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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cart and horse: fini

Posted by: Hammer / 12:52 PM

A final post on the relationship between evangelicals and the Republican party. Here's an August 12 email from the Family Research Council:

In 1994 Republicans swept into power with the premise of fiscal responsibility. At the time total government outlays were $1.46 trillion. In 2004, ten years into the "Republican Revolution," government outlays had increased to $2.29 trillion. Congress has lost its way. The recently passed highway bill surpassed President Bush's requested funding level by $2.5 billion. However, abandoning veto threats and fiscal discipline, President Bush signed the legislation into law Wednesday. In 1987 President Reagan vetoed a transportation bill that had 187 "earmarks" (generally pork barrel spending requested by one member). The 2005 transportation bill, H.R. 3, has 6,500 such earmarks - at a total cost of $24 billion.

Some of these pork-laden projects are enough to make anyone turn vegetarian. For example, fifty Alaskan residents on Gravina Island will be getting $220 million for a bridge (that is $4.4 million per resident). The legislation is jammed with such bridge projects, bike paths, hiking trails, landscaping plans and even a few ferry boats - all generously subsidized by federal taxpayers. To quote humorist Will Rogers, "This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer." Clearly the best way to get Congress to curb spending is by starving it. If families are allowed to keep more of the money they have earned, then Washington will have to learn to live within the same budget constraints as we do.

Clearly? Two things are clear: whoever wrote this email has not been paying attention, but has been crimping from Grover Norquist.

Under Bush, we have been starving the beast. Tax receipts fell by 30% from 2000 to 2003 in constant dollars (Excel file). Expenditures were up 13.5% over the same period. Note the reference to Saint Reagan, with the implication that he would not have permitted such pork. From 1980 to 1988, government expenditures grew by 19%. From 1992 to 2000, expenditures grew by 10%. Who is your financial responsibility daddy now?

One more fun fact. In the first 6 years of the Republican revolution, spending grew by 9%. According to projections (which will likely prove to be low because of ongoing costs of the war in Iraq), the second 6 years will see an increase of 22%.

Back to the cart/horse question. Why is an evangelical family organization parroting Grover Norquist talking points? There's no Biblical justification for starving the beast, is there? If the evangelical community leads the Republican party on social and cultural issues, why does it follow on tax and spending issues?

I think the answer is that rank and file evangelicals are being sold out by their leaders who pimp RightThink in their newsletters to aid the party. If the FRC wants to do tax policy, it ought to offer policy that advances the interests of its members. Instead of doing that, the FRC is part of a Faustian bargain with Federalists Gone Wild, whose only religion is cutting taxes.

Maybe the FRC et al see no real choice. They are committed to their culture war issues. The Republicans side with the FRC. The only way to advance their culture war agenda is to convince their membership that cutting taxes for the wealthy few during a time of war is good policy.

But I do see a choice. The FRC could use its voice to push an economic agenda that would actually help its members. It could try to drive Republican tax policy the way it drives the values agenda. The FRC could even remain silent on tax and spending issues. But the FRC pimps those issues. Sells its members a bill of dishonest goods. It sells an agenda that fleeces its believers then compliments them on their tan.

1 Comments:

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