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Posts Tagged ‘conservatism’

One of the only fair defenses of the stimulus bill is its immediate psychological effect.  At the time it was passed, the nation was very, very scared. The general sense was that the government needed to “do something.”  Everyone knew that the new Democratic administration wasn’t about to cut taxes as a means of stimulating the economy. Thus, it was assumed that a huge fiscal stimulus – in the form of new spending – was needed, both to inject funds into stalled markets and to alleviate the sense of near-panic in the country.

While the stimulus has largely failed at kickstarting the business cycle, it did satisfy the “do something” impulse. The economic wound did not open further, although it did continue to bleed jobs. The next step, then, is to repair the wound.

In fact, let’s continue this medical analogy.   In the crucial first moments after a serious injury, furious activity is the norm.   Doctors work quickly to set bones, apply pressure, bandage cuts, or even conduct invasive surgery.  Once the trauma patient’s immediate crises are curtailed, however, she needs something very different: long periods of stability.  Rather than constant stimulation, she needs calm and rest.  While it may look like nothing is happening, the body’s forces are working to naturally heal itself.  No doctor can force a wound to close — it can only create the conditions whereby the body will do it on its own.  No doctor would ask a patient to learn a new job, or train for a marathon, while recovering from a serious accident.  And it’s mad scientists, not physicians, who experiment on patients on the mend.

Not my physician of choice.

The same lessons apply to our economy.  While the early days of last fall’s crash may have warranted emergency measures, the time for frantic maneuvers is long past.  Rather, this economy needs the government to step back and give it some time to heal.  Further poking, prodding, and experimentation only waste energy and resources when those are sorely needed by the economic “body” to replenish reserves, invest in capital improvements, and slowly rebuild inventories and workforces.  Businesses will not begin to recover until they know the assault is over.  And right now, they fear that Dr. Government is waiting right outside the door with another experimental procedure.

 

The twin spectres of costly health care mandates or greenhouse gas regulations have led companies that might have some cash on hand to hold onto it.  They might need those dollars to pay for higher health care costs, or to cover rising fuel prices.  International firms that might have seen a weak-dollar economy as a good place to invest are standing on the sidelines, wondering if the cost of doing business in America is about to skyrocket.  And small businesses deciding between hiring that next employee or saving for the next rainy day are being given every reason to put up the umbrella.

Bon Jovi agrees.

Stability, not activity, is what we need today.  That’s why the best thing our president could do for this economy — and even for his health care program — would be to call a 12-month regulatory truce.  No new rules for a year — including new regulatory programs like cap-and-trade or health care.  Now able to make economic decisions with some relative sense of certainty, Americans would regain confidence.  The dollar would rebound, businesses would react, and investors would reap the rewards.  It would send a strong signal to the markets that the mad scientist has been captured, and Dr. Obama is in.  It would also boost public confidence in the President, restoring their sense that he listens to their concerns and is willing to change course when the moment calls for it.  He wouldn’t even have to abandon his big-government aspirations — he’d just have to delay them.  And it wouldn’t cost him a dime.

Sounds like pretty good medicine to me.

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Back to Work

Well folks, I’ve been absent for almost two months now, and I realize I’m way overdue to post something new here.  Frankly, the final days of the presidential campaign were so utterly hopeless from my perspective, there wasn’t much fight in me.  But now that we have a new president-elect, an emerging Cabinet, and a truly ominous Congressional leadership, it’s time to start talking about ideas.

Because it’s ideas that have been missing from the Republican Party for some time now.  Sure, the winners of individual campaigns harken back to “conservative values” and “Reagan’s principles,” but a near-majority of voters today couldn’t have voted for Reagan, and they weren’t alive when Goldwater emerged as the first conservative candidate.  “Conservatism” is a rather amorphous brand, particularly when President Bush has used its mantle to radically expand Medicare and argue in favor of amnesty for illegal aliens.  When “conservative” Republicans in Congress preside over the largest expansion of the federal budget since the New Deal — and that was BEFORE the bailouts of 2008 — it’s hard to say that the word means much more than “whatever business wants.”

And that’s precisely why Republicans and conservatives are losing elections.  Democrats and liberals have successfully painted conservatives as mindlessly pro-Big Business.  They’ve tried to do this for decades, of course, but it only began to stick when conservatives abandoned their principles.  When you don’t stand for anything, all the public can do is look at who you’re standing with.  In Republicans’ case, it was K Street (courtesy of Tom DeLay), Keystone Kops (much of the Bush Administration), and crooks (Stevens, Abramoff, et. al.).

The conservative brand should be about individual liberty, constitutionally-limited government, fiscal restraint, and responsible governance.  Those principles are timeless,  applicable to any number of problems facing this country.  And while they are “Reaganite,” it no longer benefits Republicans to harken back to an era whose challenges are no longer our challenges.  Calvin Coolidge supported limited government — do we invoke his name in support of a balanced budget amendment?

Obviously, there is political value in having accessible historic touchstones like Reagan,  who inspire voters and provide a measuring stick for existing policies.  But his policies just aren’t our policies in many respects.  Reagan did very little on health care, but no political party can say it is seriously attempting to tackle America’s challenges without acknowledging a need for health care reform.  To devise that policy, is the question, “What would Reagan do?”  No — it’s “which policy maximizes freedom, limits the role of government, saves money, and can be administered responsibly over the long term?”  Note that this question is NOT a political one.  If you have the right principles and model your proposals based on those principles, the political support will follow.  If, instead, you chase political power by dishing out what you think the people want (or need), you’ve already got a political party.  It’s the other one.

Thus, this blog will spend the coming days proposing a few (we’ll see if I can do 10) agenda items that seek to apply those principles to the challenges facing our country.  These efforts will be interspersed by frantic trips to the mall and Christmas celebrations, so check in every now and then.

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