Political Hay

The Air Boehner Tax

A new tax collector for the welfare state.

By 12.17.13

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 The answer is part and parcel of the very real divide within the Republican Party. A divide that has been present since the advent of the New Deal.

The simplest answer is that when Ronald Reagan said in his inaugural address that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem” — the hard fact is that some of the most vigorous opponents to Reagan’s belief were other Republicans.

Today, that fact of the GOP has come to be symbolized by House Speaker John Boehner. Ryan’s dismissal of Boehner’s recent vituperative attacks on conservative groups protesting the budget deal as just a case of the Speaker getting his “Irish” up cannot hide the fact that Boehner has become the face of anti-conservatism within the GOP Establishment.

Reports the New York Times of Boehner’s harsh words for conservative groups immutably identified with conservatism:

“They are not fighting for conservative principles,” Mr. Boehner told rank-and-file House Republicans during a private meeting on Wednesday as he seethed and questioned the motives of the groups for piling on against the plan before it was even made public.

“They are not fighting for conservative policy,” he continued, according to accounts of those present. “They are fighting to expand their lists, raise more money and grow their organizations, and they are using you to do it. It’s ridiculous.”

In his recent attack on those conservative groups (Heritage Action, the Club for Growth, Freedom Works etc) the Speaker said: “I am conservative as anyone around this place.”

Really?

Here’s Time magazine on John Boehner shortly after the 2010 elections when it was clear Boehner would be the new Speaker of the House:

Boehner cares deeply about education — and not just when he's stumping on campaign trails. He was one of the “big four” — along with Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy, Republican Senator Judd Gregg and Democratic Representative George Miller — who helped craft the bipartisan No Child Left Behind legislation that was signed into law in 2002.

As a result of his policy initiatives, Boehner is well regarded by many in the education community. Though he started his career as a bomb thrower, he evolved into someone even Democrats describe as a sincere legislator interested in practical solutions to education problems. He's “very adult, in the sense that he's a tough negotiator, but he realized always where he needed to find middle ground and was willing to reach that middle ground after making his case,” observes Charles Barone, a former top education aide to Miller, the current chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.”

Where in all of this was Boehner asking about the role of the Constitution? Where was the conservative opposition from Boehner to increasing both the role of the federal government in education — not to mention the addition of billions in costs to the federal government and, yes, the deficit? (And note that Boehner is saluted by Time in precisely the way Bob Dole was saluted for his air travel excise fee. Bob Dole, in the phrase Tom Bethell of The American Spectator loved to point out, was said by the liberals of 1982 to have “grown in office.” Boehner, said Time had “evolved.”)

Recall that Ronald Reagan wanted to abolish the Department of Education — period. Boehner went in the other direction — the liberal direction. He didn’t want to abolish the Department of Education, he wanted to enlarge it both its budget and its programs. And now he says he’s as “conservative as anyone around this place”???? And has the chutzpa to say conservative groups “are not fighting for conservative principles.” Saying what they are really all about is their fundraising lists?

How about the idea that John Boehner is about nothing but his own greed for power? Is that what’s really afoot when one reads here in Bloomberg from August of this year that “Boehner plans to attend fundraisers in 15 states during the break” and that “this year, he has attended more than 100 events for incumbents and candidates, raising more than $30 million for his own committees and the National Republican Congressional Committee.” In other words, as noted in that Times story by a spokesman for the Boehner-targeted Heritage Action, “Only in Washington could you have guys who go to fund-raisers at swanky restaurants accuse outside groups of doing something for fundraising. It is one of those petty attacks that is intended to shift the conversation away from policy.”

And, we might add here, sell conservatism down the river to advance his own power? How about that?

Sorry. My Irish is up.

All of this is to say that the new “Air Boehner” airline travel tax is in microcosm precisely the problem with the GOP Establishment. The tax is in fact a tool of what Mark Levin quite accurately labels “Statists.” And to the extent Republicans have signed on to this deal, they display a taste for statism that precisely identifies them as what Levin calls “Neo-Statists.”

We are where we are because there are too many Republicans who think like John Boehner. Boehner and company are not unlike the old bit about the child who kills his parents and then begs for mercy because he’s an orphan. The GOP is in the hopeless spot it proclaims to be in Congress and the White House precisely because it doesn’t follow-through on its promises to cut spending and limit government when they do have power.

In the fight…make that war…to bring America into the future of limited — and effective — Constitutional government, Boehner hasn’t simply abandoned ship, he has switched sides. And he isn’t alone. He stands today where once stood old Reagan antagonists like Gerald Ford, Ford insisting that Reagan was too “extreme” to ever be elected president.

This is Boehner’s complaint of those conservative groups, and is the Inside the GOP Establishment opinion of Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and others in the Senate, as in the House with Members like Texan Louie Gohmert and others.

The Air Boehner Tax, as with his support of No Child Left Behind, is a move towards bigger government and a bigger debt.

And with his declaration of war against the Reaganite base of the GOP, it is even more evidence if any were needed that the newest tax collector for the welfare state — the speakership of John Boehner — can no longer fly.

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.