Doug Bandow does a very good job in his article “The Republican Party’s Welfare Queens” (Views, August) of detailing all the various queens and their courts in the Republican Party, all of which are parasites on the taxpayer. What he does not do, however, is to detail the cultural circumstances that have turned the GOP from a party of fiscal responsibility to one of drunken sailors. Because of this transformation, deficit spending will continue in the federal government even if Republican legislators grow balls of steel.
The GOP’s power in Congress rests upon several states and congressional districts, both in the South and elsewhere, that were once represented by conservative Democrats. These fellows were conservative, however, only in regard to social or moral issues. When it came to federal spending, they were the most liberal Democrats one could find in Congress. Because these “conservative” Democrats no longer fit into the culturally Marxist post-1968 Democratic Party, they became Republicans.
But once a Democrat, always a Democrat. These newly converted Republicans never ceased in helping out their own districts or their favored constituency groups. Republican politicians such as Saxby Chambliss, Trent Lott, Thad Cochrane, Zach Wamp, and others are simply playing the same roles old Democrats such as Richard Russell, James O. Eastland, Wright Patman, and Mendell Rivers once played, redistributing our tax dollars to their states and supporters. Ask Tennessee Republicans if they wish to privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority, and they will turn into staunch New Dealers.
Democrats (and today’s big-government conservatives) believe in government spending because it wins elections. Big-government conservatives now make up nearly 30 percent of the electorate, according to the Pew Foundation. These fellows have never bought into Taft or Goldwater or even early Reagan conservatism—and they never will.
Most Republicans are either indifferent to deficit spending or enthusiastic, especially now that the “War on Terror” has provided new ways to dole out government goodies to their home states and districts.
Mr. Bandow Replies:
Mr. Scallon certainly is correct that many of the former Democrats never put up much pretense of believing in traditional conservative fiscal principles. However, support for those same principles seems absent among congressmen representing historically Republican districts as well.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) heads the Republican Study Committee, which is advocating “Operation Offset”—that is, spending cuts to balance Hurricane Katrina-related spending. But Pence, like so many other members, benefited from the pork lavished far and wide by the transportation bill that was largely drafted by, and named after the wife of, Rep. Don Young (R-AK). Neither are former Southern Democrats.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL, from the one-time GOP heartland of Illinois, was the primary force behind the passage, through procedural legerdemain, of the irresponsible Medicare pharmaceutical benefit. He also joined House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX)—before the latter’s indictment-induced leave of absence—in browbeating Representative Pence and others who criticized the GOP’s fiscal irresponsibility. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) says that he was hooted down by the Republican House caucus when he pushed for countervailing spending cuts after Katrina, and the insults do not appear to have been limited to Southerners, let alone former Democrats.