We Didn’t Really Mean It: The Death of Conservative Principles

In the heart of the economic crisis of 2009, President Obama pushed through a $787 billion stimulus package, overpowering the GOP’s unified conservative opposition. Almost every single Republican voted against the plan, arguing primarily against the idea because the spending would increase the federal debt. At the time, Republican leaders routinely and piously were calling for a balanced budget amendment.

Mitch McConnell lamented the bill saying that the Senate “cast one of the most expensive votes in history.” McConnell was apoplectic with angst, wondering how “we were going to pay for this.”

That same Mitch McConnell this year championed a tax bill that will add $2 trillion to the federal debt. That is trillion with a “t” at the beginning.

What happened in between? Nothing. Republicans have never actually been against deficit spending. The GOP only cries in anguish about the debt when a Democrat is in office. That carries a double irony because in modern times only two presidents have actually reduced the deficit, both Democrats — Clinton and Obama. Only Democrats have proven over time to be fiscally responsible at the state and federal level. In California, liberal governor Jerry Brown inherited from his Republican successors a state near bankruptcy reeling in massive debt; under his liberal leadership the state now boasts a healthy budget surplus. It is always the Democrats who govern responsibly. That is proven by history over and over again.

The myth that conservatives are fiscally conservative somehow persists in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. Astonishingly, conservatives hold on to this fantasy even as they vote to increase the debt by trillions of dollars, exposing every so clearly the fraudulent nature of their platform.

Beyond a false disdain for deficit spending, an essential part of the conservative tradition was an argument for small government, social conservatism and a strong military (ignoring the fact that the military is government). But just as the GOP abandoned any pretense of fiscal responsibility so too has the Party left behind any remnant of concern for any of these other issues that once were said to be critical conservative values.

With Trump they have abandoned completely any hold on family values by supporting a man thrice-divorced, a man who has paid prostitutes hush money and is accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault. He openly admitted to grabbing women by the pussy and trying to “fuck” them (married women, while he is married). Trump whines that men accused of domestic violence are the victims. Unless supporting adultery, rape, and domestic abuse are now officially part of the family values agenda, conservatives must admit that “family values” is an empty appeal.

Republicans have simultaneously inverted their concern for law enforcement and national security by undermining the Justice Department in an attempt to thwart the FBIs investigation into the connection between Russia and Trump. The GOP now views Russia as the friend and the FBI and intelligence community as the enemy. The Party that so long touted the “rule of law” is now attacking the agencies responsible for enforcing the law and protecting us from foreign threats.

We see clearly from recent events that in fact the GOP has no core principles at all, no platform other than an ugly grab for power at any cost. None of the conservative core values is anything other than a cheap slogan. Conservatives have proven that they will sacrifice everything for short-term political gain. They have been exposed as frauds. They really don’t care about family values, deficit spending, small government, law enforcement or national security. Not one whit.

The vile decay in the GOP has resulted in a deep hypocrisy so great as to be admirable, in the same way that a terrible train wreck is impressive in its destruction. I want you to listen to the recent-past words of conservative leaders who just voted to increase our debt by trillions of dollars. These same folks heaped insult after insult on Obama for deficit spending, even as he was reducing the deficit. Amazingly, McConnell spoke against deficit spending as late as May 2017.

Mitch McConnell

“Surely the Democrat leadership in Congress doesn’t plan to spend a trillion dollars of taxpayer money — nearly $10,000 in new debt for everyone who pays federal income tax, charged to the credit card for our children to pay — without safeguards, without appropriate hearings to scrutinize how tax dollars are being spent.”

McConnell held no hearings on the tax plan just passed; most senators admitted they never read the bill. He did not mention credit card charges to our children, funny enough, when pushing the bill through.

In opposing Obama’s 2011 budget, McConnell said, “the interest on the federal debt is expected to be nearly 6 trillion dollars over the next decade. We’ve all heard about interest-only loans, but this is the equivalent of an average of $600 billion dollars in interest every year. That’s an astonishing number.”

Now, not so much.

McConnell criticized Obama’s proposed 2012 budget saying that “it does not go far enough in cutting spending and reducing the federal deficit.”

Discussing the pending tax plan, McConnell said (and I am not making this up), “It will have to be revenue neutral. We have a $21 trillion debt.”

Only a half year later he voted for a tax bill that will add trillions to the debt.

Paul Ryan

“The facts are very, very clear. The United States is headed toward a debt crisis.”

“In this generation, a defining responsibility of government is to steer our nation clear of a debt crisis while there is still time.”

Ryan just voted for at a tax bill that will add trillions to the federal debt. So much for a “defining responsibility” for government.

John Boehner

Talking about Obama’s 2011 budget, Boehner said the plan “spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much.”

Marco Rubio

On Obama’s budget he says, “It is like watching a horror movie. You know those movies where the people in the audience are screaming, ‘Don’t go in that door!’ because you know the killer is there? Well, it is the same thing with this debt. We know how this ends.”

Senator Bill Cassidy

“Our national debt is not sustainable and, unless addressed, will sharply limit future prosperity.”

Rep. Steve Scalise

“This out-of-control spending and massive debt that’s being dumped onto our children and grandchildren has led to an unsustainable budget deficit, reckless spending, and millions more jobs lost. We need to restore fiscal discipline in Washington, and the first place to start is by capping the debt.”

Donald Trump

After constantly attacking Obama for his stimulus plan during the crisis of 2008, Trump said with no hint of embarrassment, “It is OK” if tax legislation increases the deficit in the short term in order “prime the pump” for economic growth. Exactly, precisely what he opposed when Obama adopted the stimulus plan.

Throughout the campaign, Trump promised to “balance the budget” and to “do it quickly.”

He will now preside over the largest deficits and debts in history.

Republican Platform 2016

“We must impose firm caps on future debt, accelerate the repayment of the trillions we now owe in order to reaffirm our principles of responsible and limited government, and remove the burdens we are placing on future generations.”

This the same Party, and the same people, who just championed a budget-busting tax plan. Consider this then: the GOP’s crowning achievement is a complete repudiation of its own platform.

In fact, virtually every single Republican in the House and Senate has made statements lamenting the horrible consequences to our future if we spend irresponsibly; it is a rite of passage for anyone in the GOP. This is the same Party that just voted to increase our deficit by trillions; the same Party that just produced a draft budget that would add another $7 trillion to our debt over 10 years.

A favorite ploy of Republicans when they pretended to care about the deficit was to calculate how much debt each American would carry based on the shortfall. I have not heard that on Fox News lately.

Deficits will imperil our future and destroy our children only if a Democrat is president. Oh the children. Breathtaking hypocrisy.

has published in an eclectic range of fields, including neurobiology, marine science, international development, environmental protection and aviation.