Commentary

Big Government Finds Enablers Among the GOP

By Stephen Moore
This article was published in the Boston Herald, Aug. 5, 2003.

It pains me to say this, but the Republicans in Washington seemingly have forgotten who they are and why voters sent them to the capital in the first place.

Even though we now have GOP control of the White House, the Senate and the House, the bloated $ 2.25 trillion federal government has grown more rapidly on President Bush’s watch than it did under Clinton.

What in the world is going on here? Aren’t the Republicans supposed to be the fiscally conscientious, anti-big government party?

I always thought so. It was music to my libertarian ears when the Gipper declared unforgettably in 1980 that big government isn’t the solution to our nation’s problems; big government IS the problem.

In the 1990s, I worked with Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey to draft the Contract With America and helped engineer the revolutionary Republican takeover of Congress. We Republicans pledged that we would make government smaller and smarter, and we would abolish hundreds of federal agencies, bureaus and departments that are obsolete, ineffective and wasteful.

But the war on waste has been lost virtually without even firing a shot.

President Bush and Republicans have enacted the biggest education bill in history. The new $100 billion farm bill is the costliest ever, and gives many rich farmers $1 million in handouts. We just approved a $15 billion Africa aid bill and many Americans (especially those out of work) are wondering whether that money couldn’t be spent a lot more wisely here at home.

With this kind of budget restraint, who needs George McGovern and Tip O’Neill?

The Republicans are now working with Ted Kennedy on a Medicare prescription drug bill that is the biggest expansion of the welfare state since LBJ sat in the Oval office. Excuse me, but I thought we Republicans wanted to get rid of the rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul income redistribution schemes.

The tentacles of the federal octopus have delved wider into every area of our lives and deeper into our pockets than ever before. Fred Smith, the president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, says that new regulations on business have proliferated at a record pace under this Republican administration. The Cato Institute finds that Bush is the biggest spender in the White House since the bygone era when the Beatles were still banging out hit records. It wasn’t the tax cuts that caused the deficit to balloon to $ 450 billion this year. It was the runaway train of reckless federal spending.

Just last week House Republicans approved a $ 10 million hike in the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts. That was one of the morally offensive give-away programs Republicans promised they would work to extinguish. Now they’re fattening its budget. It gets worse. Taxpayers are now subsidizing sexual pleasure by allowing Medicaid to pay for Viagra. And here’s the ultimate outrage: The Republican Congress had nearly doubled the budget of the hated IRS.

There’s only one depressing explanation: The limited government party of Reagan has morphed into the big spending party of Rockefeller. So now we have two big government parties in Washington competing to see which can buy the most votes by passing out the most pork to the special interest groups.

That’s awful news for aggrieved taxpayers and its embarrassing news to the apparent dying breed of Reagan Republicans like me.

Perhaps conservatives need a new political rallying cry: Big government Republicans aren’t the solution; they are the problem.

Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.