This article is from The Objective Standard, Vol. 5, No. 4.
Government spending and intervention in the economy are destroying America. The government is amassing obscene debt (now approaching $14 trillion), debasing the dollar, causing massive unemployment (now at 9.8 percent), and wreaking general economic havoc. But in the 2010 midterm elections, the Republicans—courtesy of the Tea Party movement—gained control of the House, picked up several seats in the Senate, and thus were granted an opportunity to begin the process of saving America.
Indications are that at least some in the GOP recognize and want to seize the opportunity. Republicans from John Boehner to Rand Paul to Mitch McConnell to Eric Cantor have said that their party’s new agenda will involve cutting spending, reducing the size of government, repealing all recent tax increases, stopping all the looming tax hikes, balancing the budget, and defunding and eventually repealing ObamaCare. Some Republicans are even talking about phasing out third-rail entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. This much is good news.
But talking about such actions and taking them are two different things, and the Republicans’ track record on following through is, to put it mildly, unimpressive. During election campaigns, Republicans always promise to reduce the size of government, repeal regulations, cut spending, and lower taxes; that is how they occasionally get elected. But once they are in office, they invariably take a different course.
Recall, for example, that from 1995 through 2006, Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate (except the latter from June 2001 and January 2003, due to Jim Jeffords’ switch to Independent)—and that, during four of those years, they did so under Republican President George W. Bush. What happened? Government expanded and spending increased—especially under Bush. During Bush’s first term, the Republicans passed, and Bush signed into law, among other things, the No Child Left Behind Act, Sarbanes-Oxley, the Medicare Prescription Drug Act, McCain-Feingold, new farm subsidies, and new tariffs on the steel and lumber industries. Nondefense discretionary spending during this time—with a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican president—increased by 25.3 percent (in real dollars). These were the biggest expansion of government and the greatest spending increase in more than thirty years.1
And while the Republicans actively expanded government and increased discretionary spending, what did they do toward changing laws to begin phasing out Social Security and Medicare? Absolutely nothing. They left these massive problems untouched.
Why? Why have Republicans historically been unable to walk their reduction talk—even when they have controlled both the legislative and executive branches? The answer is that Republicans are unable to name and uphold the only principle that would enable them to do so . . .