Sunday, January 01, 2006

Republican and Democratic myths

It probably had to do with being up late, but I couldn't stop giggling over these party myths. Two of the three columns are centered more on both parties while Lew Rockwell utilizes data from Republican House and Senate voting. There is alot there to read, so if you'll excuse me for not knowing where to quit with such interesting reads.

World Net Daily
Truth about Republican, Democratic parties

Last week WorldNetDaily columnist David Limbaugh received the question, "Why vote at all, when there is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans?" He responded by arguing that the Republicans care more about your freedom than the Democrats do. But to pull this off, he had to resort to a number of myths about the Republican Party. Here are some of them:

Myth: "Had the 1994 Republican Congress failed to reign in spending, we would not be approaching a balanced budget today, something the naysayers said was impossible."

Truth: The last four budgets passed by a Democratic Congress enlarged the federal government by 14.4 percent. The four budgets the Republican Congress passed have enlarged the federal government by 13.9 percent. This could hardly be called "reigning in spending." In fact, the first three Republican budgets increased spending faster than the Democratic budgets.

Myth: "Democratic presidential frontrunner Al Gore's vision of America includes an even more intrusive federal government. Just this week, he promised federal intervention to micromanage such local problems as traffic control. Patrick Henry is rolling over in his grave."

Truth: The federal government already micromanages traffic control -- and rapid transit and local highways and auto specifications and almost everything else related to your car. Republicans voted for these intrusions. Why should you believe they will suddenly start opposing such boondoggles? Calvin Coolidge is rolling over in his grave.

Myth: "Democrats favor injecting more federal money into education and increasing federal control over local school decisions. Republicans favor less federal control and the adoption of school-choice measures with the belief that added competition will improve the quality of public and private schools."

Truth: Democrats and Republicans both take your money. Both believe the federal government should decide how your school system should operate. They argue only over how to spend your money. Neither party says your money shouldn't go to Washington in the first place. Neither suggests getting the federal government completely out of education -- as the Constitution demands. Neither proposes to repeal the income tax, so you can use what you earn to put your child in any school you want.

Myth: "With the tantalizing prospect of budget surpluses, Democrats are already champing at the bit to repeal legislatively imposed spending caps that have been instrumental in bringing the federal budget nearly into balance for the first time in three-plus decades. Republicans insist on adhering to the caps."

Truth: Republican Congressmen have already busted the budget caps -- when they approved the 1999 budget, when they voted the biggest farm subsidies in history (three years after voting to "phase out" farm subsidies), when they vote year after year to make government more expensive for you, more intrusive into your life, more and more like Big Brother.

Myth: "Republicans advocate saving Social Security by programs involving partial privatization. Clinton and his cohorts stringently oppose privatization and favor instead a shell game involving a double counting, accounting scam that uses non-existent budget surpluses (which are actually temporary Social Security surpluses)."

Truth: Talk about a shell game! The Republican con game will have you paying the exorbitant Social Security tax for the rest of your working life -- while the Republicans dangle in front of you the carrot that Social Security will be privatized in some sweet bye and bye. (Republican Sen. Phil Gramm's proposal will privatize Social Security over 60 years!) If you don't believe in reincarnation, the Republicans have nothing to offer you.

Myth: "Republicans advocate overhauling the Medicare system with elements of privatization and reductions in automatic cost increases. ... Clinton Democrats still support socialized medicine."

Truth: Yes, Democrats support socialized medicine -- and so do Republicans. The Republican Congress passed the Kennedy-Kassenbaum bill and the Kennedy-Hatch bill -- each giving the federal government more authority over your health, your doctor, and your insurance company. Is this how Republicans protect us from socialized medicine?

Myth: "Clinton has systematically emasculated the military while expanding our commitments throughout the world."

Truth: President Clinton has been exploiting the precedents set by Ronald Reagan and George Bush -- waging wars unconstitutionally without declarations by Congress. Do you remember the Republican incursions into Libya, Nicaragua, Granada, El Salvador, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Panama, the Philippines? The Republicans invented the idea that any problem in the world is an excuse for the U.S. military to intervene. If Clinton's actions have put us in danger -- and they have -- it's because he's using policies and precedents established by his Republican predecessors.

Myth: "Republicans since Reagan have supported a strategic missile defense initiative to protect the nation against burgeoning nuclear threats from numerous countries."

Truth: Republican Richard Nixon signed the ABM Treaty, outlawing a missile defense. No Republican, not even Ronald Reagan, has done anything concrete to provide such a defense -- which probably would be the one truly sensible military policy. Instead, 15 years after Ronald Reagan raised the missile-defense issue, billions of dollars have been spent and we aren't one step closer. Why didn't Ronald Reagan demand it? Why hasn't the Republican Congress demanded it? Why are we still vulnerable to any two-bit dictator who can get his hands on a nuclear missile? Probably because the vulnerability is used to justify a multitude of big-government military programs that Republicans and Democrats impose upon us.

Myth: "Only after the recent revelations concerning China's theft and development of nuclear delivery technology are the Democrats beginning to come around on this vital issue."

Truth: The Democrats have proposed a sham defense that will make us no safer from a missile attack. As with so many fake reforms, the Republicans support it -- and claim credit for bringing it about.

Myth: "Had defeatist Republicans prevailed in 1980, Ronald Reagan would never have been nominated nor elected ... We might still be fighting the Cold War."

Truth: Historians still argue over what caused the Great Depression; so I'm sure they'll argue beyond our lifetime over what ended the Cold War. The one certain conclusion, that the Republican legend Ronald Reagan started an arms race that bankrupted the Communists -- makes no sense. Why would the Soviets spend more than they have to? Republicans tell us Reagan's missile-defense proposal was too much for the Soviets. Why? The U.S. did nothing to implement it, and the Soviets didn't have to match a non-existent program.

When historians investigate the causes of the Soviet Union's downfall, there are many leads I hope they follow. Why in 1989 did the Hungarian government open its borders to allow East Germans and Hungarians to flee to Austria, causing the Berlin Wall to come down three months later? Why didn't Soviet officials stop their citizens from using telephones and fax machines to get information from the West? Why did Mikhail Gorbachev push Glasnost so far -- while still proclaiming himself a dedicated Communist? Was it simply old age that caused an unworkable 70-year-old system to collapse?

Whatever they find, it won't be that expanding our government, taking away our freedoms, running up huge debts, and copying the Communist system were the keys to winning the Cold War.

Myth: "Conservative Republicans favor tax cuts to spur sustained economic growth, and because they believe the people's money should be restored to them."

Truth: Republicans do nothing to reduce the size of government or restore money to you. Because they won't reduce government spending, the "tax cuts" only rearrange the burden of big government.

Myth: "Had defeatist Republicans prevailed in 1980, Ronald Reagan would never have been ... able to pass legislation reducing top marginal income tax rates from 70 percent to 28 percent."

Truth: And four years later Republicans voted to increase tax rates. Government grew by two thirds during Ronald Reagan's eight years as President. The one thing Ronald Reagan did that was both important and good for us was to abolish U.S. price controls on oil and natural gas -- destroying the power of the OPEC cartel. Strangely, the Republicans never mention his one real achievement.

Myth: "Democrats still want to appoint activist federal judges, while Republicans want strict constructionists."

Truth: Republican Presidents have appointed bad judges from Earl Warren to David Souter -- just as Democrats have. Some of the Democratic judges have at least respected parts of the Bill of Rights and protected our civil liberties, while taking away our economic freedoms. Republican judges, on the other hand, have taken away our civil liberties without respecting our economic freedom.

Myth: "And the GOP is pro-life and ardently supportive of the Second Amendment."

Truth: From the Brady Bill to the promised repeal of the assault weapons ban, Republicans have caved in on one Second Amendment issue after another. As for abortion, it's the #1 posturing and fund-raising issue for Republicans, but those who oppose abortion would be hard pressed to discover anything Republican politicians have done to actually reduce abortions in America.

Myth: "Our children deserve to be bequeathed an America that continues to blossom in political freedom and economic prosperity, and that still aspires to be a nation under God."

Truth: If that's true, you'd better get off the Republican plantation before your children grow up. So long as the Republican politicians know they have your vote locked up, they have no incentive to do anything to advance any of the goals they proclaim.

The greatest assets for the Republicans are the Democrats. Republicans make government bigger and take away more of your freedoms -- and then blame it on the Democrats. They try to scare you by pointing to Democrats like Al Gore or Hillary Clinton: "Vote Republican or the bogeymen will get you." The Democrats use the same tactics -- trying to peddle the idea that the Religious Right will steal your children in the middle of the night.

But whichever side scares you most, you never get what you vote for. You vote for Democrats because you want greater personal freedom -- and they reward you by trying to censor the Internet, putting a V-chip in your TV set, and abolishing the Fourth Amendment. Or you vote for Republicans because you want greater economic freedom -- and they reward you by passing bigger highway bills, bigger farm bills, bigger budgets, more corporate welfare, and just plain bigger government.

The parties assume that you and other stalwarts will never abandon them. But they're wrong. Both parties are suffering wholesale desertions -- and the voter turnout sinks lower and lower with every election.

If you really want your vote to count, join the desertions from the two-party system and vote for what you really want. Imagine voting Libertarian and seeing the Libertarian get 10-15 percent of the vote -- scaring the old parties into making real changes.

Myth: "Those who advocate not voting should look at the 1998 congressional elections for proof of the consequences of quitting."

Truth: People who don't vote have come to the sensible understanding that their votes make no difference. Why should they continue voting when they never get what they want?

The consequences of the 1998 congressional elections are simple: government will continue to grow, as it has for the past 70 years -- which is what happens no matter which party wins any election.

Myth: "They should examine Ross Perot's impact on the 1992 presidential election if they are tilting at third-party windmills."

Truth: Ross Perot's 19 percent vote in 1992 proved that Americans desperately want a third party that will break the stranglehold the Republicans and Democrats have imposed on our lives. Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura have helped Americans realize that a real third party, with real proposals to reduce government to a fraction of its present size (unlike Ross Perot's proposals to make big government more efficient), has a chance to win eventually in America.

Myth: "Freedom requires responsibility, and not voting is an abdication of that responsibility. Those who drop out, cop out. Abandoning the fight is no different from joining the other side."

Truth: Freedom is the opportunity to live your life as you want to live it. It imposes no responsibility to vote for people who take your money and use it to destroy your children's education, your health-care opportunities, and your liberties. In fact, freedom involves no responsibility to vote at all -- certainly when you see no candidate who will provide what you want.

Fortunately, the Libertarian Party is now three times the size it was at this point in the 1996 election cycle. It will be running more than 1,000 candidates in 2000 -- and its presidential campaign should be far better financed and much more visible than its 1996 campaign was. Finally, you will have a real choice.

Republicans will continue to campaign like Libertarians while governing like Democrats. But in 2000 you'll be able to choose the real McCoy -- Libertarians who want to reduce government far enough to free you from the income tax entirely, replacing it with nothing, to free you immediately from the fraudulent 15 percent "Social Security" tax, and to make your neighborhood safe by ending the nightmare of drug prohibition.

Myth: "Just because the Republican Party isn't everything we want it to be is no excuse to quit. We must stay engaged and fight to ensure the party remains conservative."

Truth: Republicans excuse their failings by saying we must elect more conservatives. In the 1950s, when Republican President Dwight Eisenhower set up the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and other Democratic-style monstrosities, Republicans said, "We must elect more conservatives." When Republican Richard Nixon imposed wage and price controls, the EPA, and dozens of other new big-government programs, Republican stalwarts said, "We must elect more conservatives."

When the quintessential conservative Ronald Reagan, aided by a Republican Senate, never proposed to reduce the size of government by even a single dollar, and as the federal government grew by two thirds in eight years, we were told "We must elect more conservatives."

So for 45 years Republicans have been saying that all will be well as soon as we elect more conservatives. I don't know about you, but I can't wait another 45 years.

Republican politicians are power-junkies -- just as Democrats are. And the "enablers" are those who permit them to indulge their addiction to power -- finding excuses for every life the Republicans wreck with big government.

If you don't want your vote to count, continue voting Democratic or Republican -- rewarding the politicians for stealing more of your money and more of your freedom. If you want your vote to mean something, send a message in 2000: vote Libertarian and hope the Libertarians get 10-15 percent of the vote.

That will reform the Republican and Democratic parties faster than the election of a thousand conservatives.


1. Because federal benefits go to the poor, reform will amount to a shedding of our social safety net.
We should never forget the critical role that federal benefits have played—and continue to play—in protecting Americans against the hardships of poverty. "I see one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished," announced President Roosevelt in 1937. Most of the benefits originally paid out through his New Deal programs were directly targeted at alleviating this misery.

However, this is no longer the purpose toward which most benefits are directed. In 2002, out of $1.2 trillion in federal, state and local benefits, the poor received roughly $140 billion, according to the Census Bureau. That's about 12 cents of every full benefit dollar.

2. Even if they don't go to the poor, federal benefits foster equality by going mostly to lower-income households.
In truth, social-welfare programs no longer redistribute wealth in favor of low-income households. Total federal benefits to the affluent are at least as substantial as those to the needy. Among Social Security beneficiaries, for instance, households with incomes of $150,000 or more receive, on average, checks that are twice as large as those of households with incomes of less than $15,000. If our purpose were simply to straighten out the national income distribution, we'd do a better job by mailing our benefit checks to random addresses. Even when we add back in other federal sources, including welfare and food stamps, benefits are distributed evenly across households of all incomes.

3. Federal benefits go to the elderly, who everyone knows are much less well off than younger Americans.
Federal benefits do go mostly to the elderly. And 40 years ago it was true that the elderly were less well off than other demographic groups. But today, thanks in part to all the benefit programs that were expanded on their behalf, the elderly now have a lower poverty rate (10.4%) than any other age group.

4. Social Security and Medicare are earned rights by contract; beneficiaries are only getting back what they paid in.
It seems natural to assume a certain justice about the arrangement. Until one considers timing and demographics, that is. When you start a new pension system, full contributions from covered workers start arriving right away—but benefit payouts remain small for many years until enough workers with enough "credits" begin retiring. During the early years of both Social Security and Medicare, Congress kept tax rates unrealistically low and awarded ever-higher benefits to new retirees who had contributed only for a year or two. That meant that the children of the World War II generation (including the boomers) would have to contribute at much higher tax rates over their entire working lives just to keep benefits flowing to their parents. It's even worse news for today's young Americans, whose payroll tax rate will have to double to fund the demographic tsunami of retiring boomers unless the system is reformed.

5. The future growth in the cost of senior benefits, whatever they may be, can easily be borne by younger generations.
Every year, the social security trustees release an estimate of the system's "actuarial deficit," which many assume represents what we would need in hand today to cover Social Security's cash shortfall over the next 75 years. In 2003, the actuarial deficit officially amounted to $3.5 trillion.

But to arrive at a true estimate, we need to include Medicare as well as Social Security, unless we believe that health-care costs will miraculously turn around and head south on their own. This adds $15.6 trillion. (All of these dollar figures are "present values.") Next, we have to add back in the value of the mythical "trust funds," which aren't going to save the American people one nickel in future tax liabilities. Adds another $1.6 trillion. And if we use an unlimited time horizon, which we must do unless we want our kids to pass this problem along to their own kids, that adds an extra $24 trillion to the actuarial deficit, for a grand total of roughly $45 trillion in 2003, according to research commissioned by the Treasury Department. That exceeds our nation's entire net worth ($42 trillion).


1. Because the American people are overtaxed, they want and deserve our tax cuts.
Are we really overtaxed? Certainly not compared to other developed countries. Of all 27 developed countries (defined by the OECD), the United States is roughly tied with Japan as the least taxed as a share of GDP. Are we overtaxed relative to our past? We'd have to go back to 1968 to find a year when total government revenues were lower as a share of GDP.

Tax cutters often imply that Americans are becoming much more hostile to taxes over time. But this isn't true either. According to two Gallup polls taken in 2003, for example, the share of Americans who say that the federal income tax is "too high" is lower than in any year since 1962.

2. OK, forget the long-term tax burden. Our tax cuts are still a sensible near-term means of stimulating a weak economy back to health.
This argument certainly has much truth to it. The vast majority of economists agree in principle that a tax cut could be a legitimate means to substitute for diminished consumer and investor demand.

I say in principle, because the critical issue here is timing. To be effective, the stimulus must be applied during the early part of a recession. That is, it must put money now in the pockets of people who will spend it now. Over the entire last century, unfortunately, Congress has never been able to time this stimulus very well. The tax cuts typically don't kick in all the way until late in the recession and then continue long after the recession is over. That's certainly true for most of the recent Bush tax cuts. It's why many economists have grown to dislike countercyclical tax cuts in practice.

3. Even when they don't deliver near-term stimulus, tax cuts make the tax code more efficient.
Over the years, many tax reformers have defended their proposals—creating fewer tax brackets, establishing a national value-added or "flat" income tax, or phasing out the taxation of estates or dividends—by citing efficiency advantages.

In theory, we'd be better off with a tax code that raises the same revenue with fewer distortions in economic behavior. But a pure efficiency reform must leave revenue unchanged. Current proposals do not. Reducing the taxation on corporate earnings, for example, may marginally raise private-sector savings—cited by some as an efficiency improvement. Even if it does, the extra savings will be overwhelmed by the loss in federal revenue, which adds directly to the federal debt and, over time, subtracts nearly dollar for dollar from national savings.

4. The critics just don't get it. What our tax cuts are really about is improving "supply side" incentives to work, save and invest.
The marginal tax rate is the rate that applies to the last or highest or "marginal" dollar that you earn in a year. A core proposition of the "supply side" argument for tax reform is that reductions in high marginal tax rates can sometimes have a dramatic and positive impact on economic activity and (even) on revenue.

The reality is that supply-side claims have become a theology, ruling out any reasonable discussion of the evidence. In fact, there's plenty of empirical evidence that when marginal tax rates are not high, the efficiencies you gain by cutting them may be modest and the impact on economic activity may be ambiguous.

5. Let's be honest. This is all about politics. In the long run, our tax cuts will force Congress to cut back spending and, with that, cut back government.
I know several brilliant Republicans who admit to me, in private, that much of the supply-side hype about the economics of tax cuts is not really true. But, they say, it's the only way to reduce government spending in a world in which powerful interest groups, allied with the opposition party, stand ready to punish any attempt to cut off the flow of government largesse.

This is a clever apologia, but it is unfair because nothing excuses holding the next generation hostage on the dubious bet that another party will have the good will to relent. It is cynical because it assumes that Americans no longer share any common values on which open agreement can be reached. I for one refuse to accept this dismal view. And it is hypocritical. One could take the ostensible goal of the tax cutters—smaller government—more seriously if we saw that they were also at least trying to reduce government spending. But we see nothing of the sort. Instead, spending has exploded on their watch.

Lew Rockwell
The results of the index are shocking. The average score in the House was only 46. The average score in the Senate was only 41. The high score in the House (100) was made by Ron Paul (R-TX). The high score in the Senate (80) was made by John Ensign (R-NV). The low score in the House (13) was made by Diane Watson (D-CA). The low score in the Senate (10) was made by two Republicans – John Chafee (R-RI) and George Voinovich (R-OH). The Democratic ticket of Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Edwards (D-NC) have no meaningful score since they were out campaigning so much that they hardly voted. Their overall scores are 15 for Kerry and 35 for Edwards.

So how does this index refute the myth that Republican Party is the party of "conservatism"? Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the only member of the House of Representatives who admits to being a socialist, scored an overall 47 – about average. Former Republican Jim Jeffords (I-VT) scored an overall 37. But 174 Republicans in the House (76%) and 23 Republicans in the Senate (45%) scored less than Sanders. Twenty-one Republicans in the Senate scored the same as or less than the 40 of Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton. None of the Republican leadership in the House or the Senate managed to score over 50. House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) scored a 50. Senate president pro tempore Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) each scored a 40 – tying Senate Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD).

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