Sunday, February 22, 2009

Who is fiscally responsible?

I was asked about the Libertarian Party claim that Republicans are as bad on "fiscal responsibility" as Democrats. All - 95% - of us rank-and-file Republicans fought the increasing spending at every point, both under President Clinton and President Bush. It was a major disappointment with President Bush, that he cared little about responsible spending; more on him later. And we couldn't believe that Republicans in Congress like Jerry Lewis and Ted Stevens thought we could keep control of Congress by buying off every congressperson's pet project. Part of this is the disease that infects every elected politician: "Now that I have the power I can help project A and city B and put more money on C and hire my friends' sons and daughters so they will hire mine." It starts with good intentions in most cases, but it tempts every elected official and infects most of them. When making this comparison should you compare who was president or who controlled Congress? All spending must originate in the House of Representatives, then goes to the Senate, then to the president. So maybe Congress should get the credit/blame. Should President Clinton get credit for what the Republicans forced on him in 1995? Clinton so overreached that after 2 years the Republicans took Congress. In 1994 the Republicans nationalized the election by running on the Contract with America. The Contract said that if you elect Republicans we will bring the following proposals for a vote within 100 days. The list included 8 items about running Congress that they enacted on the first day and the 10 "within 100 days" items. The first was "1. THE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT: A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out- of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses. (Bill Text) (Description)" Clinton, our Senator Patty Murray and all the Dems fought it. They knew it was popular, so they didn't attack it head-on. But they said "you won't like the cuts necessary" and "it can't be done." As they were losing it was fun to watch. Rush put together sound clips of Clinton "a balanced budget in 8 years" "5 years is too short" "in 7 years"... And the budget Clinton proposed at the same time - in January, 1995 - projected $200 billion deficits for its entire horizon - 10 years, I think. So Newt and the Republicans passed the act for the balanced budget and line-item veto. The line-item veto didn't hold up constitutionally (our governor has this). But the Republican Congress passed a balanced budget - I think it was two years later - and for the duration of Clinton's term. When Bush took over a recession had just started which is the right time to do some deficit spending. But he didn't ask for discipline when the economy got cooking again in 2003 or 04. Does Clinton get credit for what he fought against? Or do the Republicans who made it happen? In the measure the LIbertarians use here Clinton gets credit. The LIbertarian Party never elects anyone to an office higher than dog catcher, except one. The only Libertarian in state or national elected office got there by running as a Republican - Congressman Ron Paul. Here in Washington in 2000 they were proud that they "made the difference" in the Senate race. The Libertarian candidate got more than the gap. But libertarians agree with Republicans on much more than with the Dems and they way they vote Gorton would have stayed in. But they took out Senator Slade Gorton, the Republican, and gave us Sen. Maria Cantwell. So they "scored an own goal," they scored for their opponent. That's typical in the history of the Libertarian Party - the history they are proud of. I welcome libertarians to our political process and arena of ideas. Their research done by Cato Institute and the ideas published in Reason Magazine are worthy of the time of any conservative, including me.