There is an obvious political reality in 2019; the two major political parties are aligned back to back, engaged in what appears to be a duel to the death between the right and the left. Since the election of President Obama in 2008, the nation has experienced continuous congressional gridlock. It appears that no major legislation can get passed unless one party controls both the White House and Congress. I fear that this standoff will continue no matter which party wins in 2020 — unless one party takes complete control.
There is not much more I can write for now about the staggering un-American abuses of President Trump and his GOP supporters. Consequently, I am devoting this blog to presenting the ideology and legislative goals that seen to drive the Republican Party. Next blog will do the same for the Democrats.
When boiled down to its essence, I believe the basic philosophical difference between conservatives and liberals is the size and role of the federal government. Conservatives want very limited federal government; liberals want to empower the federal government to take more responsibility for the health and welfare of all U.S. citizens. Their respective policies primarily flow from these fundamental beliefs.
The first priority for Republicans is always to reduce taxes. Cut taxes and grow the economy is their mantra. Many of them claim that the lost revenue will be offset by increased economic activity. This philosophy has become so engrained, that the vast majority of congressional Republicans have signed a pledge to never increase taxes on anything, ever. They even refuse to consider increasing federal gasoline taxes to provide money for much needed infrastructure improvements.
Historically, tax cuts and recessions have created large budget deficits. Most Republican politicians want to reduce deficits by cutting funding for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and eliminating many so-called welfare programs. Their antipathy for the social safety net dominates the GOP platform, the speeches Republicans give and the legislation they craft. Their campaign rhetoric may not specifically state it, but the underlying budget objective of conservatives is to significantly reduce federal spending for health care, education and government services.
That’s why Republicans and their Libertarian supporters so fiercely opposed Obamacare. It embodies all the liberal policies that Republicans most abhor. First, it raises taxes on the wealthy, second, it’s a means-tested entitlement program that increases mandatory spending and third, it adds to the federal bureaucracy.
The Republican proposal for Medicare reveals their plan for health care funding. It involves a premium support program that would grant eligible individuals a government voucher with which they can purchase health care coverage from an insurance company. This would eliminate the government’s open-ended responsibility to provide health care for the elderly.
The GOP Medicaid plan has a similar objective, to reduce the federal commitment and cap federal funding. It would delegate administration of this large health insurance program for the poor to the states based on a per capita, federal government block grant the that would only increase year over year with inflation.
Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget reveals how most Republicans, particularly the more conservative House members, want to shrink the federal government and rein-in federal regulators, particularly the EPA. Like typical GOP budgets, it severely cuts funding for most government agencies to achieve deficit reduction.
Trump would cut the EPA, State Department and Corps of Engineers’ budgets by 23 to 31 percent. Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and Interior budgets would be decreased by 11 to 16 percent. Labor and Justice budgets would be cut by less than 10 percent. Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans Administration, NASA and Commerce budgets would be increased by up to 9.3 percent.
Republican politicians want to eliminate funding for clean energy programs and climate change research, control and preparedness. They oppose minimum wage increases and want little or no restrictions on campaign financing, free trade or gun ownership. They would, however, severely limit immigration and L.G.B.T. rights and eliminate legal abortions.
Many of the GOP’s wealthiest supporters are basically Libertarians who believe the main responsibility of the federal government is national defense and those functions specifically enumerated in the Constitution. They believe individuals and corporations should be free to conduct their lives and their businesses without interference from government.
The Heritage Foundation budget proposal from 2017 totally aligns with Libertarian and GOP goals to shrink the federal government. It provides a good summary of what most conservative Republicans would support: “Congress should put the budget on a path toward balance in order to reduce debt —-, while reducing the tax burden and strengthening national defense.” This organization urged Congress to repeal Obamacare and reform Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs. They want states and localities to be primarily responsible for funding infrastructure improvements, education and welfare.
My caveat: I have found no empirical evidence to support Republican claims that tax cuts create strong economic growth that offsets revenue losses. They simply want to defund the federal government. Significant cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security aren’t politically viable. Most red states and some blue states are too poor to cope with conservative proposals on Medicaid, education or infrastructure. Republicans have no new policies for solving mounting domestic problems like affordable health care and income inequality; so, they campaign against what Democrats propose.