Enough of This Glumness
February 1, 2013
This column by ACRU General Counsel and Senior Fellow for the Carleson Center for Public Policy (CCPP) Peter Ferrara was published January 30, 2013 on The American Spectator website.
Conservatives are still glum about the election, and the upper hand President Obama seems to have over Republicans. But the political stage has been framed far worse for conservatives and Republicans in the past.
In 1964, conservatives and Republicans were annihilated when the conservative leader Barry Goldwater was crushed in the election by more than 20 points. Democrats held 295 House seats to 140 for the Republicans, and in the Senate, Democrats held a filibuster-proof 67 seats, to 33 for the Republicans. This just 19 years after FDR had dominated American politics for a generation. The Republicans seemed dead, and conservatives were a disfavored minority within the Republican Party, distrusted as sure losers.
But in 1966, Republicans gained 47 House seats, and 3 in the Senate. Two years later, Richard Nixon won the White House, and was reelected in 1972 in an historic landslide, winning all but one state (Massachusetts).
By 1974, the Republicans seemed routed again. Watergate had forced Nixon to resign in disgrace, and the Republicans were annihilated again in the 1974 midterm elections. The Democrats gained 49 House seats, leading the Republicans 291 to 144, almost all the way back to 1964. Democrats gained 3 seats in the Senate, to lead the Republicans 60 to 38, with one Conservative Party Senator from New York, and one independent. In 1976, Democrat Jimmy Carter won back the White House from 8 years of Republican control.
But that was just a prelude to the Reagan domination of American politics for a generation, 24 years, after that. And during this time up until Reagan’s election, there was no Fox News, no conservative talk radio, no Internet and conservative blogosphere, and the Wall Street Journal editorial page did not blossom until the late 1970s.
Moreover, Republicans and conservatives only lost the 2012 election because millions of conservative voters stayed home, uninspired by the Northeast liberal Romney. This column tried to alert the public about that problem, in an offering entitled “RINO Romney Is the Least Electable.” But the Republicans still held the House majority, and hold complete control in 25 states with both the Governor and majorities in the legislature to only 14 for the Democrats.
Now Republicans and conservatives are on the comeback trail again. Suddenly, the upcoming issues do not favor Obama. And believe it or not, congressional Republicans are playing these issues right.
First up–the Sequester. If the Republicans do nothing, $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years in spending cuts from the baseline (what we were going to spend on our current course), go into effect. That includes $600 billion in defense spending Republicans and conservatives don’t want to cut, and $600 billion in domestic spending cuts Republicans and conservatives do want.
The Republicans can handle that–doing nothing. They should let the sequester spending cuts go into effect, and come back passing the full defense appropriations needed in the House, daring President Obama and the Democrats to fail to provide adequately for the nation’s defenses.
And Praise the Lord, that seems to be precisely what the Republicans are going to do, let the sequester spending cuts go into effect.
Republicans also have the upper hand under the Continuing Resolutions (CR) that now provide for federal spending. The current CR runs out on March 31, which means there will be a government shutdown then unless a new CR authorizes further spending. This gives the Republicans the leverage to impose a federal spending freeze on federal discretionary spending.
The House again should not negotiate over a new CR. They should just pass a CR providing for the continuation of the exact same spending levels for the next 6 months as in the prior CR, which just continued the same spending levels of the prior year. They can say that with trillion dollar plus deficits continuing now into the fifth year under President Obama, America cannot afford spending increases, which will nevertheless continue unabated for entitlement spending, which requires legislation just to reduce the growth in spending, let alone just holding spending constant.
Then the Republican leadership should hit the microphones with the message that their CR does not include any spending cuts. It just continues the exact same spending as in the past, and that is only for discretionary spending, with no change to entitlement spending. This will nullify Obama’s rhetoric that the Republicans are abandoning starving children and disabled seniors. And the Republicans must call him out for dishonesty if he continues with that foolish, irresponsible rhetoric, and the same for anyone else who echoes it. Conservatives need to step up and pound away on these points as well.
The message needs to also include the point that if President Obama and the Democrats disagree with the federal discretionary spending freeze, and want to spend more, they can specify what they want to spend by passing their own CR through the Senate. Then the House Republicans and the Senate Democrats can settle their differences in the House Senate Conference Committee. This will force the Democrats to clarify for everyone to see that the real dispute is that they want to increase spending more. If the Democrats want to argue that refusing to increase spending is a cut to spending, the Democrats can explain their baseline budgeting lies to the public.
This means no more negotiations behind closed doors at the White House. I am not saying the Republicans should refuse to talk to President Obama. But they need to act through the legislative process, as specified in the Constitution. If the Democrats want to spend more, they can specify what they want by passing their own CR through the Senate, and taking it to a House Senate Conference Committee. That is the legislative process specified in law, not closed-door negotiations at the White House. See your high school civics textbook. If the Democrats don’t act, then any government shutdown will clearly be their fault.
Deficits and Debt
Moreover, what has come out of the debt ceiling debate is that House Republicans are committed to passing a budget that eliminates the deficit within 10 years, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is prepared to produce a budget that is scored by CBO as doing precisely that. What only readers of this column know is that Ryan’s 2013 budget all but eliminated the deficit within 4 years, cutting Obama’s deficit by 86% by 2017. The budget would probably be entirely balanced by that year if scored dynamically, taking into account the lower spending, deficits, debt and tax rates proposed by that budget.
Finally, Republicans and conservatives are realizing the treasure they have with Paul Ryan’s budget, especially as compared to the budget Obama is going to propose, and that the Democrats will pass through the Senate, if they ever get around to doing their job, and obeying the law. Ryan’s budget will actually, over the long run, reduce federal spending substantially below the long-term, postwar, historical average of 20% of GDP. Moreover, what even conservatives have not realized, Ryan’s long-term spending savings do not come from spending cuts proposed far into the future. They come from the long-term effects of the entitlement reforms proposed to be adopted now, which is very different. Those spending savings, and the deficit elimination, will result in sharply declining federal debt as a percent of GDP, phasing down to zero, over the long term so no one gets hurt in any way (yes, that is the truth of the Ryan budgets, no one actually gets hurt in any real way).
In sharp contrast to the Ryan budget, the Obama and Senate Democrat budgets will propose sharply higher taxes to finance even more sharply higher spending, leaving continued record deficits and debt. That frames the budget issues perfectly for Republicans and conservatives, and maybe in 2014 the Republicans will finally find new consultants who can frame campaigns to take advantage of that advantage.
That leaves two crucial tasks for Republicans, joined by conservatives where possible. One is that Obama can no longer be allowed to make up what is in the Ryan budget, as he has done in the past. He has actually stood before audiences with a litany of supposed cuts in the Ryan budget that were totally fabricated by Obama’s OMB. And conservative as well as Republican voices need to be raised to savage him, verbally of course, when he does. And those conservative publications that are not effectively joining the fight in this regard need to be called out for their failure.
This raises the question of how to deal with a President who does lie as a matter of fundamental strategy–I have called it Calculated Deception–and draw that to the public’s attention. Just calling him a liar is not going to be the most effective counter. Perhaps a few House Republicans can draft and file Articles of Impeachment, on the Rep. Barbara Jordan standard for Richard Nixon. Democrat Jordan said that the one thing she know for sure out of Watergate is that Nixon had “lied to the American people.” “And I would impeach him for that reason alone,” she said.
When Articles of Impeachment are filed on these grounds, that will draw public attention to Obama’s dishonesty. Republicans can use Obama’s speeches on Ryan’s budget as their grounds for the Articles. The point is not to actually impeach him, which in his case will never be politically viable. The point is to draw public attention to the dishonesty of what he says about Ryan’s budgets.
The second crucial task is that the Republican-controlled House committees need to hold oversight hearings on wasteful and ineffective federal spending programs, documenting for the public the waste and ineffectiveness of much federal spending. OMB and GAO professionals have conducted and published program evaluations, which rate several federal programs as wasteful and/or ineffective. But if oversight hearings do not take notice of that work, and publicize it, that work itself amounts to wasteful federal spending. Ryan can and should provide the leadership to his Republican colleagues on this point, drawing their attention to the opportunities. Then go on TV, radio, even the liberal networks, and publicize the results of the oversight hearings.
Republicans are for classic tax reform, closing loopholes and reducing rates, which most promotes economic growth. Reagan joined with Congressional Democrats to enact precisely such tax reform in 1986, leaving just two income tax rates of 28% and 15%, to great effect.
But Obama and Senate Democrats are for the opposite, tax deform, which involves increasing loopholes, in return for higher rates. That is what Obama has done so far, with his green energy, crony capitalism, tax credits, while increasing tax rates. Liberals are calling conservative talk radio shows complaining that GE pays no income taxes. Word has not seeped through to them that GE is a card-carrying member of Obama’s political machine, getting green energy corporate welfare in return for its political and financial support.
I am reporting that the House Republican leadership is planning to act on Paul Ryan’s tax reform plan, which will be proposed again in this year’s House budget, out before the end of March. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp will take up Ryan’s proposed tax reform, which provides for an income tax rate of 10% for families making less than $100,000 a year, and 25% for family income above that. That amounts to another middle class tax cut, following the last middle class tax cut which was also passed by a Republican House, as proposed by a Republican President, overcoming Democrat opposition.
The reform for the corporate income tax will close corporate loopholes, like Obama’s corporate welfare green energy tax credits, in return for reducing the federal corporate tax rate to 25%, a cut of close to 30% from the current world leading federal corporate tax rate of 35%. That would only reduce American corporate tax rates to close to the world average, restoring American competitiveness.
If President Obama and the Democrats disagree with the Ryan tax reform, again they can pass their own reform plan through the Senate, with the differences again to be resolved through the House Senate Conference Committee. But that again will reveal that the Democrats want still more anti-jobs, anti-wages, anti-growth tax increases and still higher tax rates on the critical savings and investment necessary for more jobs and higher wages. That again frames the issue perfectly for the public.
The Social Issues
But there is more. President Obama and the Democrats, drunk with power, are busily branding their party as anti-Second Amendment, with thoughtless gun control proposals that cannot stand the light of public debate.
The government does not even have the power to take guns away from criminals. It only has the power to disarm their law-abiding victims. That indisputable fact is not an issue over which reasonable people can differ. But that senseless policy is exactly what President Obama and his Democrats are barnstorming the country for.
Similarly, the government does not even have the power to limit the number of shots available to criminals, by limiting magazine capacity for example. It can only limit the number of shots available to their victims. That indisputable fact again is not an issue over which reasonable people can differ. But that senseless policy is what President Obama and his Democrats are campaigning across the country for.
The assault weapons ban had no effect on the violent crime statistics when it was adopted in 1994, and no effect when it lapsed 10 years later. Yet here is President Obama and his Democrats telling us that ban has to be adopted yet again. That senseless policy would violate the Second Amendment under the Supreme Court precedent of Heller v. DC. But President Obama and his Democrats are busily labeling themselves as opposed to the constitutional right of self-defense of the common people.
But not for themselves, and their children. There they can see the logic of armed guards, including in the elite private schools where they send their children. But President Obama and the Democrats can see no benefit of armed guards, or armed teachers with approved conceal and carry permits, in your kid’s school.
Instead, one of the first things Obama and his Democrats did was to end the D.C. school choice program, denying poor and lower income DC schoolchildren the same choices they make for their own kids. So much for all of President Obama’s talk of equality, and all that crass Democrat rhetoric about “the rich.”
Last time the Democrats were so foolish as to enact federal gun controls, they lost the entire Congress to the Republicans for the first time in 40 years, with the Republican House majority re-elected for the first time in almost 70 years. That Republican House majority continued for 12 years, for the first time since the pre-Depression 1920s.
Here comes the Sun.