Republicans Must Rein in Government
by State Senator Mark Hillman
[Editor's note: Hillman released the following essay on December 20. Following Hillman's essay are some related comments by Steve Gresh.]
Federal spending is soaring. Entitlements are on the rebound. Deficits plague the budget. Conservative judges are bottled up in the U.S. Senate.
Didn't Republicans win the last election?
Well this season's "Potomac fever" is so virulent that it's making Republicans ill nationwide. While many in Washington have succumbed to the temptation to spend their way into the hearts of voters, Republicans outside the beltway who believe in such things as limited government and lower taxes are simply sick because recent trends make those goals seem remote.
I voted for President Bush and our Republican team, and I will do it again next November. The alternative is to simply give up and let Democrats raise taxes, capitulate to France and the United Nations, and appoint more judges who disdain the idea that the people have the right to govern themselves.
Moreover, establishing a strong foreign policy and enacting broad-based tax cuts certainly would not have occurred under Al Gore.
That doesn't make watching Washington any easier, however. With Republicans in charge, I don't expect miracles, but I would like to shout, "Way to go!" more often than I yell, "They did what?"
So why did most Republicans vote to create a new Medicare entitlement? And why do they pack appropriations bills with pork, much as their Democrat counterparts have done?
Because, in my estimation, they are convinced that voters, despite complaints about too much government, reward lawmakers who "do something," which typically means passing new laws and spending money. Congress is a culture of spending, and with no balanced budget requirement to keep spending in check, it's far easier to vote for programs than to vote against them.
In the State Legislature, we are required to pass a balanced budget, but even with that constitutional obligation, finding a majority to vote for genuine budget cuts is no easy task.
And what's the reward for passing a balanced budget and making those tough choices? Front page stories about the sympathetic plight of people affected by the cuts. Editorials criticizing the callous legislators who approved those cuts. Constituents complaining that you should have cut something else.
In Washington, where they can spend today by borrowing against tomorrow, the next election is a reality that arrives long before some distant day of deficit reckoning. When a few thousand votes spread over a couple dozen congressional districts can decide who calls the shots, it's no wonder that even some conservative Republicans are reluctant to bet the House that voters really want government to do less.
Voters aren't that different than those they elect. If you benefit from this or that government program but never see the actual cost because your employer is required to withhold your taxes from your paycheck, you have no idea that by the end of the year the federal government has spent an average of $21,000 per household. (In case you didn't learn this in high school civics, government cannot spend a dime without taking it from you and me.)
So what is a less-government Republican voter to do -- join a third party? Hardly. The Republican Party, despite its shortcomings, is the only competitor in today's political system capable of restoring limits on the power of government. Anyone truly dedicated to that cause must work to continually remind Republican candidates of their mission: cut taxes, balance budgets, and keep America safe.
After Republicans won congressional majorities in 1994, former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm of Texas simply and correctly reminded his colleagues: "People didn't elect Republicans to vote like Democrats."
Republicans who reject that advice ignore the legacy of Ronald Reagan and of the Founding Fathers and do so at their own peril.
Mark Hillman is the Majority Leader of the Colorado Senate. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
[The following remarks were written by Steve Gresh, Vice President of the Colorado Republican Liberty Caucus.]
I consider Hillman to be among a handful of "good" Republican officeholders we have in Colorado. I also consider my state senator, Doug Lamborn, and some other legislators from El Paso County -- Andy McElhany and Bill Cadman, as examples -- to be "good" Republicans. At the federal level, Marilyn Musgrave and Tom Tancredo seem to be joining Ron Paul more often than not in how they vote on legislation. There appears to be a silver lining in the GOP cloud.
Senator Hillman's criticism of the GOP is among a growing number of similar criticisms that I've been reading and hearing from other Republicans. Unfortunately, Hillman's following "lesser of two evils" rationalization still seems to be the predominant mindset among even the GOP's most ardent critics.
"I voted for President Bush and our Republican team, and I will do it again next November. The alternative is to simply give up and let Democrats raise taxes, capitulate to France and the United Nations, and appoint more judges who disdain the idea that the people have the right to govern themselves."
While Democrats probably would raise taxes if they controlled the Congress and the Presidency, the gridlock during Clinton's eight years in office prevented tax increases and kept the average annual rate of increase in government spending lower than it has been during the period of Republican control of the Congress and Presidency. Thus, we now have a larger budget deficit and a national debt that continues to skyrocket.
During a press conference at the March 16, 2003, Azores summit, President Bush stated the following:
"And the U.N. must mean something. Remember Rwanda, or Kosovo. The U.N. didn't do its job. And we hope tomorrow the U.N. will do its job. If not, all of us need to step back and try to figure out how to make the U.N. work better as we head into the 21st Century. Perhaps one way will be, if we use military force, in the post-Saddam Iraq the U.N. will definitely need to have a role. And that way it can begin to get its legs, legs of responsibility back."
While President Bush certainly did not capitulate to the U.N., his statements indicate clearly that his father's vision for a "New World Order" with U.S. sovereignty being relinquished gradually to the U.N. is closer to what he wants than it is to Congressman Ron Paul's forthright resolution to get the U.S. out of the U.N.
The appointment of judges is Hillman's best point. However, I have a couple of questions here, too. Who appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor? Her two most notorious votes recently are the ones to allow racial discrimination for admission to the University of Michigan law school and to uphold Congress' power to make a law (McCain-Feingold) which abridges the freedom of speech. Have the Republicans done everything possible to counter the Democrats' filibuster which has prevented confirmation votes for Estrada and other strict constructionists? If judges who understand the plain language of the U.S. Constitution were really that important to them, why wouldn't they change the Senate rules to prevent forty senators from having more power than fifty-one senators? Fear that the Democrats might possibly do something that they won't like someday if and when the Democrats regain majority control of the Senate is a cowardly excuse for not fighting for what's right today.
Now, this is where Hillman comes closer to stating what I want to see the RLC do:
"So what is a less-government Republican voter to do -- join a third party? Hardly. The Republican Party, despite its shortcomings, is the only competitor in today's political system capable of restoring limits on the power of government. Anyone truly dedicated to that cause must work to continually remind Republican candidates of their mission: cut taxes, balance budgets, and keep America safe."
I would add the following:
Republican candidates must also be reminded that there are many laws, regulations, programs, and agencies which should be repealed or abolished to reduce the size, cost, and intrusiveness of government. After all, Republicans opposed many of those laws, regulations, programs, and agencies when they were the minority party. So, why do they like what the Democrats did over the past seventy years so much now? And, the records of Republican officeholders who fail to act accordingly will be exposed. Those RINOs will find that they have real Republican challengers in future primary elections.