constitution, fiscal responsibility, limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty; that is, everything it claims to stand for. And why would anyone want to bring the party back to its roots? The roots of the Republican Party are intertwined with Abe Lincoln and his senseless war, bad economic policies, attacks on civil liberties, and violations of the Constitution. It is, after all, the Party of Lincoln.

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