Free Markets, Free People

Easy come, easy go

Today, Rep. Mike Pence and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Chair and Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference, led a blogger conference call. The representatives stayed on point throughout the call:

  • On the economy generally and on the Democrats’ budget proposal specifically, they repeatedly said the Democrats are spending, borrowing and taxing too much.
  • They hammered on the Democrats’ proposal as bad for families and small businesses, including family farms.  They emphasized the role of small businesses in job creation.
  • They said they believed in free markets, fiscal restraint and tax relief as the keys to growth.
  • To that effect, they said Senate and House Republicans would be cooperating closely to promote those messages over the next several weeks and then unveil an alternative budget proposal of their own, which they promise will be a bold, clear contrast with that of the Democrats.

I expected something along these lines, and I don’t object to the sentiment or disagree with their diagnosis of the Democrats’ budget. They’ve identified what’s wrong with the Democrats’ plan, they’ve developed a strategy for responding with their own alternative, and they want to get everyone on record as either supporting the Democrats’ messy bill or the ideal Republican vision.

The first question went to Quin Hillyer over at AmSpec, who asked how unified we can expect the GOP response to be if a Republican leader like Lamar Alexander broke to vote for the omnibus spending bill. Pence acknowledged that he and Sen. Alexander had a difference of opinion on that one, but hastened to add that Sen. Alexander had voted for all the limiting amendments and had voted against the stimulus, etc.

For my part, I asked the representatives why, in light of Republicans’ so-far unsuccessful attempts to bring “clean” Republican versions of bills to the floor for debate, their alternative budget would be different.

Rep. Pence answered that Republicans would be given the opportunity on this one. The Republican House leadership is working closely with the budget committee, and specifically with Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking Republican on that committee. There are some limitations on how quickly they can move their alternative and get a CBO estimate done on it, but they’re going to use the interim to expose problems with the Democrats’ budget before unveiling their alternative.

Rep. Morris Rodgers said that it was important that it goes to the House floor for debate, and that they wanted the difference in approach to be clear to the American people, too.

As I said earlier, this is about what I expected – when your party is some 70 seats down in the House and retains only the most meager leverage in the Senate, having lost all credibility, you need to remind people that you at least remember what a conservative is supposed to want.

I just hope that’s not all they have in their playbook. It’s much easier to present a principled image when you’re out of power and have no sway over whether a given bill will pass.

Assurances that the GOP will remain so principled when they regain a measure of power won’t carry a lot of weight without some kind of binding commitments – changing the structure and practices of the party rather than the short-term tactics. After all, misbehavior that receded smoothly when the majority last changed hands can come back just as readily. Easy come, easy go.

* Cross-posted from The Next Right

14 Responses to Easy come, easy go

  • “Assurances that the GOP will remain so principled…won’t carry a lot of weight without

  • to continue—

    without some kind of binding commitments…”

    Perhaps something like the Contract With America? I know politicians hate commiment, but it worked before.

    I do not like this new format.

  • Is there anything, ANYTHING, that gives us one bit of evidence that we should trust any of these politicians?  I do not trust them at all.  If they ever get back in power they will revert to their old ways in a heartbeat.  They are nothing more than sacks of equine excrement.  And the democrats are worse!

    Man, that was cathartic!  Unfortunately, it is also truthfully how I feel.

  • I agree with timactual and jjmurphy, and I expect most (if not all) of the regular commenters here believe the same: the GOP in Congress has done NOTHING to lead us to trust their word on ANYTHING.  Yes, there are some “good” representatives and senators, people who don’t look at the budget as a device to raid the treasury to their own benefit.  However, most of them seem little or no better than their democrat (spit) counterparts; the only thing that differentiates the GOP from the dems (spit) is that the GOP doesn’t want to spend quite so much, quite so fast, and is not quite so breathtaking in its arrogance and hypocrisy.

    I’m not sure even a “contract” such as jjmurphy suggests would persuade me.  The GOP broke the CWA; why should we believe that they won’t break any new “contract”?

    Here’s the deal: when I see the GOP refuse ALL earmarks, oppose ALL tax increases, and oppose ANY budget that is not balanced, I’ll start believing that they are serious.  Any mealy-mouthed talk about taking the best deal they can, not expecting perfection, etc, won’t cut it and will merely reinforce my opinion that they are liars.  If they want to sweeten the pot by proposing pay cuts for the Congress and their staff, reductions in the Congressional budget, and making binding ethics rules with serious punishments for members who violate those rules, THEN I’ll start really believing that they’re serious about reform and hence fit to take the reins again.

    • So, no support for the party until everyone in it is perfect?
      See, I just don’t see how that’s a credible threat.  First, we have no assurances that they’ll continue their good behavior when they regain the majority.  And second, this is coalition politics — they know that they just need the plurality that can’t stand the Democrat anymore.  We should be outlining a path back to that plurality that is binding, so that we can expect better from them in the future from them.

      What I’d like to see is more along the lines of what Jon Henke proposed here.

      • I’m not looking for perfection.  But this is a matter of my trust.  Democrats never had it and never will.  The Republicans lost it.  They need to try and earn it back.  It will take a lot of “actions”, not words, to do so.   What can they do to earn it back?  Probably nothing in all honesty.   I’ve been burned too many times by them.  But they can earn back my vote.  How?  Act like the party of small government, and fight for it tooth and nail.  Elect new party leaders.  Ones that actually believe in small government, and NOT reaching across the aisle for convenience.  Start acting like they believe in a future for America where government is not the answer to everything.  Where Americans take responsibility for their actions and enjoy the rewards of good decision or suffer the consequences of bad decisions.  Stand for a future of freedom and liberty, d**m it!

        I like Henke’s transparency suggestions.  It would be a start

      • So, no support for the party until everyone in it is perfect?

        Well, they don’t have to be perfect, but they have to be something other than what they are today.

        jjmurphy has this right. It’s a matter of building trust, and we’ve passed the point at which they can assuage us with mere words. Just how stupid would we be to continue to believe that they would stick with small-government principles just because they say so when the last fifteen years shows the exact opposite?
        The typical GOP representative has, as his first priority, holding onto his seat. If he’s in a safe district, which most are thanks to gerrymandering that creates homogeneous districts, then he can focus on preserving his salary and his perks, and building up that federal pension. He may talk a good game about limited government, but it’s just a game. He was long ago convinced that such talk is for the rubes; a true enlightened politician is supposed to appeal to moderates and keep those small-government fanatics at bay.
        I don’t think most of them care that much whether they’re in the majority or minority; their lives don’t change that much. They still get to go to fancy dinners and receive obeisance when they visit their district. Why should they go out on a small-government limb? From their point of view, it’s far better to talk a good game about small government, and then simply go-along-get-along when the real decisions have to be made. 
        Ronald Reagan’s election and the Contract with America takeover of Congress *proves* that a limited government philosophy and focus can win, in fact can win big. But current GOP politicians have been talked out of believing that fact by Beltway collective insiders, including left-leaning media. They have taken on an assumption that small government types are not really very important, and not critical to actually being elected.
        Giving them more chances, or wagging fingers in their face, is not going to change their minds. It’s a losing game for us and a winning game for business-as-usual GOP reps. They’ll take whatever slack we give them and keep on satisfying Beltway insiders instead of us, because it’s a successful strategy for them.
        We have to do something game changing to have an effect. I’m not sure what that is, but part of it must be to convince business-as-usual GOP reps that their strategy is a failure. 
        Current GOP politicians have effectively make the following bet: they have decided that most small government advocates will grudgingly back them as long as they are a few percent better than statist Democrats. We saw plenty of evidence for that during the election, as we were told that we had to hold our nose and vote for McCain. Any intellectually honest small government advocate *knew* McCain was not a good candidate to advance any small government agenda. But we were supposed to take him anyway because we feared the other choice.
        Before anything can change, they must be convinced to abandon that bet.
        Until they take some tangible and significant action to show they really mean it, we would be gullible fools to trust small govenrment rhetoric again. They must be convinced that their continued dance with the moderates and Democrats to simply please enough people to win will no longer work.
        Such a strategy has tremendous risk and must be considered a long term bet. But being hard-nosed, and insisting on consistent action in support of small government principles is the only possible way to halt the exponential growth of government and debt before that exponential growth results in meltdown.

        • I think I’m in basic agreement with you and jjmurphy.  I’d prefer to see structural change, limiting the capacity for abuse, over pieties about individual abuses like earmarks or congressional salaries (not that I particularly like earmarks or paying for a fluffy pension). 

          And I don’t think it will happen unless it starts with imposing binding limits on themselves — not just promises or behaving well while they’re in the minority, but changes in how the party is run day-to-day.  That way, their sudden discovery of a wish to limit government isn’t just code for limiting the other party.

      • I agree with jjmurphy and Billy Hollis.  The suggestions by Jon Henke would be a great place to start, and I absolutely agree with his basic tenent: the GOP must show its good faith by first applying the new rules to themselves and not cynically using them merely to bash the filthy democrats.

        Taking the high road is never easy, but the GOP had better make the effort if they don’t want to be a permanent minority party.

        Brian Pick… we have no assurances that they’ll continue their good behavior when they regain the majority.

        That’s where we, the voters, come in.  If we accept, as we have for far too long, a GOP that doesn’t live up to high standards only because it is a (slightly) better alternative to democrat (spit) rule, then the GOP will remain the cynical mess of opportunists and RINO’s that it is today.  If, however, we make it clear that we will not accept bad behavior, even at the cost of losing some elections, then (hopefully) the party will get the message and stay on the straight and narrow.  Better to throw a Ted Stevens out and lose the seat in the short term to a democrat (spit) than keep trash like him in the party.

  • And I don’t care how long they’ve been working on WordPress, Dale’s comment editor was way better.

  • QandO and Dale,

    You’re looking at the wrong data from 2006 IRS reports.  You need to go down to the next set of rows, “Taxable returns,” and then work from Column 22, “Taxable income.”  You get much lower tax revenues (as does Obama’s budget, where he indicates that the $200k/250k single/married raise to Clinton-era rates brings in only $33.4 billion extra per year, in 2008 GDP and $ terms, if you take his projection for 2014 and lop off the GDP growth is projects between 2008 and then.)