Where Did Our Love Go?

I brought this up on “Q with a View” last night, and it stuck with me, so I thought I’d flesh it out a bit in writing.

One of the themes heading into 2015 was what a strong bench the GOP had (compared to the Democrats.)  Ultimately 17 candidates threw their hat into the race:

  • 5 former Governors
  • 4 sitting Governors
  • 4 sitting Senators
  • 1 former Senator
  • 1 World-renowned Neuro Surgeon
  • 1 Former Fortune 100 CEO
  • 1 Billionaire Businessman/Reality TV Show Star

They were geographically diverse (with solid ties to NY, FL, VA, NJ, WI, MI, AR, LA, KY, TX, CA, SC, PA & OH).  They were demographically diverse (2 Hispanic candidates, 1 African American, 1 Indian, 1 woman, and, as my co-host Jason Dibler rightly noted, age-diverse, ranging from age 44 to age 7o).

Now, personally, I’d submit that this was a decent lot.  However, ‘twould seem that familiarity breeds contempt; and if it doesn’t, preference for one often leads to it as to others. But assuming, as some contend, that this roster constitutes a sorry gaggle, I must ask: Who wouldn’t/doesn’t?  Who fits the bill in terms of not being a lousy candidate for President?

 

Republican-Candidates-2016-17-w-border-e1438649562250-620x435

A Couple Points of Clarification

gopdebatemarch3_allthree

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been faced with the realistic possibility that I won’t be able to vote for the Presidential nominee of the party I favor.  Most of us have been faced from time to time (maybe even most of the time) with the “lesser of two evils” choice.  And I suppose, in a way, planting one’s flag on #NeverTrump Island is a form of that, as well.  But it surely raises questions (and sometimes on social media – blind fury) from those who think he’s just peachy, and even from those who think he’s not, but still preferable to a Hillary Clinton (or substituted Democrat of your choice) Presidency.  So, to the extent that it matters at all, I have some answers.

1. How can you say you’ll never vote for Trump when even his primary opponents (Cruz, Kasich & Rubio) say they’ll support him if he’s the nominee?

Hey, I’ll admit it – there was a part of me last night during the debate that hoped Rubio, or at least one of the non-Trumps, would boldly declare his refusal to support Trump on principle, but I’m a fairly pragmatic person when it comes to politics. The downside to doing so likely outweighed the upside. First, as Cruz rightly pointed out, they did all sign a pledge to support the nominee, so refusal to do so would be brought up repeatedly as evidence of their willingness to go back on their word.  Second, as Rubio rightly pointed out, the Democratic alternatives really aren’t palatable.  Third, while it appears likely Trump will be the nominee, he doesn’t have it yet. Thus, agreeing to support him if he is the nominee doesn’t mean agreeing not to continue fighting tooth and nail to prevent that from happening.  So, no, I can’t find much fault with their answers.  And I was gratified that Trump’s answer was that he, too, would support the nominee, even if it isn’t him.

That doesn’t change my stance. Because my #NeverTrump stance isn’t predicated on my support for Rubio (or Cruz or Kasich.)  As I explained the other day In Defense of Marco Rubio and the #NeverTrumps, I was #NeverTrump before he even entered the race, and long before I settled on Rubio as my preference.  And that Rubio is my preference does not translate into me thinking he hung the moon or can do no wrong.  I don’t agree with everything he says and does.  He’s a political candidate and a human being. Not a deity.  Further, despite having selected Rubio as my choice, I’m #NeverTrump, not #AlwaysRubio or #OnlyRubio.  I can (and will) support any of the other remaining candidates.

That’s how I can say I’ll never vote for (or support) Trump, regardless of what Rubio or Cruz or Kasich say or ultimately do.

2.  How would you feel if someone started up a #NeverRubio movement?

Well, again, as I stated in my prior piece, I’d raise an eyebrow, shake my head, and possibly question the rationale behind it, but I wouldn’t berate them for it.  If someone feels that strongly about opposing Rubio, then no, they shouldn’t vote for him or support him.  That said, if the only motivation for doing so is to counteract the #NeverTrump movement, I’m not certain how successful it would be. First, it’s derivative. Second, it’s inaccurate unless one means that they won’t support or vote for him no matter what. Most people I’ve seen voice support for other candidates have said they could vote for Rubio in the General if it came to that. But, hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Lastly, as I tweeted out yesterday, “A criticism of your preferred candidate =/= a personal affront to you. If you take it that way, you may want to reassess perspective.” I wouldn’t be pleased with such a campaign (obviously!) but I wouldn’t take it personally. It’s not about me. I’m not Rubio, and he is not the vessel for all my hopes and dreams.

3. Are you okay with the RNC stealing the nomination away from Trump?

No. Not if it means monkeying with the rules as currently written. The odds of a brokered convention seem to be increasing. This piece and the prior ones linked therein set out the nitty gritty of how that might play out.  It’s complicated and complex, and I haven’t fully wrapped my brain around it, but if it would take a sudden rule change in order to block Trump, I’m not on board with that.  It doesn’t make much sense for me to take a (somewhat controversial) stance on principle, then turn right around and dismiss notions of proper process and fair play.  I’m not an ends-justify-the-means person. Or, at least, I strive mightily not to be.

Regardless, I came to an unfortunate realization yesterday – the damage is already done. Not that there won’t be more – I’m sure there will.  But the divide between the factions on the right has bubbled up to the surface, and I don’t believe it can be repaired in this election cycle.  Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.  This has certainly been a season like no other.

 

 

In Defense of Marco Rubio and the #NeverTrumps

Rubio, the Conservative

One thing I’ll never be accused of lacking is stubbornness – I’m a Missouri mule through and through.  However, as I’ve grown older (and theoretically wiser), I’ve had to learn that “being right” isn’t the be all-end all of life.  Faith, family, friends – those are what matter most. And often, in order to honor those, one must learn to stand down and focus on what IS right, rather than on BEING right.

That said, I’m not one to shy away from a challenge when one is put to me – particularly in the realm of politics. So, when my friend Jamie Allman, a local radio and television host, voiced some criticism yesterday of those employing the #NeverTrump hashtag, I decided to call in to his radio show and share my thoughts in defense of the #NeverTrump sentiment.  I’ll come back to that in a bit, but in the meantime, Jamie replayed our discussion this morning and followed it with a query as to how a #NeverTrumper can claim to hold that stance based on conservative principles, yet still support Marco Rubio, whom some claim is a Liberal – or, at least, a liberal Republican.

There’s no question that as this race has developed, Rubio has merged into the “Establishment” lane, particularly as other Establishment candidates like Jeb Bush and John Kasich have failed to gain traction.  (Jeb! even moreso than Kasich.) And Rubio is possessed of several positions which would rightly land him at least partially in that camp – most notably, his role in the infamous “Gang of Eight” debacle.  However, I find it rather amusing that a guy swept into office on a Tea Party wave, who took on Charlie Crist to get there, is now to be written off as an undesirable Establishment guy.  And I find it ludicrous to characterize him as a Liberal.

Ludicrous?  That’s a strong word.  Well, here’s why I think it’s fitting:

  • Marco Rubio has a lifetime ACU (American Conservative Union) rating of 98 (out of 100).  That puts him fifth among sitting US Senators in terms of conservatism, behind only Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Tom Coburn and Ron Johnson, and one spot ahead of Rand Paul. ACU Ratings – US Senators
  • Marco Rubio has a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee.  NRLC Rating – Rubio
  • Marco Rubio was rated a “Taxpayer Super Hero” by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste. Citizens Against Government Waste Ratings
  • Marco Rubio has a 90% rating from Gun Owners of America and a B+ rating from the NRA (National Rifle Association).  A summary of Rubio’s ratings on guns can be found here: Marco Rubio’s Ratings & Endorsements (scroll down for guns).  A summary of Rubio’s positions/statements on guns can be found here: On the Issues – Rubio – Guns
  • Rubio’s ratings on a variety of topics can also be found at the two preceding links.

 

Hundreds of articles have been written in support of Rubio:  Here are two which specifically  make the case for him as a Conservative:

The Conservative Case for Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio is Plenty Conservative

So, no, I don’t consider it fair or accurate to characterize him as a Liberal.  In fact, his record demonstrates a strong case for why he’s one of the more conservative candidates we’ve had in recent years.  That doesn’t render him perfect – not by any stretch of the imagination.  (He’s a good deal more hawkish than this hawkish-dove; his proposed tax policy isn’t my favorite; and his immigration stance has been troubling.  However, I can live with his current stance on it. (For more on that, see the Immigration heading here: Rubio on Immigration. For what I consider a very thoughtful take on the issue, see Annie Frey’s recent piece on the topic: IMMIGRATION: CONSERVATIVES & AMNESTY.))

Once the primary was underway, I took my time committing to a candidate. I sized up their respective positions.  I took the “I Side With” Quiz (which is actually fairly thorough if you click through all of the questions) back in June and got these results:

Rubio – 82%
Santorum – 81% (which surprised me)
Cruz – 79%
Walker – 79%
Paul – 78%
Carson – 65%
Sanders – 52%
Clinton – 46%
Fiorina – 37% (another surprise for me)

But I didn’t commit at that point.  I waited and watched the primary unfold.  I watched their debate performances.  I kept an eye on the polls regarding their match-ups with Hillary Clinton (whom I considered to be the likely Democratic nominee.)  And Rubio did eventually win me over.  When asked by a friend to explain my (January) declaration of my support for him, I responded with this:

  • His policy stances match closest to mine of the current candidates
  • He’s a policy wonk
  • He has a record of conservative accomplishments in Florida (including limiting the impact of the Kelo decision)
  • He took on (and beat) Charlie Crist
  • His tax plan is okay, though could use some tweaking (I actually prefer Cruz’s)
  • He’s electable
  • He has a good sense of humor
  • He’s intelligent and quick on his feet (usually – New Hampshire debate? Not so much!)

I should note that when I recently took the “I Side With” Quiz, I got a 90% match with Cruz and an 85% match with Rubio.  By that point, my sense that Rubio would fare better in the General Election kept me in his camp, but I like Cruz and happily claim him as my second choice. One thing I said at the outset of the primaries though was that there were two GOP candidates for whom I could not and would not vote: Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump. Huckabee’s a long story for another day, but my opposition to Trump has been a constant since before he officially announced in June (long before I settled on Rubio as my choice or even thought he (Rubio) had a serious shot at the nomination) and has remained steady ever since.  Which brings me to:

A principled opposition to Trump

When Jamie was kind enough to take my call yesterday, I was a bit nervous, so I’m not certain I recall all of the reasons I gave, but I do know I mentioned concern over several of his not-so-conservative positions and his authoritarian impulses. What I may not have been clear about is that, yes, a good deal of it also has to do with his style.  More than anything, one of the key factors which I take into consideration as to any candidate is whether (and how) I’ll be able to defend my support of him or her – and do so credibly. And I do not feel — have never felt — that I could do that with Donald Trump.  His rhetoric is bombastic and often a bridge-too-far (feeding into the negative stereotypes assigned to Republicans and Conservatives), and even if I could look past that in order to get behind his core principles, I’ve never been able to discern with any confidence what his core principles actually are!  In short, he’s never come anywhere close to closing “the deal” with me.

And I’m not alone in that.  Of the multitude of articles I’ve encountered expressing opposition to him as the nominee, these three best (and far more eloquently than I can) capture and express my sentiments on the topic:

Never Trump

Clarifying the Message of Never Trump

An Open Letter to Trump Supporters

This is why I decided (months ago) that should Donald Trump become the GOP nominee, I will write in someone else (probably Rubio, maybe Calvin Coolidge) for the Presidential spot and vote the down-ticket races.  I would never not vote. I was raised on politics, and the thought of sitting out an election goes against the core of who I am. Nor could I bring myself to vote for Hillary Clinton. (As cool as the thought of electing a woman President may be, I’ve never cared for Hillary, not even when I was still a liberal Democrat who voted for her husband – twice. More on that in a moment.)

What happens, though, when one makes this sort of declaration, is that others object. They argue (and there’s a legitimate logic to this) that a non-vote for the GOP nominee is a de facto vote for Democratic nominee. Sometimes they even try to bully or guilt you into walking it back — a tweet the other day insisted that because I’d survived breast cancer, I couldn’t possibly shirk my obligation to vote for Trump in order to stop Hillary.  (That one left a little to be desired in the logic department. Points for originality, though!)  Well, I won’t be guilted or bullied into violating my conscience.

The argument that I’m duty bound to support my party’s nominee no matter what fails for me, as well.  Because, you see, I’m not a Republican.  I’m a Conservative (or, to be exact, a recovering liberal Democrat who converted to conservatism a dozen-or so years ago, and who can most accurately be described as a fiscal conservative/social moderate/with libertarian leanings – just like it says on my Twitter profile!) And the primary reason I’m not a Republican is because as I’ve grown in my understanding of and appreciation for conservatism, I’ve repeatedly been disappointed by the way the GOP as a party handles – well, just about everything.  The GOP’s knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is legendary.  And for the past five-or-so years, as I’ve been more active in the conservative movement, I’ve been right there alongside the “grass roots,” railing against the Establishment when it was clearly selling out core conservative principles. For me to turn around now and vote for a nominee whom I don’t believe espouses or even truly understands what conservatism is simply because he has an “R” behind his name would be just as much of a sell out.  So I won’t do it.

What I also won’t do, though, is run down those who’ve chosen to back him (or another candidate.)  So if someone were to start a #NeverRubio movement, I’d raise an eyebrow and shake my head, and I might even question them about it – but I won’t attack them for it.  We all have our reasons for supporting certain candidates and not supporting others.  I may find other’s reasons lacking (as I’m sure some will find mine), but in the end, we’re all Americans, trying to elect leaders we feel will best do honor to their offices and their country.  Hopefully, sometimes, we get it right.

 

 

Echoes: One Voice

Four years ago this morning, I learned of Andrew Breitbart’s passing.  It was a gut punch – or, really, a heart punch – to me.  I know I was far from alone in that.  

As we make our way through Super Tuesday, 2016, an election season like no other, I can’t help but wonder what our #HappyWarrior would be thinking of it all – what sort of fun he’d be having, even in the face of all the anger and frustration many are feeling – and voicing – these days. I can’t help but picture him with a gleam in his eye, bounding up onto a stage somewhere – CPAC, a beleaguered politician’s press conference – wherever he went, Andrew always seemed to bound.  

In his far too short life, he helped many of us find our “voice.”  And, in that way, his one voice continues to echo.  Still, it is missed.  He is missed.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjbE18Z7AJE

Video Credit: Rick Hornsby 

50 Shades of Ferguson

“Where were you when….?”  The special we’re preparing to air on FTRRadio starts out with that question. Four-and-a-half months ago, when news of the Michael Brown shooting broke, I was returning from a typical Saturday afternoon at the soccer park, with zero realization that this would become one of those moments. It’s always disturbing to hear of a young person’s death, but sadly, not so uncommon as to seem like one of those time-standing-still moments that become fixed in one’s memory like an historical north star. Even the fact that Brown’s death came at the hands of police didn’t immediately signal to me that we’d still be talking about it as 2014 draws to a close. Nor did I foresee then that the north county neighborhood I’d always thought of as simply an older, blue-collar, racially diverse suburb would soon become a sociological Rorschach with a different meaning to each, and a hashtag with a life of its own.

When a vigil the following day gave way to a protest, and later to looting and rioting, I watched and shook my head in disbelief at the destructive forces I was witnessing. I recognized the tire store whose windows were smashed out; the parking lots from which several local newscasters were reporting. Ferguson isn’t my home town, but it’s an integral part of the St. Louis fabric, and near enough to home that seeing violence and chaos erupt on its streets rattled me in a way most news stories don’t — not in fear for my own safety, but in sadness for my community.

As the days wore on and competing narratives unfurled, it was tempting to choose a “side.” Sometimes, as new evidence came to light, and emotionally persuasive arguments were hashed out, it was hard not to, but I kept reminding myself — I wasn’t there, and I don’t know exactly what happened. Just as people who’ve never been to St. Louis or Ferguson don’t know our community. Early on, I bristled when I saw Ferguson referred to as “Selma.”  But then, I also had to acknowledge that there were problems and tensions present from which I’d previously remained somewhat shielded.  I started looking a little closer, listening a little longer.  

When I heard a rapper named Daywalker call into the Allman in the Morning Show and relate to the host, Jamie Allman, not only his experience as a protestor, but also his hope and vision that somehow Ferguson could become an opportunity for rebuilding, rather than just a tragedy, I was intrigued. On a whim, I contacted Jamie and asked if he’d be willing to put me in touch with Daywalker — I thought it might be interesting to have him on my show as a guest.  Jamie very graciously did so, and soon, what began as a one time interview turned into a regular segment on my show, featuring Daywalker as our “Northside Correspondent.” 

I quickly learned that Daywalker was bursting not only with energy, but also with ideas. When he suggested that we sit down with his Rabbi, Susan Talve, to interview her regarding her role as a clergy member who’d been part of the protests, I was unsure. I knew it would be interesting to speak with her, but I was uncertain as to how we might incorporate that into the show — doubly so when what I’d expected to be a 15 or 20 minute interview turned into 45 minutes.  The thought occurred to me that we might want to go a slightly different direction.  

When Daywalker followed that up with the suggestion we speak with St. Louis County Police Department Spokesman Sergeant Brian Schellman, the idea for a stand-alone special on Ferguson began to take shape.  Ultimately, we spoke with Sgt. Schellman and another officer from one of the North County municipal police departments. We also met with Jamie Allman to get his take on the media coverage regarding Ferguson.  Then, too, I took the opportunity to interview Daywalker — after all, he lives in the community, and it was his passion that set us on this journey.  I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised by the willingness of all of our guests to speak with us, and so openly. I felt like we ended up with some very frank and fascinating discussions, rather than canned, cautious responses.  

What my co-host, Jason Dibler, then did to piece them all together and incorporate some of Daywalker’s music, is nothing short of amazing, in my view. In the end, I believe we’ve managed to put together a very honest and compelling look at Ferguson, and what it’s meant to protestors, police, members of the media, and of the community.

For my own part, it’s taught me that each one of us has a story, and that if you give them a chance, most people will share theirs with you. Sometimes, all it takes is asking a question or two. Sometimes, all it takes is really looking another in the eye and acknowledging them as an individual, as someone who matters.  

Since we completed our interviews, the story of Ferguson — and the larger stories of police and the communities they serve and of race relations as a whole — have continued to unfold.  From the non-indictment in the Eric Garner case, to demonstrations turned into riots, to the assassination of Officers Ramos and Liu, it seems like Ferguson has become the pulled thread in an ever unraveling societal fabric. Which is why the question, “Where do we go from here?” seems such a fitting way to close out the special. 

Where do we go, indeed? I can’t say that I know for certain, but I feel like I have an idea: It starts, I believe, with remembering our humanity. 

I hope you’ll join us on FTRRadio.com this Tuesday, December 30th, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, for our special: Ferguson. 

DW&JA

Election Reflection

38 years ago, I was a big Jimmy Carter fan. I was 8, so maybe my adoration of the peanut farmer with the big smile wasn’t based on sound governing or political principles.  Certainly, my worldview and personal philosophies have changed quite a bit since then, so that adoration has long since abated. Still, I was very excited that November for the presidential race, and was disappointed that I had to go to bed before they called it.  When my Mom greeted me with the newspaper the following morning, she smiled and said, “Don’t gloat.”  (She knew a certain boy I liked was a Ford fan and we’d been smack-talking in the days leading up to the election in the way that 8 year olds do.)  

And she was right. It’s a bit unseemly to gloat after an election that goes the way you wanted it to.  It’s certainly unpleasant to see others do it when the shoe is on the other foot. And it feeds fully into the whole “politics as team sports” mentality which is, in my view, one of the sorriest aspects of our politics these days. In the end, all the “wins” in the world don’t guarantee that those elected will execute their sworn duties faithfully and effectively or govern in a way that benefits their constituency and/or America as a whole more than it benefits them and/or their cronies personally.  The GOP had a good night last night. The reptilian/team sport part of my brain is gratified.  The rest of me is skeptical.  

It’s impossible for me to think of politics — and particularly, election night watch parties and returns — without thinking of my parents.  They are the source of my political junkiedom.  I know I’ve written of it before, but my Dad was at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 and came home from that only to have to turn around and take my Mom to the hospital to have me.  They had me out helping them plant campaign signs as a toddler.  Later, in my early teen years, the three of us trekked to Washington D.C., where, in addition to visiting the monument-must-see’s, we also visited with Congressmen Robert Young and Ike Skelton.  Ike was my Dad’s law school roommate and generously took me with him when he was called to the floor of the House to cast a vote. He even let me push the button for him (shhhhh…don’t tell.  I wish I could remember what the vote was.)  In fact, I recently re-posted a picture of Ike and me on the Capitol steps after that visit on the one year anniversary of his passing.  

I know my folks were intent on spending last evening plunked in front of the television watching the results roll in.  But…you know what they say about those best laid plans….  Dad had a bit of a scare last night.  His blood pressure suddenly dropped very low and he passed out while he and Mom were having dinner at home. He’d come to by the time the paramedics arrived, and was feeling well enough before they left the house to remind my Mom to tape his television shows, and to take my sister’s call on his cell phone while in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Later, while he was waiting for them to get a room set up, he made sure to request one with a TV so he could watch the election returns.  (These things are so very my Dad I can’t help but smile at them all.)  He’s stable and they’re simply hanging onto him (last night and possibly tonight) to monitor things and make sure he’s okay. I’m sure he will be, but prayers for him are certainly welcome and appreciated if you’re so inclined. 

My politics are quite different from my Dad’s these days, and I imagine the outcomes that pleased me last night are the ones that displeased him, and vice-versa. That’s okay.  He’s my Dad and I love him, quirks and all, more than words can say.  

 

Dad

What MORE DO YOU Want?

Last week, a friend and I got into a bit of a debate on his Facebook page. The genesis of the discussion had very little to do with fiscal policy.  It actually grew out of my defending TEA Party conservatism from the charge that it is extreme and full of hateful racists and fascists. But when I pointed out that advocating for limited government, tax reform and sounder fiscal policies is not extreme, nor is it hateful, nor is it anti-Semitic, Nazi-like or fascist, my friend responded that smaller government has been happening over the past two years, spending and the deficit are both way down, and that there have been no tax increases of any kind in the past five years and taxes are at a historic low, and then asked, “What MORE DO YOU want?”  While I disagree with his premises (and will explain why below), the question itself is a fair one, and one which warrants an answer if there is any hope for meaningful discourse between those who hold opposing political and policy viewpoints.  I promised to respond when I had the opportunity to do so, as I figure to fully and fairly answer that question will require more than just a few words in a Facebook comment. Following is my attempt to do so:

First, as alluded above, I’d quibble with the premises.  1) “Smaller government has been happening over the past two years.”  This may be a definitional issue, but I’m hard-pressed to see how this is so. If we’re speaking purely in terms of spending by the federal government, this link provides a helpful starting point for analyzing that.  (Please note, I’m citing the White House itself, which I’m fairly certain my friend would consider an acceptable source.)  The first Table (1.1) lays out the “Summary of Receipts, Outlays, and Surpluses or Deficits 1789-2019.”  I didn’t ask my friend for a clarification as to what he meant by “the past two years.”  We’re mid-April, 2014, so do we look at mid-April, 2012 to present day?  Well, the table doesn’t really break it down that way — rather, it goes by calendar year.  So, do we just go with 2012 and 2013 and compare them to 2011?  If we do, we’ll see that outlays in 2011 were $3,603,059,000,000. (The numbers in the table are presented in millions of dollars.)  (Aside: Holy HELL that’s a boatload of dollars!) By comparison, outlays in 2012 were $3,537,127,000,000.  Yes. That’s a smaller number than in 2011. In 2013, outlays were $3,454,605,000,000 — an even smaller number. So, at first blush, I’ll concede that, by that measure — i.e., spending only and comparing calendar years 2012 and 2013 — “smaller government has been happening over the past two years.”  In the interest of context, I’m going to include the numbers for the five years preceding and five years following (based on the government’s estimates):

  • 2009 – $3,517,677,000,000
  • 2010 – $3,457,079,000,000
  • 2011 – $3,603,059,000,000
  • 2012 – $3,537,127,000,000
  • 2013 – $3,454,605,000,000
  • 2014 – $3,650,526,000,000
  • 2015 – $3,900,989,000,000
  • 2016 – $4,099,078,000,000
  • 2017 – $4,268,606,000,000
  • 2018 – $4,443,145,000,000
  • 2019 – $4,728,791,000,000

Couple things to note here: 1) Even if we can agree that outlays are down in 2012 and 2013, clearly, the White House is not predicting they will continue trending that way. Not by a long shot.  2) But BUSH!  Yes, indeed.  In the eight years of GWB’s presidency, outlays increased (steadily) from $1,862,846,000,000 in 2001 to $2,982,544,000,000 in 2008. (That’s an increase of 60%, for those who really like to go nitty-gritty. And it’s utterly unacceptable. Sorry, you won’t see me defending many — if any — of George Bush’s fiscal policies. That ain’t my bag, baby. That ginormous jump you see between 2008 and 2009? That’s called TARP and the Stimulus. Both of which yours truly railed about. Oh, hey, some may recall that the TEA Party movement was born long about the same time as TARP and Stimulus were enacted.) 3) I’m far from a math/econ whiz, but I do understand that there’s this thing called inflation, and, in order to make apples to apples comparisons, that may need to be taken into account.  I believe Table 1.3 sets forth the numbers in current and constant dollars for anyone who’d like to delve that deep. As I peruse it, the trends appear to correlate, but I’m sure someone will be happy to point out to me where I’m wrong if I am.  4) There’s another way to look at these numbers and that is to assess outlays as a percentage of our GDP.  Table 1.2 handily does that for us – In 2011, the percentage was 23.4%; in 2012, 22.0%; in 2013, 20.8% — certainly an arguable step in the right direction, though the predictions for 2014-2019 having it creeping back up the other way. 

All of which is to say that if we’re looking purely at spending in the calendar years 2012 and 2013 as compared to 2011 as a measure of “smaller government happening,” okay, then yes. But, as I noted above, that followed a sharp increase, and downward isn’t the direction we’re trending. And, more importantly, I interpret “government” to encompass not only spending, but regulation, action, function and not purely federal, but at all levels.  So, when I advocate for “limited government,” I’m contemplating all of those things. The ACA alone belies the notion of “smaller government happening” in the past two years. Then we have the multitude of other arenas in which government continues to inject itself into everything from land ownership to soft drink size. No. Not a fan. Step off.

But before I head off down that road, let’s take a look at the other premises my friend mentioned: 2) “Spending and the deficit are both way down.”  Well, I’ve already addressed spending in the paragraphs above, but just to review, between 2011 and 2013, outlays decreased from $3,603,059,000,000 to $3,454,605,000,000.  That’s a decrease of $148,454,000,000.  No question, that’s a LOT of dollars. But it’s a decrease of only 4%. I’m not sure that qualifies as “WAY” down. Alright, well, what about the deficit? He didn’t include a time frame for that, so it makes sense to me to compare it over the same timeframes discussed above.  From 2011 to 2013, the deficit decreased from $1,299,593,000,000 to $679,502,000,000.  Now THAT’S something to write home about – a 47% decrease! Good. I like that.  We’re still operating at a considerable deficit.  (That’s $678 billion dollars.)  We’re also carrying a gross debt of $17,152,000,000,000.  (That’s $17 trillion dollars.) Is this really something for which we ought be patting ourselves on the back?  I’m not cool with this.  Are you?  

Okay, third premise: 3) “There have been no tax increases of any kind in the past five years.”  No. This is flatly incorrect.  If we’re purely talking income tax rates, the top rate held steady at 35% from 2003-2012.  (The infamous “Bush Tax Cuts.”)  In 2013, that increased to 39.6%.  Link.  The corporate tax rate has held steady at 35%.  But income tax isn’t the only form of tax. For example, the Individual Mandate “penalty” under the ACA was held by the United States Supreme Court to be a tax. Additionally, there is a new tax on investment income: “A new $123 billion tax on investment income, which took effect in January 2013, places a 3.8% surtax on investment income on households with more than $250,000 in annual income or $200,000 for individuals.” Link. And then (from the same link) there are the following: 

  • The Cadillac Tax
  • The High Bills Tax
  • The Health Savings Account Tax
  • The Indoor Tanning Tax
  • The High Risk Tax
  • The Medicare Tax   

That HSA tax is one which has already directly affected me. (Don’t even get me started on increased premiums and deductibles, and that elusive $2,500 of savings….)   And I’ve neither the time nor patience to dissect the current status of state and local taxes, though I suspect my friend was referring purely to federal taxes.  

Last premise: “Taxes are at a historic low.”  Again, we have a clarification issue here.  Does he mean rates?  Does he mean receipts? And what does “historic” mean?  All time? Lately?  Generally not a fan of linking to Wiki, but about two-thirds of the way down this page, there’s a chart of historical income tax rates from 1913 to 2013.  (Of course, before 1913, there wasn’t an income tax, so, by definition, we can’t be talking about an all-time historic low.)  During that century, the top rate has varied from 7% to the current 39.6% — with stops in between as high as 94% (what the ever-livin hell?!)  The first bracket rate was initially 1%, and is presently 10%, reaching a high point of 23% during WWII. So, unless we’re measuring “historic” as “within the past twenty years, or so,” then that doesn’t appear to be the case. Same goes for corporate tax rates. (As you might expect, receipts have fairly steadily increased over time — they were $2,775,103,000,000 in 2013. Even adjusted to constant dollars.  (See first link provided.)) 

So, in large part, I must respectfully disagree with the premises raised by my friend. That said, what more DO I want? Where to begin?

Well, as I mentioned at the outset – I’d like to see limited government. What I mean by that is not simply “less spending.” Really, I mean less almost everything. I’m a BIG fan of the Constitution and of the role and function of our federal government as set forth therein. To that end, I’d like to see us scale back not only spending, but government involvement and oversight into what we say, with whom we associate, how we practice our faith (or non-faith), how we educate our children, whom we choose to marry, for whom we choose to work, how we choose to compensate our employees, whatever firearms we choose to own and use (or not), with whom we communicate via phone, e-mail, social media or other, what we drink, what we eat, what we smoke, what sort of health insurance we opt to purchase (or not), etc. I’m pretty libertarian on most things these days. I’m not an anarchist. I don’t advocate zero government. But limited. MUCH more limited than what we presently have. 

Tax reform? Oh yes, I’d like some SERIOUS tax reform. I’d like to see us move to a consumption tax along the lines of the Fair Tax (rather than an income tax), or barring that, a flat tax. Simplify, streamline. Do away with tax policy as a political tool to be wielded by our elected representatives. Taxes are supposed to pay for NECESSARY governmental functions. Not to fund an ever-expanding and increasingly unaccountable slush fund, and not to beat this or that segment over the head or give this group some cushy deal. 

Sounder fiscal policies? Well, they go hand-in-hand with limited government and tax reform, but to state what should be obvious: Quit spending money we don’t have! Quit setting up programs that perpetuate dependency rather than fostering independence. Quit subsidizing this industry or that interest group. Quit bailing out failed enterprises. Quit enacting policies that stifle growth. Recognize that growth is possible and preferred to simply redistributing from one group to another. Quit pitting fellow citizens against one another in order to shore up voting blocs. Quit enacting regulations and legislation that are so tangled and complex no one can figure out what the hell they even mean. Start advocating for your country rather than your political party. (Okay, those last few weren’t purely fiscal policy-related, but I was on a roll.) 

Most of all, what I want is to be able to express the above views, discuss them with my fellow citizens — be they right-leaning, left-leaning or non-leaning — and identify with a political movement which espouses them without being branded as a racist, a fascist, an anti-Semite, ignorant, rabid or extreme.  

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