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Jerry Shenk


America's Future Depends on Which Republican Wins

by Jerry Shenk
 

In 2008, candidate Barack Obama pledged to "change the trajectory of America" and transform the Democratic Party. President Obama has remade his party.

National Journal's Josh Krashaar wrote: [Obama has] pushed Democrats to adopt his…policies with minimal dissent -- and that will have lasting consequences … [T]here have been very few instances when his party's members [in Congress] have split from [him], even on issues where the politics would dictate they should."

Democrats' complacent fealty to Obama's hard-left policies poses a generational electoral problem for Democrats. But Americans face another quandary: the controlling wing of the Republican Party isn't very conservative.

There's tension in the GOP alliance, because being pro-business and pro-free markets are not the same thing.

Big-government politicians tend to view the interests of America's biggest businesses as America's interests: All members of Congress endeavor to position their home base's enterprises at the head of the public trough.
Since 2009, at least, the GOP establishment -- the pro-business, big government side -- has struggled with free-market, limited-government conservatives.

Establishment Republicans are comfortable with current spending practices, debt accumulation, pork and market-distorting preferential regulations, cronyism, farm and other subsidies, tax loopholes and federal "insurance" such as "too big to fail." They resist reform for the same reasons Democrats do: Reform reduces the opportunities for political graft,
Ironically, on some important issues, liberal "populists" have more in common with conservative reformers than they do with most elected Democrats.
Conservatives understand how the government distorts free markets at taxpayer and consumer expense, and advocate stimulating economic growth by cleaning up America's fiscal, tax and regulatory messes.

The record of generally-recognized "conservative" governance hasn't always been blemish-free, either. Although partially justified by economic and population growth, government grew incrementally even during the Reagan years. When Republicans controlled Congress and the presidency during President George W. Bush's two terms, Congress set records for pork-barrel spending, and Bush signed the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program, No Child Left Behind, and a deficit-financed Medicare prescription drug plan, among other extravagances.

Differing only in degree, larger government, cronyism, and corruption are baked into Washington's cake no matter who's in charge.

During periods of strong economic growth, when both average household incomes and corporate profits grow, prosperity can be seen as symbiotic and the divergent interests of limited and big-government Republicans ignored.
That's changed.

Because the economy has been anemic and middle-class income is suffering, the nation has reached an inflection point.

Today, pro-business and pro-market Republicans disagree on tax, regulatory and spending reform, and on immigration and income gaps. U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) rightly observed: "Americans intuitively understand that crony capitalism is not a form of private enterprise, it's a form of public corruption."

Though still underrepresented, GOP reformers in both chambers of Congress have become too influential to ignore.

The Democratic Party's leftward stampede presents an opportunity for a pro-market, conservative Republican president. For its economic health, America must elect a reform conservative. But, first, Republicans must nominate one.


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