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The Failure of the Republican “Revolution,” Part 7


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9

With the Republican takeover of both houses of Congress in 1994, the Republicans announced that a new “revolution” had swept America, led by Senator Robert Dole and Representatives Newt Gingrich and Richard Armey. Of course, there was the famous “Contract with America,” but the provisions of that document involved minor tinkering with the system, at best. The Republican “revolutionaries” and their conservative supporters went much further.

After decades of failure, the Republicans proclaimed, it was now time to dismantle the New Deal, Great Society welfare-state programs that had caused so much misery and destructiveness to the American people. Conservative editorials appeared in newspapers all across the land explaining the immorality of government’s using its power to take money from one person to give it to another. Speeches filled the airways about the necessity to reign in the bureaucrats who were endlessly harassing the American people and eating out their substance. Now that Republicans were finally in charge of Congress, hundreds of departments and agencies were going to be dismantled. At the very least, we would finally see the end of the Departments of Education, Energy, and Commerce. It was time to return to the Constitution, as our Founders envisioned it, the Republicans announced.

Yes, it was the rhetoric of old. Republicans were harkening back to their libertarian roots. The New Deal programs and the Great Society programs that had been built and expanded ever since the 1930s were finally going to come to an end.

The Republicans were right about one thing: If the welfare state and the regulated economy had been repealed, it would have been one of the most monumental revolutions in American history.

Unfortunately, however, the Republican “revolution” lasted about three weeks.

One of the “revolutionary” leaders, Bob Dole, helped the “revolution” to fizzle out early on. Soon after the election, a big “test” arrived. Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, announced that it was necessary to send $50 billion of American taxpayer money to Mexican politicians and bureaucrats, who had issued mountains of debt and overinflated their currency. The Democratic President, Bill Clinton, quickly signed on to the Greenspan proposal.

Here was the grand opportunity for the “revolutionaries.” “It is wrong for government to use its power to take from some to give to others,” the “revolutionaries” could have proclaimed. “Welfare is morally and economically wrong, even for Mexican politicians and bureaucrats,” they could have said.

Alas, it was not to be. Bob Dole caved in before the “revolution” even got a good start. He agreed to cooperate with Clinton and Greenspan in what amounted to a joint political rape of the American people.

How many Republicans voted for the proposal? Voted? There was no vote. Imagine — $50 billion sent to Mexican politicians and bureaucrats by three political hacks without even the semblance of congressional approval. (We should note that the German chancellor in the 1930s begged the Reichstad for that kind of power — the power to rule by decree — the power to make decisions affecting the lives and fortunes of the German people without asking for permission of their elected representatives.)

And what about the rest of the Republicans — those stalwart defenders of the Constitution — defenders of the constitutional provision regarding separation of powers — of the constitutional powers of Congress to tax the American people and to appropriate tax money? Well, the followers of the “revolution” were relieved that Clinton, Greenspan, and Dole were acting unilaterally, so that they would not have to go on record on the matter.

That was when the Republican “revolution” ended. What could be more evil — more immoral — than to take money from the American people (who perhaps could have used it to help with their children’s education or perhaps to take a little nicer vacation), without even the consent of their congressmen — and give it to Mexican politicians and bureaucrats, who, we all know, do not live on bribes, do not put the mordida (the “bite”) on people, do not have Swiss bank accounts, and, of course, do not engage in the drug trade?

And today, two years later, Dole and Clinton, the joint conspirators and perpetrators of this political evil, have the audacity to tell the American people: “If you don’t want to waste your vote, you’ll have to vote for one of us.” It’s like two rapists smiling at their victim and saying: “You’ll have to hug one of us — you don’t really have a choice.”

Then came the second test — the shutdown of the nonessential parts of government.

What do the Republicans tell us today? The same tired things they have told us during every political campaign since the 1930s. They want to get government off our backs, repeal regulations, abolish departments, lower taxes, reform welfare . . . blah, blah, blah. For years, they said that the only reason they couldn’t do all of this was because the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Today, they say, the reason they still can’t accomplish the task is that there is a Democratic president.

What nonsense. The rhetoric is false. Deliberately false. It raises hopes and secures votes, just as it has done for decades. It disguises the true goal: access to the plunder and the loot that comes with controlling the welfare state and the regulated economy. The Republican goal is what it has been for decades — control over the levers of political power, not freedom for the American people.

How do we know this? Because the Republicans deliberately passed up one of the grandest opportunities that could possibly have occurred to do what they were promising to do: shut down a large portion of the government. And they didn’t need a Republican president to do it.

When the national debt hit its ceiling in 1995, all the Republicans had to do was to refuse to negotiate an increase of it. Nothing more needed to be done. And after all, what’s the point of a “ceiling” if it’s going to raised? When Clinton laid off the government parasites, the Republicans could have ensured that the layoffs were permanent. (The parasites themselves admitted that they were “nonessential” personnel. Of course, after the first shutdown, government officials ordered that they were no longer to be called “nonessentials.” Instead, they were to be called “nonemergency workers.” It seems that the parasites’ self-esteem was being damaged by the term “nonessentials.”)

By refusing to negotiate, the nonessentials would ultimately have had to leave government “service” and do what the rest of us do — find productive work in the private sector. Imagine how many departments and agencies could have been closed down! Imagine how much money that could have saved the American people! No longer would the American taxpayer have to suffer the enormous tax load of carrying the parasites. No longer would the parasites be sucking the lifeblood out of the American people. And it all would have been proper and legal under the terms of the debt ceiling.

But Bob Dole said no. His allegiance was to his constituents — the government bureaucrats. Bob Dole, the revolutionary, indicated to the American people that he was not there to shut down the nonessential parts of government. These nonessential government workers, he felt, had a right to be put back to work in the government.

In other words, what mattered to the “revolutionaries” was not the American people, but rather the government parasites who apparently have a perpetual “right” to continue sucking the blood from their hosts. The bureaucrats were sovereign and supreme. Nothing was more important than to restore them to their positions in government, where they could continue serving and sucking the American people.

At the same time, the other two “revolutionaries” — Gingrich and Armey — were crying to the press about how their positions were being distorted. These two “revolutionaries” were upset that the press was saying that the Republicans were “cutting” social welfare programs.

“Revolutionary” leaders Gingrich and Armey whined that they were not cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, or Meals on Wheels but rather cutting the size of the increase in these program. They pleaded with the press to please make their position clear.

Here was where the great Republican “revolution” of 1994 had arrived — the leaders of the “revolution” pleading with the press to report that Republicans were, once again — as always — increasing the size of big government. The “revolutionaries” had come into office announcing the end of the New Deal and Great Society programs and now, just a few months later, were begging the press to report that they were actually expanding them.

What a grand “revolution”!

Imagine if Dole, Gingrich, and Armey had been in charge of the revolution in 1776:

The “revolutionaries” : “We won. We won.” The colonists : “What do you mean?” The “revolutionaries” : “We won the revolution. We negotiated and cut a deal with King George. And he has agreed to increase his control, taxation, and regulations over us by only 5 percent a year.” The colonists : “Whoopdeedoo.”

A sad part of all this is that at least two of the Republican “revolutionaries” — Gingrich and Armey — know better. Gingrich teaches a course in the “American heritage.” What does he teach in such a course? Does he teach that such welfare programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and public schooling are part of America’s heritage? Surely not. Surely, he teaches what he has to know is the truth — that all of these welfare programs originated with German socialists and that our American ancestors said no to them for over 125 years.

Dick Armey is a former economics professor who is well versed in Austrian economics. What did he teach his students back in Texas? That Austrian economics involves the support of the welfare state and the regulated economy? Surely not. Surely he taught students the truth — that sound economics rejects, on grounds of efficiency and prosperity, the welfare-state, managed-economy model. Surely he knows that such regulations as the minimum wage, that Republicans are now supporting, hurt those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

A sad spectacle indeed.

And the third revolutionary — Bob Dole? Everyone knows that he has never stood for any principle in his life. That’s why every American, deep down, knows that there ain’t a dime’s worth of difference between Dole and Clinton. Flip sides of the same coin.

Compared with the revolutions of the past — the monumental upheavals in American life that came with the Revolution in 1776, the Industrial Revolution, the tax and banking revolution in 1913, the public schooling revolution at the turn of the 20th century, and the Roosevelt revolution of the 1930s — the Republican “revolution” of 1994 has been a flop. (See Parts I through VI of this series.) Nothing but decorative tinkering with a ship that is headed toward the rocks.

What would a real revolution look like? It would be a libertarian one — a grand and exciting revolution! But before examining what such a revolution would entail, let us first examine why Republicans do what they do . . . and why the American people fall for it, election after election after election.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.