I am a life-long Republican. I worked on numerous political campaigns (most lost), was a senior aide to two Republican Congressmen, a Republican Governor from a big state, and volunteered on Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign for president. (I’m sorry to report I was for Gerald Ford in 1976, but that was a youthful indiscretion.) I was there when Reagan made his official announcement in November 1979 at the New York City Hilton Hotel, and walked to the front of the room and shook the Governor’s hand after he finished.
Many of my friends are Republicans. I am hearing from them now about how awful President Barack Obama is, and how the country is in big trouble. I, too, am distraught over the country’s direction, particularly on federal government spending and debt.
But we Republicans need to take a long, hard look in the mirror. We elected George W. Bush president, and a GOP Congressional majority. And what was their record this decade on government spending and bureaucratic largess?
Just about every Obama spending program that is shocking conservatives has a precedent in the Bush-Republican era:
–Don’t like the Obama national health care plans? The Bush Republicans passed a new prescription drug Medicare entitlement without a dedicated funding mechanism.
–Don’t like the $787b Obama-Pelosi-Reid fiscal stimulus? Everyone has conveniently forgotten that Bush passed his own $152b stimulus in February 2008 with the same misguided economic assumptions. He called it a “booster shot” for the U.S. economy. It was also paid for with federal debt.
–Don’t like cap-and-trade? Who jump-started the big government energy crusade this decade? Remember that infamous 2006 State-of-the-Union speech about America being “addicted to oil”? And the jacked up federal subsidies for ethanol and government green energy? Yes, that was George W. Bush and the GOP.
–Don’t like the Wall Street, housing and auto company taxpayer bailouts? Once again, they are all Bush programs. If I told you George Bush’s taxpayer bailout of AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is 2.6% of GDP, and could go as high as 6% of GDP, would that help you get to sleep tonight?
–Don’t like the special federal subsidies for favored non-profits like ACORN or Democratic Party allies in the arts community? Who started federal subsidies for churches (the Faith-based Initiative) with taxpayers dollars? And now that the Democrats have their hands on that program, they are of course starting to steer those taxpayer dollars to left-wing churches.
All these Republican programs were hatched when the federal government was already running large deficits, and the GOP was passing big tax cuts and large defense spending increases.
Give President Obama credit for one thing: He is only doing what he said he would do, in his books, and his campaign literature, and in his state senate and U.S. Senate voting record. Maybe the shocking thing is we have a politician on our hands who is actually implementing his campaign platform. It may be reckless, or doing unimaginable damage to our country, but he said this was his plan.
There are a lot of reasons the GOP bit the forbidden fruit of big government this decade, and plenty of blame to go around. I cheered Bush on in his first term, and sent him a re-election donation. And yes, there were many good things President Bush did, from school vouchers to Health Savings Accounts to deploying missile defense.
But it is not much of a legacy when those programs are all getting shredded, as they are. And it is not much of a legacy when the American people are being swamped by the federal bureaucracy, as they are.
If the GOP is ever going to be worthy of the American people’s trust again, it has to come to grips with its reckless spending this decade. It set the pace, and gave top cover, for all of the subsequent numbing actions of the Democrats. Perhaps we Republicans owe the voters an apology. Better yet, we owe them a plan to roll back the bureaucratic welfare state, and restore our freedoms and prosperity.
Find Archived Articles: