The Party of Fiscal Responsibility

I am a registered Republican. And I am a member of the Party of Fiscal Responsibility. So, as Republicans have taken over the business of federal governance, I have become painfully aware of the unpleasant reality: the two are not the same.

Most of those who supported the Gingrich-led Republican Revolution wanted, among other things, a fiscally responsible government. It was not an unreasonable idea: Republicans had long been the minority party in Congress, and did a brisk business in carping about Democratic spending boondoggles. And President Bush (41) had bitten the bullet and raised taxes - not a popular move with Republicans, but one that, in retrospect, bespoke a sober approach to the budget.

Thus, when Republicans took control of the national agenda in 2000, many of us who had voted for them cheered. Now, finally, we would have a government that would give us our money back and allow states and local governments to set their own taxing and spending priorities. But the longer the G.O.P. has been in charge, the more glaringly apparent it is that they are not the Party of Fiscal Responsibility.

The most recent example is the long-awaited Energy Bill, which both the Post and the Times laud as "not as bad as it could be". The bill is not a pork bill, per se, but each positive step is taken in the form of a giveaway (to alternative energy users, etc.) and is compensated by an equal and opposite giveaway (to oil extractors, etc.). Note that these may balance each other politically, but each one is another slab of public pork for the interest du jour.

In this climate, it does not take a Rovian genius to realize that the Democrats can score points with voters and businesses by promising a return to fiscal responsibility. But if we learned anything from the Gingrich Revolution, it is that there is no Party of Fiscal Responsibility - only a temporary Minority Party. Democrats running for president in 2008 will trumpet their fiscal bona fides, and governors from either party will have an advantage over tainted Washington insiders.

I am still a Republican. And I am still a member of the Party of Fiscal Responsibility. And it is to membership in this latter party that I invite colleagues from both sides of the debate. Among the many societies and associations in Washington one should be formed - from the grass-roots up - of those who believe that our governments at all levels should work within their budgets and eschew politicized spending (a.k.a. pork). Members of this cross-cutting party would agree not to defend irresponsible proposals from their own side, and to distinguish between responsible and irresponsible proposals from the other side. At the Congressional level, it could become something like the Gang of Fourteen, where enough congressmen agree to vote against their party in order to cut pork off of bills. Long term goals would include a balanced budget amendment and an anti-pork-rider amendment.

I am the first member of the Party of Fiscal Responsibility. Will you join me?

Posted by Chops at July 28, 2005 1:20 PM