When the Heck Did I Become A Republican – Part II

Friday I wrote about a letter I received from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney through the Republican National Committee. Among other things, the RNC accused me of being a Republican and wanting to help the party take over the entire nation.

While there was enough material to respond to for a week’s worth of articles, I have tried to stay focused on the points that stuck out to me as I read the letter.

The letter encourages me to choose “a bold, new agenda rooted in the proven conservative principles of limited government, free enterprise, and personal responsibility.”

Aside from the oxymoronic nature of that sentence, it sounds pretty good. Who isn’t for limited government, free enterprise or personal responsibility?

Of course, those terms have different meanings for different people.

As it stands, the current Republican agenda is seeking government to limit who you can marry, your right to decide if abortion is right for you or not and your right to vote. In Pennsylvania, Republicans have created a voter identification law that is so strict that it will not accept government issued military identification as valid verification to vote. This is not limited government.

Republicans continue to promise to overturn Roe v. Wade, a herculean task.   In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the government did not have the right to interfere with a woman’s decision to have, or not to have, an abortion. Forcing women to keep a pregnancy, even in cases or incest or rape, is not a limited government.

And these same Republicans have continued to fight gay marriage. All of their reasons for this boil down to two things; tribalism and the desire to have the nation conform to the standards of their god. Gay marriage hurts no one. The problems involved in gay marriage are not any different that traditional marriage.

Yet, Republicans have continued to propose a ban on gay marriage by creating an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman. They want a tyranny of the majority that can use the Constitution to take away rights rather than grant them. This is not limited government.

It is a restrictive government. It is a closed society. It is totalitarian. It is wrong.

“Free enterprise” is a great term for the fantasy utopia created by Adam Smith. Smith’s concept of a perfect society where the invisible hand of the market controls supply and demand, prices and wages is as realistic and practical a political theory as Marx’s “The Communist Manifesto.” The Republican claim is that they support a market free of government regulation.

The experiment in a free market economy collapsed with the Great Depression. But the United States is hardly, by any realistic definition, a centrally planned economy. Regulations were put into place to create a legal framework in which our free market economy could work and remain stable.

Simply put; government is part of the economy.

At the heart of our current recession is the deregulation of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. This act “prevented financial firms from being both commercial banks and investment banks,” according to economists R. Glenn Hubbard and Anthony Patrick O’Brien in the book “Microeconomics.” Congress repealed the act in 1999, allowing commercial banks and investment banks to share in exotic mortgage-backed securities.

Republicans continue to blame the “invisible hand” of the market for the recession, yet never bring up the role deregulation played in the state of our economy.

Of course, they were more than willing to let government interfere and bail out the banks that were on the verge of failing.

Republicans may talk about free enterprise, but are as eager as anyone to take advantage of the government’s role in the economy.

Personal responsibility seems innocuous enough. Who doesn’t believe in personal responsibility? Personal responsibility is at the very heart of republicanism, which has little to do with Republicans.

The principle of republicanism, as it developed among the Greeks and the Romans, placed personal responsibility on it polis to participate in government. It was considered a person’s duty to put aside his own financial interests for the good of the nation. The preamble of the U.S. Constitution even makes promoting “the general Welfare” as one of government’s main responsibilities.

Yet, Republicans seem to be very much opposed to policies that are republican. Personal responsibility, based on the Republican dialogue lately, is about taking care of one’s self and giving nothing to society. According to them, if a woman is raped, gets pregnant and keeps the child, it is no one’s fault but her own and there should be nothing provided by the government to assist her or her child. That is a bit exaggerated, but I believe the point is valid.

This does not mean America has become a welfare state¹. We take care of our own. We take care of our seniors, who have worked hard raising children and being a part of this nation. We take care of our veterans, who have been willing to put aside their personal interests in order to serve their country. We take care of our children, who need food, health care and education in order to build a stronger republic.

There is no utopia. The degree in which government is involved in our personal lives, free enterprise and in providing for the needs of citizens will always be open for debate and adjustment. But the RNC’s statement about these issues is a series of glittering generalities. I am tired of pleasant sounding words that mean nothing in politics.

¹I am fully aware that when the Constitution speaks of “the general Welfare,” it is not talking about our modern welfare system. However, the point is that there is a certain republican idea involved in both systems of taking care of our citizens.


When the Heck Did I Become a Republican?

According to this, I am a card carrying Republican. When did this happen?

Mitt Romney has conscripted me into the Republican Party! At least I think that’s what he did.I received a letter from Mitt Romney on Tuesday addressing me as “Dear Fellow Republican” and proceeded to explain to me that my “commitment to our Republican values is truly valuable.” After a few paragraphs of explaining the need for Republicans to take over the country and end Barack Obama’s efforts to turn American into a “European-style welfare state,” the letter requests that I “generously support” the GOP with a donation.

I am a nonpartisan voter.  While my views lean to the left, I have serious issues with the Democratic Party. Both parties have failed the People. But here I am being address as a good Republican.

Paul George is still a card carrying nonpartisan. (Screen capture courtesy of the Washoe County Registrar of Voters Office website.)

I seriously worried that someone had changed my affiliation with the Washoe County Registrar of Voters. I went to its website and double-checked my registration. The voter in me was relieved that no one tampered with my registration. The journalist in me was disappointed because such a scandal would be a great story.

The letter naturally placed all of the nation’s woes on the shoulders of the president. To its credit, the letter is smart in keeping the focus on economic issues and avoiding social issues like gay marriage or abortion rights. However it charges Obama with the following:

  • “He squandered $787 billion on a stimulus bill…”
  • “He forced through Obamacare – something Americans don’t want and can’t afford; and,”
  • “He added more to the debt than any other president.”

I plan to look into all of these issues because there is so much noise out there about these very issues. But let’s just take a quick look at these “problems.”

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is the official name of the stimulus package. Stimulus bills are always tricky. The difficulty is in measuring how much they help. Bush produced stimulus packages, giving rebate checks to the American taxpayers. No one seems to remember he did that. It is the same Keynesian principle: the government can stimulate the economy by injecting money into the system. Tax breaks are also a part of that principle.

Time will tell what good or bad will come out of the Affordable Care Act. However, as people learn more about it, the more many are starting to like it. But any Republican that believes Romney will repeal it is living in a dream world. If he tries, I predict that many of his supporters will balk at it.

Since the Affordable Care Act is based on a program Romney signed into Massachusetts law, it is strange that he is making this a centerpiece of this attempt to gain my vote. However, he said during the primaries that signing such a bill was a state-based decision and he opposes the Affordable Care Act because it is federal based. While I think he is trying to negotiate out of a tough dilemma, he may have a point.

I wonder if he feels marijuana laws should be treated the same way? Abortion? Gay marriage?

Our public debt is huge. Blaming Obama for it is unfair. Everyone is to blame for our expanding public debt. I see no proof that anyone in the senate or the house has any desire to honestly deal with the debt. It is about $16 trillion at the moment. Republicans blame Obama. Democrats respond that Bush escalated the debt. I will approach this issue soon, but it looks like the public debt has been growing for some time. It escalated with Bush’s tax cuts and the war effort and then escalated again when Obama took office.

The problem is both sides use the debt as a reason for voters to side with them and oppose the other guy. If anyone thinks Romney can reduce the debt, I am here to wake you up … again.

I like Obama, but I don’t believe for a minute the national debt will be better if he gets re-elected.

That is it for the “quick look.” But that’s the problem; there is no quick look at these issues. Voters seem to want to only look at enough to justify their support of Romney or Obama. The Constitution is a document by the People and that puts responsibility on all Americans to take a little time and learn how our government works. Such an endeavor takes effort and a little critical thinking. But the Founder’s believed in a polis that engaged itself in its own government. If we don’t exercise this right, politicians on both sides will continue to play this game.

Monday: Part 2!

Copyright © 2012 Paul George