Posts Tagged ‘budget’

The Paradoxical Conservative

February 18, 2012

There are many topics that come up in the national agenda that I don’t have the background to understand completely. As with any debate, I seek to understand the veracity of both sides so I can make an informed decision as to where I stand on the issue. The critical thinking process that I use starts with assessing the internal consistency of the argument. While I may not understand domestic economics or global climate change, I can assess the argument on whether it passes this “sniff test” for logic-based thinking.

One argument coming from conservatives is that government is inherently wasteful and should be smaller. However, the largest government organization in the history of America was created by a Republican – the Department of Homeland Security. That was in response to an unusual time in our history, so maybe that deserves a pass. However, for some reason many conservatives don’t feel the rule of government waste applies to the Department of Defense. I was a contractor for a small DoD job and it was well-known that there was tremendous waste going on. (Our contract was specifically an assessment to help a small piece of that). So when President Obama tries to reduce military expenditures, conservatives like Dana Rohrabacher claim that he is “trying to gut the military.” [1]

One argument coming from conservatives is that deficit spending is a problem. Actually, I agree on that point. Of course, deficits weren’t a problem for conservatives when Ronald Reagan almost tripled the debt. Deficits weren’t a problem for conservatives as recently as the Bush Administration when tax cuts, two wars and a prescription drug benefit were all taking a toll on America’s financial resources [2], but now they are a problem. If we can agree that the deficit is truly a problem, it should be a addressed with a combination of revenue increases through changes in the tax code and government spending cuts. Simple math dictates that military spending has to be part of the cuts (see first point above).

One argument coming from conservatives is that the government should not be in the business of redistributing wealth. That conservative argument focuses on federal policies that take tax revenues to fund social safety programs. However, tax incentives for multinational corporations like GE and the oil industry are never considered a “redistribution of wealth.” In all fairness, the Paul Ryan plan does include reducing agricultural subsidies and cuts in defense spending [3], but the focus is on cuts in social programs. It also includes tax cuts. I am not an economist, but reducing the deficit by reducing federal income seems like magical thinking to me.

One argument – or perhaps more of an ideology – from conservatives is one of personal freedom and personal responsibility. I can also relate to that. I was raised to believe that and have lived my life according to that ideal. For many of those same conservatives, it is the government’s responsibility to interject themselves in the most personal of issues – reproductive health. Access to birth control reduces unwanted pregnancies, and thus the need for abortions. Unwed mothers have an increased likelihood for needing access to social support programs. Access to birth control seems to be in the best interest of all Americans, but then we have Rick Santorum stating “One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is the dangers of contraception in this country.” While he doesn’t go so far as to advocate making contraception illegal, there seems to be paradoxical thinking on his part that just doesn’t reconcile with the realities of life in America.

One argument – a red herring really – coming from conservatives is that Obama is waging a war on religion. We’ve all seen the “war on religion” memes on our social network sites. There is an assertion that children aren’t allowed to pray in public schools. Of course that assertion is just plain false. What can’t happen is school sanctioned and led prayer. That is an assault on Christianity, according to religious conservatives, but just ask if it would be OK for a Muslim-led prayer and you get a resounding “No!” Religious freedom to Christian conservatives means they can impose their faith within public-serving institutions like hospitals, but at the same time, they don’t want any other religion to have the same opportunities.  Treating religious freedoms equally across all religions somehow becomes a “war on religion.” Just Google “Sharia Law” and look at the nutty paranoia [6]. Apparently religious freedom only applies to Christians.

There was a time where the conservative point-of-view was more consistent and well-articulated. There used to be an opportunity for an honest discussion of the contrast between a conservative point-of-view with a more liberal point-of-view. Since Christian conservatives interjected themselves into GOP politics in the 1980s and now with the intrusion of this pseudo-libertarian ideology from Tea Party conservatives, I just don’t get what the GOP point-of-view is.

One thing is certain. For me, it just doesn’t pass the sniff test for logic-based thinking.