Fiscal conservatives haven’t had much to crow about from the Bush Administration. Despite Bush’s policies of lowering the tax burden across the board, in terms of fiscal policy he’s governed like a Democrat. Under Bush we’ve seen a massive increase in wasteful farm subsidies, we’ve seen the creation of a new and fiscally damaging Medicare prescription drug benefit, and the energy and transportation bills have been stuffed with enough pork that copies of it would be banned in British offices less it offend Muslims.
In short, Bush may be good on taxes, but lower tax rates aren’t fully effective unless they’re accompanied by reductions in spending, and Bush has not only failed to deal with runaway entitlement spending and pork, but he’s expanded both.
It’s time that the GOP rank and file said “enough is enough.”
And thankfully, they are.
The Coburn Amendment would take money to build a wasteful multimillion-dollar bridge in Alaska where it is entirely unneeded and use it to rebuild a bridge battered by Hurricane Katrina. Mike Krempasky calls it “a hill to die for” and that statement is dead-on for fiscal conservatives. It may not mean much in the grander context of the national budget, but it’s a powerful sign that conservatives are no longer going to sit around and let Congress spend willy-nilly while the US budget deficit skyrockets.
It’s about time. Non-defense discretionary spending under the Bush Administration has skyrocketed at unprecedented rates. Spending on education at the federal level under Bush has outstripped even Clinton-era spending increases, despite the fact that Bush campaigned as a proponent of local control and school choice. The Medicare prescription drug benefit was a clear political move designed to win over senior voters – and it wouldn’t seem as though it achieved that goal. The number of seniors who have an actual need for such a benefit was and is small enough to have been dealt with by existing programs, both public and private. Instead of having seniors utilize those resources, the Bush Administration created a monstrosity that will add nearly $700 billion in unfunded liabilities to the already failing Medicare system.
It’s time for fiscal conservatives to make themselves heard. The Bush Administration has ignored the most basic principles of fiscal conservatism for too long, and in a time of war and natural disasters, it is simply intolerable that American taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill for bridges to nowhere and other pork projects. The most basic tenet of the modern Republican party since the days of Reagan has been that government is not the solution to every problem. In fact, more often than not, it’s the cause of many of them.
Expanding government by necessity limits individual autonomy, and tax cuts are only half of the equation. Government spending must be restrained. We don’t elect Republicans so that they can govern like Democrats and continue to expand the size and scope of the federal government at alarming rates. Fiscal conservatism can and should make a comeback, but the only way to do that is to show that fiscal irresponsibility is a losing proposition. A massive groundswell of grass-roots support for the Coburn Amendment is an ideal way of telling Congress that it is time to put America’s fiscal house in order.