The just concluded (thankfully) Congress is an embarrassment to itself and everyone who favors smaller government. This Republican Congress, in addition to increasing spending on entitlements and expanding big government - like the Democrats they once criticized - also dished out $95 billion in tax breaks and pork-barrel projects.
The Heritage Foundation's Brian M. Riedl says mandatory government spending will reach 11.1 percent of GDP this year, a record high, and non-defense discretionary spending in 2003 will amount to 3.9 percent of GDP for the first time since 1985. Riedl also predicts taxes will inevitably have to be raised to pay for it all. What politician wants to be demagogued about cutting "essential services"?
The Republican "oath" says, "I believe that the proper function of government is to do for the people those things that have to be done but cannot be done, or cannot be done as well, by individuals, and that the most effective government is government closest to the people." Would some lawyer please sue the Republican National Committee for violating truth-in-labeling laws?
Smaller government and less spending? That's a joke. Eleven years ago, Newt Gingrich, who would soon become Speaker of the House, blasted Democrats for seeing "no contradiction between adding a billion and a half dollars in pork-barrel (spending) for the politicians in their big-city machines and voting for a balanced budget amendment." Now that Republicans are doing precisely what Democrats did when they were in the majority, what shall we call these overspending Republicans? Hypocrites? Liars?
The Wall Street Journal editorialized (Nov. 24): "The Republican Congress is turning into something of an embarrassment, if not a crackup." Who is going to pay for all of this stuff? Who will pay for the new prescription drug benefit that will not even be means-tested? There are no cost controls in this bill. Without them, congressional spending will be out of control.
The Bush administration was supposed to hold the line on spending as a justification for the tax cuts. The president has criticized Washington for spending too much money, yet without a peep he signs legislation that increases the budget of the Department of Education and many other agencies. And the justification for more federal education spending is that we are going to make sure the kids are held accountable. Accountability takes money?
The federal government will now spend $21,000 per household, up from $16,000 in 1999, according to the Heritage Foundation's Riedl. How much of that $21,000 could you spend that would produce better results for yourself and family?
We are moving rapidly, under Republican "leadership," past the nanny state and the welfare state to what might be called the state as family. The government will be our keeper (we shall not want). Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of poverty, the federal government will be there to comfort us. Anyone who complains about this will be called "rich" and (by definition) insensitive and uncaring about his fellow man.
The time when the Republican Party stood for something worth standing for is over. The "G" in GOP might as well stand for government. Smaller, less intrusive government with less spending and lower taxes is the stuff of history books and fond memories for a party that once had a purpose. But Republicans, having tasted power, are now drunk with it. Like the Democrats before them who became inebriated with the wine of success, Republicans now seem interested only in preserving their elective offices.
Truly there is less than a dime's worth of difference between the two parties. If only term limits would catch on! But the very people who are the problem would have to vote for the idea and there isn't any money in it.
Defense and anti-terrorism spending aside, there is no excuse for much of the rest of it. It is a pathetic betrayal of the faith many had put in the Republican Party to reduce the size and role of government in our lives.
Is it time for another revolution yet? Who's got the tea?
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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