With the bailout spree taking place during the waning days of the Bush Administration and a big-spending Obama Administration on the way in, the “news” is that the era of big government (which Bill Clinton said was over)—is back. Of course taxpayers know it never left.
It certainly never left in Illinois, where state government has grown faster than the rate of inflation under both Republican and Democratic rule. I noted over two years ago that “most General Assembly Republicans love big government.”
Even as we hear Illinois Republican leaders lament about the bad bad rule of Rod Blagojevich (especially this week), Illinois voters still never hear how they would live up to their own party’s platform fiscal plank if they held power.
In Washington, the debate over the desirability of bloated government showed up in the New York Times column of Bill Kristol, who called out former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for saying—
“There should not be such a thing as a big-government Republican.”
“Really? Jeb Bush was a successful and popular conservative governor of Florida, with tax cuts, policy reforms and privatizations of government services to show for his time in office. Still, in his two terms state spending increased over 50 percent—a rate faster than inflation plus population growth. It turns out, in the real world of Republican governance, that there aren’t a whole lot of small-government Republicans.”
I admire Kristol’s work, often read the magazine that he’s the managing editor of, and find myself in agreement with him more often than not when he’s commenting on the various Fox News Network shows. So I’d like to hear his answer to how the heck we’re ever going to climb out of the debt sinkhole we’re in at the local, state, and national level if we don’t get serious about limiting government.
As President Bush leaves office and President Obama enters, that debt problem is being exacerbated. Big time.
The Heritage Foundation ridicules the notion that we can grow our way out of this (watch “A Legacy of Debt“). Smart people (who are good with math) on both sides of the political aisle see that there is no “moderate” solution. Either Americans tax ourselves to European-type levels (and thus kill growth) or we get serious (finally) about returning to fiscal sanity (truly limited government).
Kristol’s implied point in the column—that shrinking government isn’t currently politically viable—sets out the challenge ahead. Republicans must begin to get serious about making it politically viable by “taking the whole nation to school” regarding the debt burden we’re leaving for future generations.
There is good news. While the Obama campaign might have used technology much better than anyone previously to reach voters with an image, he wasn’t as successful reaching them with a substantive message.
The Zogby polling organization tells us that while Obama won votes, he didn’t win converts to a cause. Obama voters polled after election day were shockingly ignorant of where Obama stood on the issues.
So there is an opening for the Republican Party to do its job of educating more voters about the current fiscal reality. Unfortunately, our state party continues to be led by Andy McKenna, a man who has shown no clue that he can accomplish anything except keeping his brain (and state party payroller) John McGovern receiving a nice monthly check.
Only with better leadership here in Illinois will we be able to finally make progress. The slogan for that progress could be—”change we can believe in.” Only reform Republicans will explain what we mean when we say that.
©2008 John Francis Biver