Principles matter — but so does strategy. In order to avoid a government shutdown, House Republicans keep extending existing big spending budgets every two weeks. These “stopgap” budgets may have some cuts, but not nearly what Republicans are proposing and still less than the cuts actually needed. Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate gladly agree to all these stopgaps. It gives them a chance to bash Republicans, who want to trim the massive multi-trillion dollar deficit by a few hundred billion rather than keep spending, as Democrats want to do. It gives Democrats a chance to say, “If the government shuts down, it’s your fault, not ours.” It also gives Obama a chance to preach about “moderation” and “meeting in the middle,” the first of which people mistake for being reasonable, the second which he displays no intention of ever doing.
So far, the Democrats have got the Republicans where they want them. The proof of this assertion lies in the Republicans’ reluctance to risk a government shutdown. But even Republicans are probably smart enough to realize that Democrats will never, ever waver on socialist programs and socialist spending. So what are Republicans waiting for? They seem to assume that the last government shutdown of 1995-96, when Bill Clinton was President, was a defeat for them. But that decade ended in the achievement of some Republican goals. The liberal Bill Clinton actually signed a capital gains tax cut, was prevented from raising income taxes further, and the budget was balanced. (Republicans also did some bad things under Clinton’s term, and later under Bush’s term, but that’s a separate discussion.) Also, Americans had an opportunity back then to see that most of what the government does is “non-essential” since the shutdown resulted only in the closing down of “non-essential” services — i.e. government functions other than defense, and the welfare/retirement/medical checks upon which the federal government has made a majority of Americans dependent. If Big Government is so essential, why does society not collapse when it shuts down? This contradiction is for the liberals and Democrats to address, not their opponents.
What are the Republicans waiting for? Do they think they can humiliate or intimidate Obama into coming to their side — or even halfway? Nothing in what he relays in private meetings, according to Republican leaders themselves, suggests this will ever happen. Will the liberal members of the U.S. Senate be persuaded to vote the House Republican way? Not a chance in hell. Either Republicans will have to go along with increased Democratic spending (falsely called “budget cuts” by Obama and his party’s leaders), or they’ll have to hold firm and hold the Democrats responsible for shutting down the government.
Who’s to blame if the government shuts down? The answer to this question depends on what a majority of Americans want. When I say “a majority of Americans,” I’m referring primarily to the swing-vote Independents, those who vote Democratic in half the elections and Republican in the other half. Sooner or later, these people are going to have to make up their minds. They are the ones who heard Obama say in 2008, “Let’s spread the wealth around.” Even a fifth-grader can understand that this means: “Let’s have socialism, once and for all.” And these very same people turned right around two years later and voted for the most free-market, small government and anti-socialist Congress in many a decade.
Which form of government do you want, people?
Democrats don’t have too much further to go before implementing full socialism. Activist/filmmaker Michael Moore, a prominent if scruffy Democratic figure, is running around proclaiming that all wealth is public property. If all-out socialism ever arrives in America, Michael Moore will be its spiritual leader. Republicans, even the best among them, cannot hope to establish a state of laissez-faire capitalism overnight, because the United States has sadly crossed the tipping point where it’s now more socialist than free. Many Republicans, even some Tea Party types, don’t even want unhampered capitalism and full-fledged individual rights; they just want a measure of them, a lightening of the socialist load.
But despite all this confusion, you still have to decide — which direction? Do you want to go in the capitalism, free market direction, in which government takes a hands off approach — or in the big spending, Big Government direction of control and redistribution? You can’t just stand at the crossroads forever, undecided and unsure. Sooner or later, you have to decide which road you’re going down, even if you don’t know yet how far you’re going to go.
I wish Republican leaders would stop stating the obvious, that Obama isn’t budging on his socialist convictions. Nobody expected him to, and his core constituency doesn’t even want him to do so. None of that is news. What would be news is Republicans standing for something opposite to liberalism and socialism for a change. For a century, Republicans have been the party of less expensive socialism, or less expansive socialism. They usually oppose Democratic programs when they’re passed, but fight to the death for their preservation when those programs go bankrupt down the road, as they always do. How about a different kind of Republican party, one which stands for and acts on completely opposite ideas, principles and politics from the socialist liberal Democrats?
I’m still waiting.