Thursday, October 06, 2005

What is a Conservative?

The question of the day I have decided to try to answer is, "What is a conservative?"

I don't know anymore. Yesterday a reporter asked President Bush whether he was still a conservative in light of many on the right wondering about his choice for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers. Bush said he was still a conservative and proud of it. But is Bush a conservative?

Let's start with money. Conservatives are for balanced budgets, it's called fiscal conservatism. Yet, in the last five years the Bush White House has been spending money like the bills have disease on them, in other words, as fast as possible. It's well known that the federal budget had been finally balanced at the end of Clinton, (both parties had helped in this happening, but probably the roaring late '90s economy should get the most credit for balancing the budget).

But then conservative Bush came to town. Bush began tax cuts, which lowered the government income. A budget that had been finally balanced after many years didn't need alterations at that moment, it was finally a success. OK, I will concede that cutting taxes is conservative, but guess what? Liberals actually don't mind cutting taxes either. Both parties in 2000 offered tax cuts in the election despite polling that showed more than 60% didn't care about tax cuts. Note; Election promises always are either "buying votes" or lieing, at least to critics of politicians.

Bush paid off his supporters with tax cuts. The problem is that too many of his supporters are rich and powerful. Enron's Ken Lay for instance was a big contributor to Bush's 2000 election. Lay still isn't in jail or even have gone to trial, you've got to wonder whether that political money is now getting a payback with delayed justice for America. Mostly, the Bush tax cuts benefited the rich and ultra-rich. For most of us, it was nothing more than a few dollars in our paychecks, money that was quickly used on minor things.

So the tax cuts began an unwinding of the balanced budget. Bush deserves conservative credit for "buying votes" (rather, fullfilling a campaign promise) and also loses some conservative credit for beginning fiscal irresponsibility (campaign lie).

Bush cut taxes every year, helping plunge the budget deeper in the red. While this was going on we had a couple of big interuptions into America. First, was the corporate scandals of 2001, and the dropping stock market. Despite this problem, the tax cuts continued. Then came 9/11, yet the tax cuts continued. The federal budget now was not close to being balanced. The tax cuts still continue to this day.

To a fiscal conservative, if you cut taxes then to balance the budget you have to cut programs. This was starting to be done when 9/11 hit. In reaction, Bush increased federal spending with Homeland Security and expansion of many other agencies. Military spending as well jumped with two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq.

So, in Bush's first term the federal budget was no longer near balanced. Tax cuts reduced revenues, while federal spending increased expenses. This is not a fiscal conservatives' dream acounting sheet. Yet, in Bush's second term he has done basically nothing to change the balance sheet, even after Hurricane Katrina gets flooded with federal spending (awful pun). Just prior to Katrina, Congress had passed two major pork bills. More free flowing government spending.

The Republicans I see today are not fiscal conservatives at all. They spend like drunken sailors. I think Bush is not a fiscal conservative, he's more like a thief with a stolen government credit card.


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