In his fine new column, Terry Jeffrey is kinder than I would be to Bill Kristol’s suggestion that it is good politics for conservatives to bankrupt the country by expanded unfunded entitlements programs. But he does a good job of pointing out the real harm to the country that will be done if the Republicans continue to succeed at growing entitlements while failing to rein them in.
But even as a narrow political point, I think Kristol is wrong. Yes, it’s true that trying to restrain the growth of Medicare spending was unpopular in 1995-96, just as the prescription drug benefit was popular in 2002-03. The former helped reelect Democrat Bill Clinton while the latter helped reelect Republican George W. Bush. Yet look at the longer term picture: The Republicans controlled Congress for 12 years after their Medicare-cutting gambit. They controlled Congress for three years and the White House for five after Medicare Part D. Was big government conservatism really the path to the promised land?
Similarly, the work congressional Republicans did in controlling spending during the 1990s — yes, with the at least partial cooperation of Bill Clinton — produced a budget surplus and paved the way for a Republican president to cut taxes. The explosive growth of government under Bush and the expired GOP Congress of the past decade enlarged budget deficits that paved the way for a Democratic president to come in and raise taxes. The Medicare prescription drug benefit may be the mechanism through which Democrats introduce price controls over pharmaceuticals or further expand federal control over our health care system. Not only is big government conservatism constitutionally, morally, and economically wrong, it will prove long-term political failure as well because it enters Republicans into a bidding war against the Democrats they cannot win.
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That’s right, the Grinch (Joe Biden) is coming for your pocketbooks this Christmas season with record inflation. Just to recap, here is a list of items that have gone up during his reign.
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