Thursday, August 11, 2005

Breaking the 11th

In the Agora has declared August 11, 2005 Breaking the 11th Commandment Day, which is an opportunity for Republicans to criticize the Republican leadership currently in power. As a confirmed Republican, I am going to take this opportunity to express my concerns with the performance of those Republicans currently in power. Hopefully criticizing my own party will help strengthen it and demonstrate my intellectual honesty. Over the past four and a half years, the Republican leadership has let me down in three areas: limiting the size of the federal government and liberalizing the economy, and blurring the line between Church and State

Limiting the Size of the Federal Government

Republicans have traditionally been known as the party of limited government. From their position as the minority in congress the GOP opposed the big government programs from the New Deal to the Great Society. Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich continued this tradition and made the promise of limited government explicit although they did not have enough control over government to completely realize their objectives. With the election of George W. Bush, the GOP gained control of both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government so the ability to limit the size of government should be with their control. Unfortunately over the past four and a half years the federal government has expanded greatly rather than contracted. Nearly all areas of the federal government have greatly expanded their budgets even those outside the scope of homeland security. From bloated transportation and energy bills, to Medicare prescription drug entitlements, to the farm bill, to no child left behind, to Amtrak Republicans have spent government (taxpayer) money on programs far beyond the scope of anyone's definition of limited government.

Liberalizing the Economy

President Bush campaigned for office by telling voting Republicans that he would enhance our economic potential through tax cuts and more open trade with other countries. While the tax cuts and a few free trade agreements have been enacted, the administration has committed multiple missteps along the path to a truly liberal economy including steel and lumber tariffs and the farm bill. Steel tariffs were the first misstep and the first issue where I disagreed with this president. In addition to violating our commitments to other countries, they drastically raised the cost of steel, which hurt US consumers and especially US manufactures who must purchase steel. Likewise placing punitive tariffs on Canadian lumber only hurts US consumers and the housing industry. Finally the farm bill greatly expanded agricultural subsidies, which serve to distort our agricultural market and enrich US farmers at the expense of desperately poor farmers in other parts of the world. Each of these missteps has served to enrich special interests in the US (steelmakers, lumber industry, and agribusiness) at the expense of the average American consumer. In a truly liberal economy, consumers would benefit from greater competition and all sectors of industry would need become much more efficient.

Blurring the Line Between Church and State

On social issues the republicans in power have blurred the line between church and state too much for comfort. Although faith based initiates certainly stop federal programs from discriminating against religious charities, which is better than the previous status, ideally government should not fund any charities at all - individuals would. Forcing Federal involvement upon religion serves to cheapen the role of religion in society. Conversely, writing discrimination of gays into the constitution and Federal intervention in the Terry Schrivo situation are illustrations of Republicans allowing religion to master government. In the Byzantine world nearly constant state intervention in religion ultimately hurt the Orthodox Churches while in the west the Roman Church essentially took over the Roman Empire and culminated in corruption and reformation. We need to be vigilant about both of these relationships in the US. Church Religion needs a space separate from state, in which to operate in people's lives without the crushing weight of state intervention. Some Republicans seem to have forgotten.

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