Paul Jacob

Congress has become uncompromising. Legislators no longer know how to deal with each other. No give and take remains.

If this is so, then why does the majority party find it so hard to accomplish its alleged goals? If it brooks no opposition, then why does it look so much like what it opposes — the spend, spend, spendthrift party?

This week former Senate Majority Whip Alan Simpson came to Washington to give a talk about humor on Capitol Hill. He made some widely repeated remarks about how different politics is these days from when he was in office. He expressed shock — shock! — that his Republican Party fellows had nixed a mental health bill "just because" it had minority party sponsors. "You've got to have rocks for brains to do that," the Washington Post quoted him as saying. Why, back in the old days "[w]e just didn't do that to each other."

Every week, every day we read a column or listen to a pundit relate how uncivil Congress has become. But if you had asked me during a period of alleged bipartisan co-operation, like the '50s, I might have said (had I been alive), "Maybe a little less co-operation and a little less compromise would be a good thing; maybe politicians should stick to principles."

But the present case proves my '50s' self's surmise wrong. We have a majority party and it doesn't play nice, doesn't compromise. But it is enhancing — not diminishing — the size and scope of government . . . contrary to its stated principles. The idea of limited government — an ideal that since Goldwater and Reagan has been definitively associated with the GOP — is now something honored only in the breach.

The Medicare Part D fiasco, for example, has alone widened the scope and increased the size of the welfare state. The power of the Department of Education — once a GOP candidate for abolition — has been strengthened, not weakened, by the "No Child Left Behind Act." A myriad unsupportable pork projects have been funded while foreign policy has become a matter of nation-building . . . the latter being something our president and many other conservatives once argued was against America's interests . . . and conservative principles.

In an environment where liberals are scorned and scoffed at and shunned — the GOP-controlled Congress and White House — politicians who profess conservative principles can be the only ones to blame when conservative principles remain without force, affecting nothing.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.