Monday, November 04, 2002

I've already posted (in the item below) my thoughts on why liberals who are disgusted with tit-for-tat politics and personal attacks should still hold their noses and vote for the Democrat. A few brief thoughts, now, for libertarians who are thinking about holding their noses and voting Republican.

The first thing I think they ought to remember is that rhetoric and political promises aside, the Republican record over the past decade or two has not shown them to be the party of small government. When they get into power, government does not shrink; instead, government money is redirected toward programs which favor their own districts, and they brag to their constituents about their ability to bring home the bacon. And the honest ones are happy to acknowledge that; like Dick Armey says, "to the victor go the spoils".

The second thing I think they ought to remember is that tax cuts do not force a reduction in the size of government, certainly not at the federal level. Faced with the choice of actually cutting popular, but expensive entitlement programs, or issuing bonds to pay for them, the Republican response is to crank up the printing press. It was that way under Reagan; it's that way now. And while some Republicans try to pass the blame for Reagan deficits to Democrats in Congress, they're lying; Congress just fiddled at the margins, actually reducing Reagan's budget request two years out of eight. Had Congress passed Reagan's budgets unaltered, the aggregate debt would not have been significantly different. Reagan Republicans talked about using taxes to reduce the size of government, but when the money was really on the line, they didn't have the guts to even propose a budget that would implement the necessary cuts.

The effect of Republican tax cuts, instead, is to shift the burden of paying for government programs (which favor Republican constituents) from current taxpayers, who vote now, to their children, who don't. And there is a price to be paid for that shift --- specifically to the bondholders, who collect a pretty penny in interest, and who tend to be already well off. And that's without even considering the effect of Republican tax policy, which clearly favors the well-off.

The net difference between Republicans and Democrats in fiscal policy, then, is this: Democrats favor policies which, on balance, shift money from the rich toward the poor. Republicans favor policies which shift money from the poor to the rich. Of course, that leaves people who are simply opposed to any income redistribution at all with no obvious preference. So there's one last thing I'd like them to remember:

On matters concerning personal liberty, and the right of people to conduct their private lives as they see fit, the difference between the parties is quite real. The Republicans have clearly allied themselves with fundamentalist Christians who are determined to impose their views, and their lifestyle, on the rest of us. Well after September 11th, John Ashcroft is continuing to devote substantial federal resources to the fight against medical marijuana distribution, even in states where it has been put to a referendum and endorsed by the voters. In the aftermath of the attack, he had every available agent shaking down American Arabs, but the ten agents who were detailed to a year-long investigation of a New Orleans brothel were evidently not available to be reassigned.

The Democratic record on these issues isn't spotless either, witness the internet censorship initiatives that had broad bipartisan support before they got killed off by the courts. But ask yourself this: is there one party which is consistently endorsed by the Christian Coalition and its allies? Do you think there's a reason for that? If so, consider voting for the other guys.

One qualification: when I said that tax cuts don't reduce government spending at the federal level, I did so advisedly; many state constitutions require balanced budgets. So in those states at least, a reduction in revenue is supposed to immediately cause a reduction in spending --- though what actually happens in Republican state governments when money gets tight, at least as often as not, is budget chicanery. And in Texas, too, under George W. Bush. Who'd a thunk it?


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