Republicans Do Know What They’re Doing

by George Kennedy on August 30, 2011


Republicans Do Know What They're Doing

We hear it all the time: “On Economic policy issues, Republicans don’t know what they’re doing; they don’t know what they’re talking about.” I think they do. The difference is they are not concerned about the consequences of their policy prescriptions for the rest of us. To claim they’re way off base as I and others do is to presuppose they proceed from the same fundamental principles as most rational beings do but reach different conclusions.

First, you must begin with an appreciation for the value of property over life. I argue these Republicans were classmates to many of us but became captives of what I believe is a basic tenet of Republican orthodoxy: It is the exercise of power to establish national priorities that is their primary goal and not the administration of government for the common good. Policies, practices, and considerations that conflict with this goal are set aside.

Many Republicans – I don’t say all – believe that the primary functions of government are to provide for our national security and to serve as a legitimate tool and resource base to advance private enterprise. Common welfare – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, preservation of quality of life and our national heritage, for example, is the collective responsibility of communities, the State, and, ultimately, the individual. This is not and should not be a federal responsibility. They have a fundamentally different view of the role of government in society. This is not news.

Here is where it gets interesting. They believe all economic benefits accruing to society therefore are legitimate only to the extent they trickle down through the beneficence of this system of private enterprise. It is on the question of capital formation that they really diverge from the rest of us. Investment capital generated by the taxpayer (taxes), consumer savings, government subsidies, and consumer investment, is considered private, should not be subject to regulation, but subject only to market conditions including unfettered risk. Income derived from those investments is considered private, risks are unregulated and unquestioned; and the consumer or private saver (the source of capital) assumes all the risk.

The rewards (profit) are considered private, subject to the lowest tax rates through legislation they promulgate. Whatever happened to real private capital? Job creation is a by-product and income derived is subject to higher levels of taxation. Again, protections for the wage earner are minimalist. Our reward, as the labor component, is increasingly temporary employment subject to the efficiencies of technology and low-cost, offshore labor. This is the basis for the two-tiered class society we have.

To the Republican leadership today, government offers an unlimited source of taxpayer-provided capital with few regulations and the legitimacy and protection it confers to establish narrow national priorities for the allocation of resources and the preservation of the rights and benefits of the few over the many. It is only through the exercise of power that they can absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions. It is the operational premises that matter in the pursuit of power.

They know what they’re doing!

They do not want to be held accountable. “Deficits don’t matter.” They have persuaded enough people that government is the problem that it must be minimized (except for themselves) and you have socialism for the rich and responsibility for the rest of us. Don’t tell me they don’t know what they’re doing.

George Kennedy

George Kennedy is a retired senior Foreign Service officer with extensive international experience. He holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon and two graduate degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. Mr. Kennedy was a political advisor to state and federal officials and has authored strategy pieces for Members of Congress and presidential candidates. He serves on the Advisory Board for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona.

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