President Trump has now completed his first year in office. The Republican majorities in the U.S. House and Senate have now had a year to work with a Republican president. What is so significant about that is that it is only the fourth time since the end of World War II and the end of absolute Democratic control of the federal government under Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the Republican Party itself obtained absolute control of the government.
Absolute Republican control first occurred with the 83rd Congress during the first two years of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency (1953–1955). After that, Republicans did not control even one house of Congress until 1981. Absolute Republican control next happened when Republicans had a majority in Congress for more than four years under George W. Bush. At the time of Bush’s inauguration in January 2001, the Republicans effectively controlled both houses of the 107th Congress. Although the composition of the Senate was tied at 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, Dick Cheney, the vice president and president of the Senate, was able to cast a tie-breaking vote (which he did eight times during his tenure as vice president), effectively giving Republicans control of the Senate. Republicans maintained their control of the government until May 24, 2001, when Republican Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched from Republican to Independent and began caucusing with the Democrats, thus ending Republican control of the Senate. Republicans regained control of the Senate in the 2002 midterm elections, and then remained in control of both Houses of Congress until their defeat in the 2006 midterm elections.
In addition to that, there were a few times in which the Republicans almost had total control of the government; that is, they controlled two-thirds of it: either the presidency and one house of Congress or both houses of Congress without the presidency. The 80th Congress of 1947–1949, which met during the second half of the first term of the Democratic president Harry Truman, was solidly Republican in the House and Senate. The Republicans had a majority in the Senate during the Republican president Ronald Reagan’s first six years in office. During the last six years of Democrat Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Republicans had majorities in both houses of Congress. When the Republicans temporarily lost their majority in the Senate under George W. Bush, they still controlled two-thirds of the government. The 114th Congress of 2015–2017, which met during Barack Obama’s last two years in office, had Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.
So why does it matter if the Republicans have absolute or majority control of the federal government instead of the Democrats? The socialist and statist policies of the Democratic Party are well known. It is the party of liberalism, socialism, progressivism, paternalism, economic egalitarianism, collectivism, taxpayer-funded abortion, organized labor, big government, environmentalism, affirmative action, welfare, taxing and spending, income-transfer programs, and wealth-redistribution schemes. The Democratic solution to every problem is invariably more government or more government intervention.
The Republicans claim to be different. At election time they all maintain how conservative they are, and how dedicated they are to the Constitution, limited government, individual freedom, private property, traditional values, free enterprise, free trade, and a strong national defense.
The GOP platform
The most recent Republican Party platform was adopted at the party’s convention in Cleveland in 2016. The Constitution is frequently mentioned in their platform as the Republicans’ authority:
We believe the Constitution was written not as a flexible document, but as our enduring covenant. We believe our constitutional system — limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and the rights of the people — must be preserved uncompromised for future generations.
We are also the party of the Constitution, the greatest political document ever written. It is the solemn compact built upon principles of the Declaration that enshrines our God-given individual rights and ensures that all Americans stand equal before the law, defines the purposes and limits of government, and is the blueprint for ordered liberty that makes the United States the world’s freest and most prosperous nation.
We reaffirm the Constitution’s fundamental principles: limited government, separation of powers, individual liberty, and the rule of law.
We affirm that all legislation, regulation, and official actions must conform to the Constitution’s original meaning as understood at the time the language was adopted.
The Republican platform adamantly supports federalism:
Federalism is a cornerstone of our constitutional system. Every violation of state sovereignty by federal officials is not merely a transgression of one unit of government against another; it is an assault on the liberties of individual Americans.
The Constitution gives the federal government very few powers, and they are specifically enumerated; the states and the people retain authority over all unenumerated powers.
We pledge to restore the proper balance and vertical separation of powers between the federal government and state governments — the governments closest to, and most reflective of, the American people.
The Republican platform continually emphasizes that the U.S. government should be subservient to the American people:
The legitimate powers of government are rooted in the consent of the American people.
We believe that people are the ultimate resource — and that the people, not the government, are the best stewards of our country’s God-given natural resources.
We pledge to make government work for the people, rather than the other way around.
The Republican platform maintains that “in a free society, the primary role of government is to protect the God-given, inalienable rights of its citizens.” Americans’ First Amendment rights “are not given to us by the government but are rights we inherently possess.” The Republican platform recognizes the overreach of the federal government and calls for a more limited government:
Much of what the federal government does can be improved, much should be replaced, and much needs to be done away with or returned to the states. It is long past time for just tinkering around the edges of a bloated and unresponsive bureaucratic state.
We call for renewed efforts to reduce, rather than expand, government responsibilities, and we urge particular attention to the bloated public relations budgets of the departments and agencies. The federal government spends too much of the people’s money telling the people what they should do.
All of this might be almost just enough to make constitutionalists and liberty-minded individuals want to join the Republican Party.
I said “almost.”
The reality is that no matter how many times Republicans recite their conservative mantra and mention the Constitution, federalism, the people, natural rights, and limited government in their platform, their actions show that they don’t believe a word of what they’re saying or writing.
Past Republican failures
There is only one way to describe the past year of Republican rule: a complete and utter failure. But anyone who ignored the libertarian rhetoric spouted by Republicans and instead paid attention to what they actually did when they had absolute or majority control of the federal government knew that “this time” would be no different from “last time.”
The Republican majority in Congress for the first time since the New Deal could have blocked the legislative agenda of Harry Truman. It didn’t. It authorized millions in aid for Greece and billions for the Marshall Plan. And Americans are still suffering from the negative consequences of the National Security Act of 1947 that reorganized the military and established the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
If ever the New Deal could have been repealed in its entirety, it was when the Republicans had absolute control of the government under Dwight Eisenhower. They, of course, failed to do anything. And even if the Republicans in Congress had tried to do something, it would have been squelched by Eisenhower, who wrote in a 1954 letter,
Now it is true that I believe this country is following a dangerous trend when it permits too great a degree of centralization of governmental functions. I oppose this — in some instances the fight is a rather desperate one. But to attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything — even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon “moderation” in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H.L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
When Republicans controlled the Senate for six years under Ronald Reagan they never even tried to repeal Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Instead, the budget increased, the deficit exploded, the national debt expanded, the drug war enlarged, and Social Security and Medicare tax rates were raised.
When the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress for six years under Bill Clinton, federal spending went up every year and the national debt increased by $1.4 trillion. Republicans expanded the welfare state by increasing the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) every year and creating the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to provide federally funded health insurance to children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid. Republicans also overwhelmingly supported the Iraq Liberation Act that declared it was U.S. policy to support “regime change” in Iraq. No attempt was ever made to eliminate a significant government program or agency. Instead, all we heard was whining about the need for a Republican in the White House so Republicans could finish the revolution that wasn’t.
When the Republicans finally got their Republican president in George W. Bush they had a perfect opportunity to end the welfare state and return the country to the limited government envisioned by the Framers. Yet, the damage done by Republicans when they had absolute control of the government is incalculable: the arcane Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the creation of the monstrous Department of Homeland Security, the nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, federal bailouts, increased farm subsidies, and increased foreign aid; free-speech zones and other infringements on civil liberties, the draconian USA PATRIOT ACT, and the repulsive TSA; the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act that made criminals out of Americans who wanted to purchase Sudafed for their stuffy noses; the No Child Left Behind Act that further federalized local public schools, almost doubling the budget and the national debt and tremendously expanding the budget of the Department of Education; endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, skyrocketing congressional spending, assassinations, torture, and drone strikes that regularly missed their targets; and illegal surveillance of American citizens. And then there is the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, the largest expansion of the welfare state since Lyndon Johnson.
When Republicans once again had majorities in the House and Senate during the last two years of Barack Obama’s second term, they not only failed to balance the budget, they increased federal spending so much that the national debt climbed to almost $20 trillion. And yet, the Republicans wasted their time sending Obama bills to repeal Obamacare, even though there was no way that Obama would ever approve legislation to repeal his signature health-care law.
And now, after one year under Donald Trump, with absolute control of the government, the Republicans have once again proved to be a complete and utter failure. I cite but seven examples.
Republicans have completely and utterly failed to repeal Obama-care. They could have had a bill already drafted to repeal Obamacare and put it on Trump’s desk his first day in office. It could have been just a one-sentence bill: “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 through 124 Stat. 1025) is hereby repealed.”
Republicans have completely and utterly failed to cut federal spending. They envision a budget of more than $4 trillion for the next fiscal year, with increases every year after that. And they don’t even profess to have a balanced budget until 10 years into the future. The national debt has increased by more than half a trillion dollars over the past year.
Republicans have completely and utterly failed to end the welfare state. There are in the United States about 80 means-tested welfare programs that limit benefits or payments on the basis of the beneficiary’s income or assets. Well-known programs such as Medicaid; the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP); the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP [formerly known as food stamps]); Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF); Head Start; Healthy Start; school breakfast and lunch programs; Section 8 housing vouchers; Supplemental Security Income (SSI); and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) are still intact. As are welfare programs that most Americans have never heard of, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) and the Special Milk Program (SMP), and welfare programs that most Americans don’t consider to be welfare, such as Social Security, Medicare, refundable tax credits, farm subsidies, and unemployment compensation.
Republicans have completely and utterly failed to end the warfare state. There has been no change to U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. empire is still intact. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops are still stationed overseas. Hundreds of foreign military bases are still open. The United States is still bombing and intervening in other countries. Drone strikes have gone up more than 400 percent since Trump took office. Yet, Republicans are salivating over his call for a higher defense budget.
Republicans have completely and utterly failed to abolish the TSA. It is bad enough that the federal government provides security for private businesses; it is even worse when TSA agents routinely steal from passengers; inappropriately grope them; and fail to detect mock knives, guns, and explosives in undercover security tests.
Republicans have completely and utterly failed to end federal control over local education. The federal Department of Education, which Republicans at one time pledged to abolish, is still in existence even though Republicans say in their platform that the Constitution gives the federal government “no role in education.”
Republicans have completely and utterly failed to reduce the size and scope of the federal government. Not only are the 15 large departments still intact, the federal government also operates hundreds of agencies, bureaus, corporations, commissions, administrations, authorities, and boards. Most of them should be completely and permanently shut down, their funding and activities ended, all of their assets sold, and all of their bureaucrats laid off.
It doesn’t matter whether Republicans have absolute control of the government with a Republican president (Eisenhower, the younger Bush, Trump), whether they have a majority in both Houses of Congress under a Democratic president (Truman, Clinton, Obama), whether they control just the Senate under a Republican president (Reagan), whether they control just the House under a Republican president (the younger Bush), whether they control just the House under a Democratic president (Obama), or even whether they are in the minority in Congress under a Democratic president (Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama) or a Republican president (Nixon, Ford, Reagan, both Bushes). The result is the same: a complete and utter failure to do anything to limit the size and scope of the federal government.
The Republican fraud
The federal government is a bloated, invasive, intrusive, destructive monstrosity that is out of control. We have a welfare state that Lyndon Johnson could only have dreamed of. We have a warfare state that bombs, maims, and kills; makes terrorists, widows, and orphans; and enriches the military-industrial complex. We have massive government intervention in the economy and society. The Constitution is violated on a daily basis. We live in a growing police state that is anything but a free society. We have more government, more government debt, more government spending, more government regulations, and more government tyranny at all levels of government than ever before. Yet, since the so-called Republican revolution of the 1990s, we have had more Republicans elected to office on the federal, state, and local levels since Reconstruction. The Republican majority in the U.S. House is the largest in recent memory. The Deep South has only two Democratic senators in Congress. In a majority of the states, Republicans control both houses of the legislature or both houses of the legislature and the governorship.
Why would anyone possibly even begin to think that the Republicans would ever do anything significant to restore individual liberty and property rights; abolish government agencies and regulations; cut the budget, spending, and the debt; or end federal tyranny at home and abroad? Republicans generally oppose only the most egregious outrages and comical instances of federal spending.
The only difference between Republicans and Democrats is that the Republicans talk about the Constitution, the free market, and limited government while ignoring the Constitution, the free market, and limited government. The only limited government they seek is a government limited to control by Republicans.
After the Republican majority in Congress made a deal with the Democrats in April 2017 to fund the federal government through the end of fiscal year 2017 (September 30), Vice President Mike Pence called The Rush Limbaugh Show, where he was asked by the host, “If this is what happens, Mr. Vice President, why vote Republican? What is the point of voting Republican if the Democrats are gonna continue to win practically 95 percent of their objectives, such as in this last budget deal?”
My point exactly.
This article was originally published in the March 2018 edition of Future of Freedom.