Republicans are losers. By “losers” I mean: They often lose elections (especially at the presidential level); and even when they win, nothing changes, despite their intentions. Taxes, government programs, government spending and debt, government regulations — they all keep growing and growing, regardless of who’s in charge, Republicans or Democrats.
A beautifully clear answer came at a Republican fundraiser earlier this week.
“The last guy to expand Medicaid was Ronald Reagan.” It was with lines like that that Ohio Republican governor and likely presidential candidate John Kasich rubbed a small audience of influential conservatives in New York City the wrong way Wednesday night…
…Sparks flew when [conservative economist and radio host Larry] Kudlow gave the floor to Manhattan Institute scholar and Forbes healthcare blogger Avik Roy, who asked: “Is it fair to say you support repealing Obamacare except for the Medicaid expansion?” Roy added that Kasich has been asserting that Medicaid critics on the right “are going to hell.”
Kasich, who has expanded Medicaid by accepting federal money in Ohio, repeated the biblically-oriented arguments he has made before, suggesting that balancing budgets is not the question politicians would get asked in the afterlife, but what they did for the poor. [reported at Newsmax.com 3/26/15]
This incident eloquently illustrates my point in yesterday’s Daily Dose of Reason column. In that article, I asked if the “deeply Christian beliefs of service to others, and self-sacrifice as the central purpose of life, prevail when it comes time to cut taxes, cut or eliminate social programs, or put Americans on notice that Medicare’s days/years are numbered?”
Governor Kasich is a Reagan conservative who opposed Obamacare when it passed but — to the confusion and frustration of many other Republicans — has willingly expanded Medicaid in his own state to support Obamacare, something he did not have to do. His reason for doing so? Because service to the poor, he upholds, is the most important purpose of human life.
I don’t know how else to put it: Free markets, private property and profit-seeking capitalism are not consistent with the moral ideal that service to others is the most important reason for living. Economic freedom presupposes, morally speaking, that each and every individual’s life is an end in and of itself.
It’s either self-interest and freedom; or self-sacrifice and welfare state/entitlement/socialism. It’s one or the other. Democrats are clear on their choice. Republicans seem unwilling to make it. At least, Republicans other than John Kasich.
If you believe, as Gov. Kasich does, and as many Republicans (particularly Christian conservatives) do, that the primary moral purpose of life is selfless service to others, then expanding Medicaid — along with any other government program — is a no-brainer. You can argue over the technical and administrative details, but there’s no basis for opposing the intentions of the program itself. When programs such as Medicare and Medicaid flounder or fail even on their own terms, the solution is simply spend more money, restrain freedom, or both.
The only way for Republicans to become winners is to offer a completely different alternative from what we have. The way to do so would be to argue something like this: “Human beings do not exist to serve. Human beings are entitled to live their lives for their own sakes, so long as they do not impose fraud or physical harm on another. Government has no business forcing some people to pay for others’ medical care, or anything else. Medicare and Medicaid were a moral mistake, and an injustice; that’s why they’re hopelessly inefficient and wildly expensive in practice. Let’s debate how most efficiently to phase out these programs, and replace them with a free market for medical care, including a totally private realm for voluntary charity.”
Whether such a viewpoint would sell or pass Congress and the White House is another story. But at least it would be an honest and authentic alternative — the only alternative to what we have now.
At first, the overwhelming majority would no doubt reject such a message as “too extreme.” But sooner or later, as things got worse under the Kasich-Obama approach to things, more and more people would want some kind of fundamental alternative. Such an alternative would be ready and waiting, unlike today when all we get is the same fundamental “me too” approach masked by two parties who differ on almost nothing, aside from abortion and gay marriage.
And change might come sooner than you think, because when you look at the numbers and downward spiral of our government entitlement programs, which will require more cuts, more debt, and still more restrictions on freedom, dissatisfaction will only grow. We will desperately need a free market alternative to the calls and rationalizations for dictatorship which pose a real danger as the entitlement state comes crashing down.
Once you have an authentic alternative, the possibility for changing course and direction — in a year, in a decade, or at some time in the future — becomes possible. Until or unless we have an authentic alternative, no change is ever possible.
Many conservatives, including John Kasich (and he’s certainly not alone among Republicans), do not believe that human beings are entitled to live their lives for their own sakes, which includes keeping all of what they earn, produce or create. When Gov. Kasich claims it’s his moral responsibility to take care of the poor, he’s doing so with other people’s money (and debt). He’s legally enforcing his moral code (the same moral code as Obama’s) that we are all our brother’s keepers, and that it’s government’s job to enforce that moral code. He’s no different from, or better than, Obama in this respect. If it’s sacrificial brother’s keeperism you want, then stick with Obama over the Republicans, because he will never blink or hesitate about it.
I recognize that conservatives like Kasich and others would respond, “People do have a right to live their lives for their own sakes. But only to a point. When you die and go to heaven, you’ll be asked not how happy you were … but how much you served.”
Isn’t this the very thing Obama and his progressive fellows claim?
There are no compromises in matters of moral principle. You’re either entitled to your life, or you aren’t.
If you are, then you’re not obliged to give so much as one penny to the government for social services if you do not wish to do so.
If the central purpose of life is not to flourish, be self-responsible and be happy, but only to serve others, then our politicians on the Republican side should just come out with it: “We agree with Obama. We are our brothers’ keepers. Only we want to be in charge of the keeping, instead of them.” John Kasich, in his revealing comments, essentially did this.
Whether Obama’s and Kasich’s philosophy of service to others is done by a politician with a “D” or an “R” next to his or her name is immaterial. The point is: On the most important issue, they agree. That’s why nothing changes, regardless of whether the “D” or the “R” is in power.
This is what I mean when I say we need a second party, not a third one. To have a real second party, we first have to change our approach to morality.
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