Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why the Two-Party System is Pure Mythology

My Twitter timeline is growing more and more libertarian all the time. And, truth be told, so am I. There was a time when I accepted the reality of the two-party tradition in America. Today it is little more than slight distinctions about which party's candidates can convince us they can manage the intricacies of big government better.

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Sadly, while I still like Paul Ryan a lot, the release of his latest version of the budget features only a slightly lower baseline over the next ten years than the trajectory of the Senate's version, released last week by the Senate's budget chairperson, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). Give her credit - at least she came up with the first Senate budget in over 1400 days. That said, we have yet to pass a federal budget during the administration of Barack Obama, much less seriously consider balancing one. Finally, last week Barack Obama admitted he has no intention of balancing the budget nor reducing the deficit during his remaining term. At least now we know where he stands, since he no longer is accountable to voters. His budget "proposal" merely calls for more taxes and more spending.

According to Ryan’s version of what he would advocate (these numbers are lifted straight from his proposal) we would reduce federal spending as a percentage of GDP from 22.2 percent this year to 19.1 percent in 2023. That is at least a start in the right direction, but hardly draconian in its import. However, if you believe what the Democrat/progressive/liberal elements tell us, such a brutal meat cleaver reduction in the federal spending projections over the next ten years would inflict almost incomprehensible pain on Americans.

Here's what caught my attention from Ryan's CPAC speech last week: “We don’t see the debt as an excuse to cut with abandon, to shirk our obligations. We see it as an opportunity to reform government, to make it cleaner and more effective. That’s what conservatives stand for.”

But here's the rub. Isn't that exactly what Democrats believe too? Aren't they always proclaiming their efforts are designed to give us more effective and efficient government too?

I studied Ryan’s proposal to see if I could find anything that would forever end the federal government’s involvement in education. We've been talking about that since the days of Reagan who wanted to close the doors on the Department of Education. No sign of that in Ryan's budget. All the federal programs that sponsor job training are still there in the Ryan budget. There is nothing to eliminate the Departments of Energy, Transportation, and all the rest. There are so many bloated federal agencies that could be eliminated presidential candidate Rick Perry stumbled during a debate on his recitation of the list of agencies he would cut and it cost him the nomination. But nowhere in the latest Ryan budget do you find provisions for cutting them out.

There is a plus, however. Ryan's budget calls for ending Obamacare, but that isn't going to happen now as that train left the station and is picking up speed on the implementation rails as it rumbles into an insurance plan near you soon. But even if that were a successful legislative coup (and it won't be) the Ryan budget fails to eliminate the federal government’s involvement in health care. At least Ryan wants to cap higher education subsidies, but that doesn't terminate the federal government’s involvement in education. Well, you get the idea. The core problem is simple: More efficient government isn’t the same as limited government. That's the important Constitutional mandate we have bargained away over the years as both political parties have given us more and more government. Whether the federal government is efficient or effective is a debate I don't even care about. I'm becoming more libertarian because it's the only option left to us.

I'm just old enough to remember when we thought we could believe a two-party political system consisting of Republicans and Democrats representing vastly different values and objectives existed. However, true patriots who value liberty and freedom from tyranny, those who are accurately informed, well researched and historically astute know otherwise. Now I see things much differently. The thin veneer of political differentiation has finally peeled away. By the time George W. Bush and Henry Paulson at the end of the Bush era decided to bail out Wall Street and bankers, the illusion was forever evaporated. Government can only fund solutions with money it collects from taxpayers, and so far there seems to be insufficient angst among voters to stop it from escalating.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)
Something extraordinary happened a couple of weeks ago on the Senate floor. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) launched a nearly 13-hour filibuster over an issue that barely aroused any interest among Americans, yet it clearly illuminated this rising tide of awareness of the thinly-veiled differences between the establishment powers in both political parties. What stunned me was the reaction by certain members of the Republican party we must not minimize. I happen to like the old Jimmy Stewart movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," only because it's about the little guy who dares to take on the establishment against all odds. Rand Paul's filibuster was a throw-back to earlier times. Here's at least one man (and there are growing numbers) who still recognizes the Constitution of the United States and Bill of Rights as the supreme law of the land. I include Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) in that group. John McCain called them "wacko birds." Then he thought better of the comment and apologized. That defiant act of filibuster by one man had much deeper meaning on many more levels than the topic at hand. When "wackos" are people who believe in limited government and liberty, then I choose to stand with the wackos.

Senator Paul asked for a simple response about the potential use of drones on American citizens on American soil from the Attorney General who represents the Executive branch of our government. Attorney General Eric Holder did not respond, so Senator Paul took to the Senate floor and spoke for 13 hours. As painful as it was for the Executive and Judicial branches and their media surrogates to even acknowledge Senator Paul’s persistence, his actions eventually generated a response. A short letter signed by Attorney General Holder was begrudgingly released. The answer was “no.” As remote as the possibility may seem to some, at least this administration is now on the record if that means anything.

Every freedom-loving American should be heralding Senator Rand Paul for what he did. It was evidence that every American who still cares about the rule of law and our God-given rights as enumerated in the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights has at least one voice who speaks for them on the Senate floor. One would think that kind of issue would resonate throughout America without regard to political party. But he received nothing but ridicule for what some claimed was a cheap political grandstanding maneuver. I saw it as much more.

I consider myself a Conservative. I used to think I was a "moderate" Conservative. I find I must distinguish what that means to me and what it means to Paul Ryan, however. My loyalty is to our Constitution and Bill of Rights. I'm increasingly more interested in like-minded individuals who share that desire above party label. To stand for only a better-managed big government is now bordering on tyrannical and treasonous in my mind.

On the morning of the 9/11 attacks, I watched in horror as the Twin Towers collapsed and the realization we were attacked by foreign enemies slowly sank in that morning. Looking back on the aftermath of that day, I think I supported wholeheartedly, as many Americans did, the passage of legislation that formed even more agencies of the federal government. The Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security are only two examples. Now I believe I was wrong in my initial embrace of those moves. In the subsequent bursting of the bubble of Wall Street excesses with securitized mortgages and other dicey investment vehicles, there came clarity. I have discerned we were then, and still are to an increasing rate, being lied to by elected officials on both sides of the political spectrum. The "BIG LIE" is that we are going to be okay with the status quo they so desperately seem determined to perpetuate.

I've stopped listening to the so-called "Conservative" talk radio pundits and the TV talking heads. Like an old soap opera where you can tune out for months at a time, then tune in for a few minutes, the story lines never change and the themes are repetitive. The search for truth is paramount in these last days. And the truth cannot be found in the political realm.

Jesus Christ laments over Jerusalem
You are either loyal to God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, or you are not. It really won't matter much which political logos you're wearing when the elements melt down in the fervent heat yet to come. What will matter instead is your allegiance to God and our Constitution and Bill of Rights in America. As Christ was rejected of His own in His day, so He is being rejected once again in our day. I surmise He laments over Washington D.C. today as He once did over Jerusalem. The imperial government, the pervasive institution to which we are all being asked to pledge allegiance and to turn for sustenance, has forsaken her birthright. These are values our great nation once represented. There is no political party left, however, to claim the crown of champion for those values. Both parties have been corrupted. As long as I live I will resist any and all attempts by others to impose a godless theocracy upon us. If America fails, there will be no other contender left on earth in the running among the super powers to champion the cause of freedom.

Merely proposing that the federal government borrow and spend less than what is currently projected is certainly better than the alternative of burying our heads in the sand and pretending we are not in a spending and debt crisis. But those who accept Paul Ryan's version of the proposed federal budget cannot be serious if their goal is limited government. We must come to a point where we must find the collective will as free citizens to impose limits all the areas where government has intruded on our rights.

Some people worry what will happen if draconian measures are taken to cut federal spending. Think of the "safety net" suddenly being snatched out from underneath everyone. Think of all the unemployment if federal employment for millions of Americans suddenly terminates. In the garden of Eden, were Adam and Eve firmly clutching their Social Security checks and food stamps? When did we lose sight of working by the sweat of our own brows? There were no promises then, and there are none now. Ryan is defending a mythological fantasy when he says he can ensure the promises their government has made to Americans in the years ahead. What he's really saying is I can do it better than Democrats, when both have moved this country beyond the ability to deliver on those promises without severe cutbacks in the status quo. That's a political agenda politicians don't dare enunciate for fear of losing the next election.

I've heard the list of horribles of what might happen if we take control of our own debt and spending now, but what if we are already at the tipping point where the collapse is imminent anyway? Isn't the path we are on amply demonstrated by now to be unsustainable? Seems to me we must prune back the spending and debt bushes voluntarily now, or the pruning will be imposed at a time not of our own choosing and by circumstances we cannot possibly foresee or control.

I'm happy for the thought and preparation that has gone into Ryan’s latest budget proposal. But it only represents a step toward a slightly cheaper big government in a time when what is needed is a return to limited government we can actually afford.

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