GOP Wrestles Over What to Do with Government

big_governmentIt is a real head-scratcher.

At a time when the American public is identifying the government as the number one problem in America, Congressional Republicans are increasingly embracing big government solutions. It is as if Republicans don’t want to win.

The latest cool movement in Republican circles is to be something called a Reformicon. A Reformicon basically believes that the push for limited government is passé, and Republicans should instead make the case that they can manage government better.  This management, for example, includes having their acolytes pick different winners and losers using the tax code than their liberal counterparts would.

Essentially this new fad is little more than playing a resource allocation battle between opposing special interests, rejecting the old-fashioned idea that cutting the size and scope of government helps everyone succeed in a more vibrant free market.

pq_20150317This battle is typical in Washington, D.C. where industries grapple with each other for larger pieces of the pie, and the resulting non-ideological fight creates millions in campaign cash. It is the official Washington, D.C. dream where both sides load up on lobbyists, hire consultants to run public relations campaigns and politicians linger for years over decisions until the last bit of cash is extorted from the private entities whose entire businesses hang in the balance.

The Reformicon idea is that if you want families with children to vote for you, and to encourage them to have more children, you should dramatically increase the child tax credit, and by doing so, get the support of the millions of families who benefit.  This solution makes more sense to this new/old breed of Republican than to lower the overall tax rate that benefits everyone.

But this is about much more than a group of “young” thinkers who have discovered that it is much more fun to run a government where you pick winners and losers rather than hog-tying government so people can win or lose based upon their own initiative, ingenuity, and hard work.  After all, letting the actions of millions of Americans determine who succeeds and who goes bust is too random for this new breed that wants to game the system toward the end they prefer.

Politically it is hard to argue that these new, post-Constitutional thinkers don’t have a handle on what levers to pull to manipulate the right micro-targets through sophisticated government action. And their acceptance of the government dependency state fits nicely with the desires of the corporate class which is agnostic between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, but hates a potential candidate like Ted Cruz, so funding their effort to grab hold of the Republican Party apparatus should be well-funded.

The challenge is that should they succeed, the Party will have philosophically abandoned the concept that government is the chokehold on free market innovation, and in doing so will have ceded the mantle of being the limited government political party.

Once that plumb line core principle is lost, the Republican Party will devolve into a non-stop resources bidding war with the Democrats hoping to woo the affections of an avaricious public seeking their piece of the “free” government pie, and the party of Lincoln will be dead.

Americans don’t want government managing their lives and manipulating their decisions, and they certainly distrust government to have their best interests at heart when it is nothing more than a battle between competing lobbyists.

Five months after voters swept Republicans into power, Gallup confirms that the limited government message is a powerful one.  It is a cudgel that Republicans of a bygone era would have wielded aggressively, particularly as they ostensibly control the House and the Senate.

In the meantime, you can count on the political messages from the official Republican Party offices reflecting the Party platform of reducing the size and scope of government.

However, the question is whether you can count on the Republican majorities in Congress to fight to win on these fundamental principles or will they surrender to the powerful temptation to “manage” big government to help those who support them.

Based upon the five months since their big November win, the Magic 8-Ball says, “party prospects not bright.”  For the sake of the nation, let’s hope it is wrong


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Rick Manningis the Vice President of Public Policy and Communications for Americans for Limited Government and the former Public Affairs Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Labor. Americans for Limited Governmentis dedicated to putting the principles of limited government into action. They work with local groups across the nation to promote freedom, limited government, and the principles of the U.S. Constitution. Their goal is to harness the power of American citizens and grassroots groups in order to put the people back in charge in states across the country.
Rick Manning
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