How I Came To Love The Fiscal Cliff

President Barack Obama sent his chief negotiator, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, to Congress yesterday with his glorious plan for deficit control and to avoid the fiscal cliff.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner presented the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a detailed proposal on Thursday to avert the year-end fiscal crisis with $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, $50 billion in immediate stimulus spending, home mortgage refinancing and a permanent end to Congressional control over statutory borrowing limits.

What is magical about this?  Note what is missing:  spending cuts.  Basically, Obama wants $1.6 trillion in new taxes, another $1 trillion in new spending, a permanent lifting of the debt limit (a power no President has ever had)…and says he will promise to cut spending later next year.

Heh.

Credit Mitch McConnell…he can be a doofus sometimes, but don’t call him stupid.  He laughed in Geithner’s face…literally.

I am what many conservatives may call a moderate.  I am, reluctantly, willing to give up some tax revenues if we get some real entitlement reform.  I think increasing taxes now is terrible fiscal and economic policy, but the American people gave the White House to Mr. Obama, so I live within that reality.  But, if we take Obama at his word, we should expect $3-$4 of cuts for every $1 of taxes.  That is what he himself promised on the campaign trail, as well as in the Presidential debates against Governor Romney.

This proposal?  At best (and this is an actual stretch) he proposes $1 of spending cuts to $4 of tax increases.  In other words, exactly the opposite of his prior promise.

Liberals applauded Obama’s courage, taking a stand for grand progressive ideology. That is ludicrous.  What Obama did is marginalize the centrists in the Republican party who were willing to at least consider tax revenues, while giving the Right more power to control the debate.  In short…Obama overplayed his hand. Obama does have some political capital here, but not as much as liberals would like to think.  They have argued that he won a huge mandate on November 6th.  And although I am willing to admit he deserves some leeway (one reason I am giving up the huge concession of tax revenues to begin with), defining his electoral victory as a mandate is laughable.  And more to the point, delusional.

So what Obama has done is forced the minority party into a corner.  What possible reason would Republicans have to talk to Obama about a proposal like this?  There frankly is none.  Obama seems set not to get a victory for the American economy, which would include some tax increases but also spending and entitlement reform; instead, he seems to be aiming for a short term political victory by blaming Republicans for going over the fiscal cliff.  Clearly, this is what will occur; the polls are quite clear on who the public will blame if that eventuality occurs.

For me personally, giving up tax revenues in the debate was for a simple reason:  I am deeply concerned about the American economy.  Obama is playing not with fire, but with nuclear fissionable material.  Our economy is languishing, and has been on the precipice of a recession for well over a year, and if anything things are getting worse.  Going over the fiscal cliff could easily push us into a recession.

But Obama simply doesn’t seem to care.  His priority is small minded political victories at this moment in time.  So I say, lets give it to him.

This ends up to be a simple calculation on my part, that has virtually nothing to do with politics; in fact, if I had political goals in mind, I would completely reverse course and surrender to the Democrats.  Is there a compromise that puts American on better footing going forward, looking longterm?  Short term, the tax increases will hurt.  Liberals can fool themselves all they want, but there is NO economic theory in which raising taxes during a recession helps create jobs.  Whether you are from the Austrian School or Keynesian, tax increases during a slow economic period stagnates economic growth.

But long term, if we got some entitlement reform, the tax increases, as painful as they would be, would be worth it.  But right now, Obama has only put the pain on the table, and nothing to gain.  At which point, why even bother?  Democrats’ calculation is that this would be so politically bad for Republicans, they will fold.  I say hell with it.  If the American people want to follow the path of other failed nations (Greece, Spain, Portugal) by raising taxes and spending with no fiscal reforms whatsoever, let them vote the GOP out in 2014.  I would rather go down swinging.

I am not a reactionary at heart.  I am pretty down to earth, look for practical solutions, am willing to compromise for the greater good, even at times it pains me to do so.  I was not the type that would protest in college, would get all riled up at the simplest insults, would be looking for my next cause to get fired up about.  So calling for us to ignore Mr. Obama’s proposal, walk away, and say hell with it?  It is not in my nature.  But at some point, a line is crossed…and that line seems to be hardening in the sand as I speak.  So if liberals really want to follow this path to fiscal ruin, I have only one answer.

Let it burn.

This was cross posted at Neoavatara.

Why Are We Conservatives?

Paradigm shifts. New beginnings. Dramatic change.

All of the above should lead one to revisiting their belief systems. With the re-election of Barack Obama, the conservative movement in America faces all of the above, and should take a long, hard look at what we stand for.

Since 1980, we have theoretically (if not practically) been the party of smaller government, lower taxes, and strict constructionist view of the constitution. The questions that face us therefore are quite clear: do these positions make sense in what appears to now be a center-left nation?

The role of government has been integral to our political debate from the beginning. The original Democrat, Thomas Jefferson, wisely said,

“A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.”

Pretty unlikely to hear that from any Democrat in this day and age. In actuality, Democrats of today sound more like Jefferson’s opposition. Just one note, from Alexander Hamilton:

A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people.
–Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31, January 1, 1788

This debate largely frames where the two parties were in 1789, and are still today. We are simply in a new iteration of a two and quarter century struggle between a stronger, more centralized federal government, and a more diffuse, more localized government.

In the past decade, the philosophical shift has been toward more Federal power, culminating in Obamacare, the largest expansion of Federal power in decades. With President Obama’s re-election, and following the Supreme Court’s affirmation of Obamacare’s constitutionality, the momentum to greater and greater centralization of the role of government is quite clear.

So in that environment, what are conservatives to do? Are we even relevant? We all know what liberals would prefer: They would prefer conservatives largely disappear. That is why their onslaught of trying to marginalize the entire movement with steady claims of bigotry, misogyny, and tyranny will continue.
But the country deserves better. Conservatism is just the newest incarnation of the belief in a true federal system, with both states and the central government playing co-equal goals in achieving public prosperity, best outlined in the 10th amendment. This amendment has been the bane of liberalism, and they have been successful in marginalizing its relevance over a long period of time. Liberalism will continue to try to marginalize those facets of the constitution and law that limit federal power, because to liberals, that is the primary hindrance to achieving all the glory that can be achieved by an all powerful central government. Liberals may not view the world in the way I describe, but ultimately, what is factually erroneous about that description?

But history teaches us a clear lesson: the pendulum swings both ways. In much the way that liberalism became the laughingstock of American politics after Reagan’s ascendance, conservatives have become the extremists and demagogues of our time. All the major social pillars of the country, whether you talk about the political sphere, the entertainment industry, or the mainstream media portray us in that light.
It is within that environment that we fight a rear guard action against the overbearing expansion of federal power that stands before us.

So why are we conservatives? Why not admit defeat and move on? Simple: America’s founding ideals, namely engrained in the Constitution, drive us to keep the fight alive. In the truest Jeffersonian sense of American, we fight for less centralized government, greater state and local control, and above all else, the rights of the individual over the presumed rights of the masses.

So the difficult fight goes on, because it must. An America without conservatism is not much of an America at all. The political balance that has maintained individual freedom from the time of the Founding to this day relies on the fight for limited government versus those fighting to expand political power. From our founding, it has been an integral part of what we are. So that is why we are conservatives…not to enrich ourselves, but to allow the Republic to endure, to focus on its core ideals, and prevent progressive extremism to take us to a place our Constitution never intended.

And so I leave you, ironically, with a liberal lion’s words: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”