Principle-by-Number and America’s New Governing Majority

The recent government shutdown “compromise” is what happens when you play principle-by-numbers.

The Republican House leadership originally promised to cut no less than $100 billion from the multi-trillion dollar budget. Eventually they caved and settled for $60 billion — but not less! In the end, they went along with about $30-plus billion. They call it a victory, but so do the liberals and the Democrats. Who’s right?

The Democrats are, as usual. Not because they have the right ideas, but because their opponents are simply too damn … stupid. Democrats have (wrong) principles and stick by them. Republicans mouth (mostly right) principles of government, but they cannot defend them.

How does one morally defend limited government, the supposed principle animating the Republicans

to cut the government in the first place? Well, among other things you stand for individual rights. You defend the idea that the government has no right to force people to do things it considers in the public’s interest. When the government does this, it’s not really “government” deciding what is in the “public” interest. “Public” means everyone. A national defense? A standing army? Sophisticated weapons to deter aggression by foreign invaders and terrorists? By all means, those are in the public interest.

But in most cases — the great majority of the programs that the U.S. budget consists of that the Republicans agreed not to cut — the “public” interest consists of one group of politicians taking money/resources from one sector of the public to give to another. Once this is done even one time, it can never be cut. If National Public Radio doesn’t provide the best example of this point, I don’t know what does.

Throughout this debate, the Republican leadership argued that the deficit should be cut. They made the debate about numbers: First $100 billion in cuts, then $60 billion, and then finally $30 billion. They never argued why anything should be cut in the first place. It just should be cut — because. That’s the essence of principle-by-number.

Principles are qualitative, not quantitative. “Man has a right to live for his own sake, unencumbered by force.” That’s a principle that will slash budgets. “The budget deficit should be smaller than it is.” That’s a true statement, but it’s not a principle. In fact, the truth of the statement begs for a principle to defend it. From the likes of Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor — none were forthcoming.

This is more than a problem of communication. It’s an intellectual and moral problem the Republicans have. Boehner and Cantor actually seem to believe they won. Evidently they’re not perceptive enough to see that Democrats set them up along. “Oh, no you don’t!” Democrats screamed from day one. “No cuts at all! None!” They knew full well that this would bring the Republicans much closer to their desired level of cuts than the $100 billion being proposed. In fact, this budget is closer to what the Democrats probably would have come up with absent a new Republican majority. They surely would have kept NPR, kept ObamaCare funding and other socialized medicine programs in place, and kept the EPA intact — all things that the Republicans agreed to. It’s hard to believe that newscasters can ask with a straight face, “Well, who won? The Republicans or the Democrats?” Like there’s any question?!

Perhaps the real victors in this budget battle are the “moderate Republicans” — in other words, those who don’t stand for anything other than Democrat-lite. They have in John Boehner a leader they can count on, and they can now form a coalition with Democrats to have a governing majority. Theirs is a Big Government not quite as big as Democrats would like (i.e. infinite in size), but big enough to keep in place all the damage that Big Government has done, right up through and including Obama’s first two years in office. In Washington, ‘moderation’ is always the goal. ObamaCare and nationalized automobile/banking industries are the new ‘moderate.’

This is all a far cry from Boehner’s initial bragging that he’d cut government ‘every single week’ once he became Speaker. Half a pail of water thrown off an already sinking ship is nothing to brag about, Mr. Boehner.

It’s now up to the Tea Party to go back to the polls and keep repealing and replacing Republicans who mostly agree with Democrats, until America really does become a two-party system. We’re clearly not there yet. Democrats and Republicans won the budget battle; but America lost it.