Respectable righties compete for the Colin Powell Prize.
A national debate has raged among those on the Right, the former Right, and the never Right over how to approach the future. Even though the Republican Party just nominated a moderate who was thrashed by the most liberal-left Democrat nominee in history, who should have been eminently beatable for that reason, there are some who insist that future success lies in dumping conservatism and following the moderates ever more extremely.
The Winning Strategy: Dump the Christians, Raise Taxes
Colin Powell recently took the lead in making this case. He says the party has become too conservative, and Republicans should win back voters by campaigning for higher taxes. He recently told a business group that vastly overpaid him for off the cuff, uninformed comments, “Americans are looking for more government in their lives, not less. Americans do want to pay taxes for services.”
If only he had explained that to Obama, who apparently was foolishly retro in campaigning on tax cuts for 95% of Americans. Powell also sagely told the business execs that Sarah Palin is “a very polarizing figure.” Unfortunately, unlike Powell, Palin does have that nasty habit of winning elections by large margins.
Cheney responded to Powell’s advice to the Republican Party by saying, “I didn’t know that Colin was still a Republican. I thought he left the party when he endorsed Obama last year.” John McCain apparently was not enough of a moderate for Powell.
Even more cutting was Noel Sheppard of NewsBusters.com, who said on Powell’s tax point, “Which Americans want to pay more taxes, General? You mean the top 50 percent of wage earners that currently pays 97 percent of all federal income taxes….Or how about the bottom 50 percent? Are THEY asking to pay more?”
But Powell does have his supporters for tax increases. David Frum offers conservatives a roadmap for victory in his latest book Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again. While promising a new agenda, his actual proposals are almost all well-worn standard conservatism. His one “new” point: the taxpayer movement is dead and conservatives should rally around the idea of a fat new tax on carbon as the political wave of the future.
Just think of it. Not just higher taxes, but much higher gas prices, utility bills, electricity costs, and charges for natural gas and home heating oil. That’s the ticket for electoral success. Too bad Obama has already beaten us to it with his cap and trade anti-global warming policies. Foolish me. I was looking to that as the electoral downfall of the Obama regime.
Those who have followed Frum’s career see a pattern. He previously published a book arguing that the Republican Party was dead and needed a fresh agenda…in the summer of 1994.
The Tax Collector for the Welfare State
Then there is former supply-sider Bruce Bartlett, who recently advised conservatives and Republicans,
Historically, Republicans have come back from electoral losses by accepting the fact that Americans mostly like government spending. Rather than make a futile effort to take away something most voters want, Republicans have instead worked to make the welfare state function efficiently, target benefits to those that play by society’s rules, and finance those benefits without additional debt.
Bartlett’s examples of how this has been done successfully before: Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. But the modern conservative movement was born in revulsion to them.
Bartlett nevertheless continues, “I think conservatives would better spend their diminished political capital figuring out how to finance the welfare state at the least cost to the economy and individual liberty, rather than fighting a losing battle to slash popular spending programs. But this will require them to accept the necessity of higher revenues.” How much higher? Even before Obama, the long-term projections for Bartlett’s welfare state showed federal spending as a percent of GDP close to doubling from around 20% towards 40%. Add in Obama’s whopping new entitlement for health care plus bailouts and associated debt, and federal spending alone would soar towards or past 50% of GDP. Add in growing state and local spending and Bartlett’s strategy would make even Swedish socialists blush.
Those who fondly remember Bartlett from his supply-side and even libertarian days missed his columns in recent years denouncing the Laffer Curve as a fraud and the pro-growth effects of tax cuts as greatly exaggerated. Bartlett recently told me, “Wait until my next book.” So much anticipation over that. His last book could be advertised exclaiming “Dozens of copies sold!”
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