Republicans Are Not for Smaller Government

Joni ErnstThe fact that Joni Ernst is a disingenuous fraud is not news. Many people have reported on her folksy lines in the response to the State of the Union speech. I think Michael Hiltzik dealt with it the best, Senator Joni Ernst Learned to “Live Within Her Means” — on the Taxpayer’s Dime. It’s not just that one speech, however. Her whole political career has been based on the cliche of growing up on a hard working family farm when times were tough. This is nonsense, of course. Ernst was born in 1970 — not 1920. This is a period when farm subsidies were good (as they continue to be). So it is no surprise that from 1995 to 2009 (the only period during which we have data), her extended family received almost a half million dollars of that sweet, sweet government welfare.

In this way, Ernst is entirely typical of her party. It is amazing to me that Republicans manage to get any traction at all by claiming that Democrats are divisive and wage “class war.” The Republican Party is committed to taking money away from the truly needy in the name of teaching them to “live within their means.” But they want to hold firm or even increase handouts for the affluent. And no, this is not just the reverse of the Democrats. The Democratic Party does have its targets, but they are mostly inefficiencies in expensive programs. As I’ve noted many times before, the programs that Republicans want to cut are almost exclusively ones that don’t cost that much money, because we are already fairly stingy when it comes to the poor and it doesn’t cost much to help them to begin with.

This highlights perhaps the most pernicious lie in American politics: conservatives want smaller government and liberals want bigger government. Leave aside the fact that Democrats really don’t care about the size of government — they simply want effective government. Do conservatives really want smaller government? Maybe in theory. They like the idea of getting government off the metaphorical back of Americans. But what they really mean is that they don’t want the government to get in the way of the rich doing anything that they want. If we passed a law saying that anyone who made more a $100,000 a year was immune to all government regulations (including taxes), the Republicans would have no platform except for a smattering of issues designed only to make the lives of the poor worse.

From a practical standpoint, Republicans have been the biggest spendthrifts of them all. That isn’t surprising, for as I noted, the things that the Republicans want to spend more money on are really expensive. This is why the deficit only gets bigger under Republicans (Reagan, Bush I, Bush II) and only ever gets smaller under Democrats (Carter, Clinton, Obama). I may be against deficit and debt obsession, but most Americans are not. And Republicans claim to care about debt and deficits, but all they really care about is cutting aid to the poor and middle classes. And as for taxes, check out, Reagan’s Legacy: Tax Cuts for Rich, Tax Hikes for the Rest.

What’s amazing is that people like Joni Ernst are allowed to go around talking about how we have to cut food stamps because the poor need a lesson about how to live within their means. She, and the whole Republican Party, should be widely mocked in the press. But apparently, our media think that “objectivity” requires respectful reporting on whatever delusions the Republicans are currently trafficking. I know if things were reversed and the Democrats were peddling nonsense in the name of helping the poor, the media would not report it respectfully.


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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “Republicans Are Not for Smaller Government

  1. In 2010, Mark Dayton (kid of a rich family) ran for governor against the predictably corrupt, predictably shoddy establishment Democrats in Minnesota who wanted to nominate anyone else. Dayton had a line that made me love him now and forever. “There is a class war in this country, and our side didn’t start it.” If you take “our side” as “the side of rich people” that’s not true; if you take “our side” as “the union workers who were quite happy with reasonably decent wages/benefits” it’s entirely true.

    The super-rich never accepted that deal. It always seemed like highway robbery to them, potential profits being taken from their pockets by people who’s proven, by their less-rich-ness, that they weren’t deserving of government-structured income. Only the Job Creators should be allowed to milk that teat.

    Ack, I’m tired.

    • I do think there is an important change from before. It used to be just the Milton Herseys of the nation who were ridiculously wealthy. But over the last 40 years, it is now the case that every CEO — even totally incompetent ones like Carly Fiorina — is ridiculously wealthy. And when you have a lot of people who think they ought to be our lords and masters who can drop a million dollars a year into campaigns, you have a major problem.

  2. You are spot on, but Ernst will never pay a political price since she comes from a state where farm subsidies have been a way of life since FDR. Her post-SOTU offering was political theater meant to pacify the uniformed republican base.

    • Oh, yeah. I have no illusions that any of them will ever pay a price. If anything changes, it will be large scale and none of these crazies will have a job. I’m not hopeful. Then again, in 1890, no one thought there would be a progressive movement, income tax, and New Deal. I’m just afraid there will be a lot of pain before that happens, if it ever does.

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