Monday, December 13, 2010

The cost of Bi-Partisanship

Most Americans look back at what George Washington said about political parties and lament their formation. In his farewell address Washington, a Federalist by most accounts, took a swipe at the formation of political parties most likely due to the rise of the Jeffersonian Republicans. Washington stated, “They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests."-1

While this rings true for most Americans I tend to look at this statement with suspicion. We know for fact that revisions to this letter were made by Alexander Hamilton, and the Hamiltonian approach to governing is what sparked resistance to the Hamiltonian approach in the first place. You see, Hamilton was a tax and spender, no where near what we have now, but he believed a modest national debt to be a good thing. Jefferson felt that it was immoral. Jefferson cautioned that “…As the doctrine is that a public debt is a public blessing so they [the supporters of a state debt assumption] think a perpetual one is a perpetual blessing, and therefore wish to make it so large that we can never pay it off.”-2

Jefferson’s response at the time was to form a new political party to rein in spending and lower taxes. Hamilton’s response was to refer to Jefferson and those who followed him as “radicals” and use his tools in the media to patronize them on a regular basis. Luckily back then the “extremists” had enough of their own tools in the media to fight back.

It is true that the partisan bickering made both George Washington and John Adams sick to their stomach. Neither one could handle it, and both are often portrayed as hating being claimed by the Federalists and preferring a no-party system. However, when it came time to declare sides, they sided with Hamilton and his Federalists.

Today’s political environment is only different in that the legacy of the Federalists (the Democrats) have taken Hamilton’s ideology and merged it with Marxism to create the modern Progressive movement. Hamilton would die of heart failure if he could see what has become of his ideas, Jefferson would be equally disappointed in his political progeny, (the Grand Old Party the modern Republicans.) Both are chronic spenders well outside the intent of Hamilton. Keep in mind the original division among the American people was over whether or not we should maintain a modest national debt. Both parties have been responsible for increases in the debt that would horrify the Founding Fathers regardless of their political faction.

This increase in the debt has been the cost of bipartisanship. It is when parties agree to a bargain that we have to worry the most. If you study the voting patterns of the American Congress over the last 200 plus years the general pattern we see is that when there is a super majority of party control, or when there is bipartisan cooperation debts will increase. Only in times of gridlock do we see a decrease in spending, a decrease in taxes and prosperity all the way around. I submit to you the Reagan and Clinton administrations, though the latter cut more spending than the former. The notable exception to this rule is the Calvin Coolidge administration which had a Republican controlled House and Senate, and at points a super majority if memory serves. This was after the collapse of the first Progressive movement which, as they always do, lead the country into disarray. Coolidge and his Republican Majorities lead the country into unprecedented prosperity with significant cuts to taxes and spending and the size and scope of government. This of course was ruined when Progressive Republican Herbert Hoover took office… But that is another blog.

As what some establishment Republicans have begun to call a “Ron Pauler,” I am unafraid to admit I have trust issues with my own party due to the Bush 1 and Bush 2 eras. While neither have been anywhere near as bad as Obama both led to increased spending, and the elder lead to increased taxes as well. Jefferson drew a proverbial line in the sand and said he and Republicans would not tolerate the Federalists crossing that line. Coolidge did the same. Regan tried to, but in his case the gridlock he had stopped him from accomplishing all of his conservative goals. However the gridlock Clinton had was different. Why? Because Newt Gingrich also drew a line in the sand.

The purpose of an opposing party is to do exactly that. James Madison, another of my favorites, would write in Federalist Papers # 10 in agreement that factions often threatened the liberties of the individual, but after seeing what was happening with the lack of resistance to Alexander Hamilton joined Jefferson in forming such a faction: the original Democratic Republicans. In a quote attributed to Madison he stated “…when the variety and number of political parties increase, the chance for oppression, factionalism, and no skeptical acceptance of ideas decrease…” The original Republicans clung to the idea that without a formal party of resistance, a party of “no” if you will, a party of “this far and no further,” government will continue to grow outside its constitutional authority. Whenever we cooperate, we capitulate, and when we refuse to draw that line in the sand, as Jefferson and Madison did with Hamilton, government will continue to grow to excess. It is, after all, in its nature.

To resist the expansion of government we have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. For me, as a proud 9/12er and Libertarian Republican the debt is my central issue. Obama’s “compromise” with our party to secure a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts is a tempting offer. One may desire this compromise even if the trade off is an extension of unemployment benefits into a third year. But after considering this matter I have decided I cannot, and must not support this measure for a number of reasons.

1) The unemployment benefits are nice to have to keep one afloat for a reasonable amount of time, but if they last too long they discourage people from seeking employment. 3 Years is 2 years and 9 months too long in my opinion.

2) Unemployment insurance would be better handled in a private setting. Perhaps a private company should offer the service instead of the federal government. I have been saying this for many years.

3) The extension of the tax cuts only lasts a measly two years, at which point this becomes an election issue, which the Democrats will inevitably use as a wedge and bludgeon issue via exacerbating their class warfare efforts.

4) The pork they have added to this compromise now has the price tag of the bill totaling 858 Billion dollars.-3

5) I do not favor the estate tax (AKA the death tax) and feel it must be abolished and never again resurrected.

The Bush tax cuts were helpful but in their day only meant I got to keep an extra $20 per check. Helpful indeed, but not at the cost of another Trillion dollars. The line in the sand has to be drawn. We want the tax cuts, but let us not allow the Democrats to raise the deficit by another trillion. I believe that they are trying to employ the Cloward and Pivens (Google it) strategy to collapse the system deliberately. I cannot and will not support any measures which add to the deficit at this point. We have over 100 trillion dollars in total debt counting unfunded mandates. This tax cut must be coupled with massive cuts in spending, in the size and scope of government or it is simply not worth it. I would encourage fellow Republicans to join together in drawing a line in the sand. Already we have allowed the Progressives to advance too far to the detriment of our own party. Let us now declare we will allow no further advances. This must end here, and it must end now. Let us not forget the purpose for which Jefferson and Madison founded the original Republican Party. They drew their line, let us honor their memory and do the same. A trillion dollars for the price of bi-partisanship is a price tag too high in any season.


*Author’s note: Both political parties link themselves to Jefferson, however when ideology is compared today’s “Tea Party”, “Constitutionalist”, and “Libertarian” factions of the Republican Party are the ones advocating the Jeffersonian/Madisonian approach to governance. Democrats harken to the Hamiltonian approach, but with a little authoritarianism thrown in for good measure.

-1 George Washington Farwell Address American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796

-2 The writings of Thomas Jefferson edited by Paul L Ford Vol. 5 pg 505 (1792)
-3 House Democrats Balk Over Estate Tax as Senate Moves to Approve Tax Deal 12-13-10 accessed 12-13-10.

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