Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Benefits of United Republican Government, Part 2

In 1995 the Republican Congress passed a budget resolution designed to reduce growth in Medicare spending by 270 billion dollars over a seven year period, cut federal taxes by over 200 billion dollars and eliminate several outdated and obsolete social programs. Democrat President Bill Clinton used his Presidential veto power to prevent these fiscal reforms from becoming law and he succeeded.

This was divided government in action, frustrating an attempt to put the federal government on a shorter leash.

In January 2002, shortly after the September 11th terrorists attacks, President Bush wanted Congress to pass an economic growth package containing tax credits and acceleration in income tax rate reductions. The US House, controlled by Republicans, quickly passed an economic growth package. The US Senate, led by Democrat Tom Daschle, limited itself to passing an extension of unemployment compensation. When President Bush asked leader Daschle for cooperation on economic stimulus legislation and mentioned the struggling American economy, Daschle responded "We don't need an economic stimulus package. You need an economic stimulus package."

This was divided government in action or, perhaps more accurately, inaction. It wasn't until the summer of 2003, after Republicans had regained the majority in the US Senate in January 2003, that an economic stimulus package became law. The stock market boomed and the economy began growing at its fastest pace in almost 20 years.

There are many Republicans in Congress and many members of the Bush administration who want to make the Bush tax cuts permanent (they are due to expire at the end of the decade and their expiration would result in a massive tax increase on the American economy) and reform entitlement programs. The reason why there are no immediate plans by Republicans to enact this agenda is because an election is coming up in less than 5 months and because they probably lack the votes to enact this agenda given the narrow 51 to 49 seat majority that they enjoy in the US Senate.

Clearly, it seems to me, the road toward a more fiscally responsible federal government doesn't call for electing more Tom Daschles and Hillary Clintons to the US Senate but, rather, electing more conservatives to the US Senate, people like Jim DeMint in South Carolina and Herman Cain in Georgia. And electing John Kerry to the White House will not advance an agenda of tax reduction and entitlement reform either. It's far more likely that a newly reelected President Bush matched with a US Senate featuring a larger Republican majority will propose such an agenda.

In Colorado, reductions in the state income tax, enactment of a concealed car weapons law and reform of state health insurance regulation affecting small businesses did not happen during the 22 years of divided government (when Democrats occupied the governor's mansion from 1975 through 1999 while the Republicans controlled both houses of the legislature from 1977 through 1999). No, these reforms occurred after Republican Bill Owens was elected governor in 1998 by a few thousand votes and only when the Republicans controlled the Governorship, the state Senate and the state House simulaneously. It's time conservatives and libertarians realized, if they haven't already, that united Republican government represents the best hope for their agenda being enacted.