Thursday, August 24, 2006

Who SHOULD win this November

Given that it is possible that Democrats could regain control of the House of Representatives this November thoughts are turning to what that might mean for the nation. Phil Kerpen takes on that issue in today's NRO:

Does the House GOP majority — after delivering a record number of pork-barrel earmarks, an enormous new entitlement program, and most recently a giant minimum-wage increase — deserve to become a minority this November? This question, once unthinkable among fiscal conservatives, is now a common topic of conversation in gatherings of limited-government analysts and activists in Washington.

In his excellent new book, Buck Wild, which details how the House GOP degenerated from the Contract With America to its present state, Stephen Slivinski of the Cato Institute concludes a chapter with this provocative question: “Even if you don’t agree that a divided government would make us better off, can you really argue — based on the evidence here — that it would make us worse off?” I’m not so sure.

Slivinski’s data show that the growth of government is far more rapid under periods of united control, with one party running the House, Senate, and White House, than when the House is controlled by the party not in the White House. Real per capita federal spending, which is adjusted for inflation and population growth, has increased at a 3.1 percent annual rate under Bush, faster than every president since Lyndon Johnson. This spending spree fits a larger historical trend with respect to divided government: Surveying more than forty years of data, Slivinski found that per capita government spending grows at an average inflation-adjusted rate of 3.4 percent under united government, versus only 1.5 percent under divided government.

There is reason to doubt that divided government, specifically in the next Congress, will limit spending. Bush, simply, has shown no appetite for cutting spending, and his cooperation with Democrats on landmark legislation like the No Child Left Behind Act suggests partisanship may not be the reason. When Bush did have a Democratic Senate to contend with, spending grew considerably faster at 4.3 percent annually than his overall 3.1 percent average. While Bush’s spending priorities would be largely at odds with a Democratic House, it’s possible that a Democratic House takeover would be a quid pro quo in which everyone’s pet projects grow.

The fact is that President Bush is not a conservative. He is conservative on some issues, maybe more than half of them, but he is not a "movement conservative". Advancing the cause of conservatism is not one of his goals. He honestly believes that big activist government is good for the nation.

This makes it very unlikely that he will find himself at odds with a Democrat House in the same way that President Clinton was with a Republican one. Bush's sincere belief in big government coupled with his extreme reluctance to use the veto will likely mean an explosion of spending unlike anything seen in US history. Unless the Senate, which will certainly stay in Republican hands puts on the brakes.

The Senate might do that, but then it might not. It is possible that the Democrats will make some gains in the Senate this November. A larger Democrat minority coupled with those liberal Republicans like McCain and Graham could give the Democrats effective control of the Senate as well as the House.

There is another issue besides spending. That is taxes. Kerpen continues:
Spending is only half the equation for fiscal conservatives, and the GOP is light years better on taxes than spending. The 2003 tax bill was a stunning supply-side success, restoring investor confidence and fueling a dramatic economic expansion. The expansion has, ironically, filled federal coffers and enabled the spending binge, but it also has created millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of shareholder wealth. Because major tax hikes are scheduled to occur automatically on January 1, 2011 — increasing the capital-gains tax rate by 33 percent, the dividend rate by 133 percent, and the top marginal income-tax rate by 13 percent — a prolonged period of gridlock, lasting through the next two Congresses, could cause real economic damage on the tax side.

It’s clear from the fact that this discussion is even occurring that the Republican majority has a dismal record on limiting spending. The party has lost its fiscal compass. If the Republicans do lose the House this cycle, it will be hard to argue, based on spending policy, that they deserved otherwise. The ideal scenario for fiscal conservatives would probably be a brief period in the wilderness, a single cycle in which the GOP could regroup and refocus on the core fiscal issues that powered the Reagan revolution, led by a presidential candidate with a genuine commitment to spending restraint. But there are no guarantees in politics, and the Democrats could instead hold onto control, starting an era of even bigger government.

Of course the problem with letting the Democrats have control of even one house of the legislature for even two years is the war. The global war on the Islamofascists of which Iraq is the primary battlefield.

The conventional wisdom this year is that the mid-term elections are going to be a referendum on the war. That may be as wrong as most conventional wisdom, but it is still believed. The nut case left is exerting control over the Democrat Party and if the Party wins this November the dailykos crowd will claim credit and the mainstream media will back them 100%. In that environment it will be hard for the Democrats not to pay them off by cutting and running in Iraq.

It must also be remembered that the new nutroots left is as anti-Semitic as a Nuremberg Rally. If the Democrat Party puts them in the driver's seat they will throw Israel to the wolves. Not by cutting them off, but by using the USA's enormous influence to arm-twist them into making suicidal concessions to their blood enemy.

Under ideal circumstances losing the House to the Democrats this year could light a fire under the Republican Party. It could frighten them enough to come back to their conservative principals and purge out the RINO's who do more harm than good (McCain and his wretched little hand puppet Lindsay Graham and the rest of the backstabbing seven).

But it could just as easily go the other way.

I think the safest course is to remember that the nation is at war and vote for the only party that will try to win. If the people do not know or care about that the nation is doomed anyway.