Republicans Are Becoming Irrelevant, and That is Frightening For the Future of America
Well I’ll be the first to admit it, we got creamed.
Despite a razor thin popular vote win of 50%-48% for Obama (with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson getting 1% of the vote), the Electoral College battle wasn’t even close.
If this was a referendum of the Obama agenda, the message from voters was loud and clear this week: bring on more government.
Anyone remember when Democrats used to say things like this?
That’s definitely changed over the last 50 years. The question we now seem to be asking ourselves is, “What else can this country do for me?”
Or how about when Bill Clinton said, “We know big government doesn’t have all the answers. We know that there isn’t a program for every problem. We know and have worked to give the American people a smaller and less bureaucratic government in Washington. And we have to give the American people a government that lives within its means. The era of big government is over.”
So much for that one.
Over the last decade, I’ve watched America sink on the Economic Freedom Index from 2nd in the world to 18th. Economic freedom in the United States skyrocketed from 1980 to 2000 while it was generally ranked behind only Hong Kong and Singapore as the 2nd or 3rd freest economy in the world. The 1980s and 90s delivered an unprecedented era of economic booms and prosperity for all Americans. Today we rank behind European welfare states like Finland and Denmark, and places traditionally more hostile to economic freedom like Qatar. The declines in freedom have occurred because the federal government has grown larger and more intrusive over the last decade, but evidently there’s plenty more room for government intervention.
Romney’s economic message in 2012 was, “I think a society based upon a government-centered nation, where government plays a larger and larger role and redistributes money will not build a stronger America or help people out of poverty. We believe in free people, free enterprise, not redistribution. We create growth, create wealth, not redistribute wealth.”
That message lost. Quite frankly, I’m lost too.
The next things to look forward to now are the oncoming fiscal cliff and Taxmageddon. Raising taxes on the rich has been such a popular line throughout this campaign. Many voters out there keep asking both parties to compromise. Obama is looking to raise tax rates on the rich at the end of 2012. I’d love to see it happen just to see what would come next.
According to liberal estimates, allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire on the rich would bring in $829 billion extra revenue over the next decade. Last year’s budget deficit alone was $1.6 trillion. So in other words, what raising taxes on only the rich would bring in over 10 years would only cover 6 months worth of deficit spending. Then what? Tax hikes on the middle class?
In fact, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that Obama’s budgets will incur $9.5 trillion worth of deficits over that same time period. So raising tax rates on the rich will only cover about 8.7% of deficit spending over the next 10 years. I’ll be very curious to see how we make up the rest of the 91.3% of that.
The other half of compromise that most people don’t like to talk about are spending cuts. Our debt has now eclipsed 100% of our entire GDP, leading to a first ever credit rating downgrade. We’ve had plenty of spending going on. In fact, this administration has spent twice as fast as the previous administration just to see a stubbornly high unemployment rate, rising inflation, historically low GDP growth and average household net worth falling.
But I don’t see those spending cuts materializing anytime soon. While taxing the rich is definitely popular, any talks of spending cuts are not because the entire paradigm has shifted.
Thirty years ago, 29% of all American households were on the government dole. Today, 49% are according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s a total of over 150 million Americans — or nearly half the entire population — receiving Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or welfare, at a price tag of about $1.6 trillion in 2011. If you take out Social Security and Medicare recipients and leave in only those who are receiving means-tested welfare, over 100 million Americans — or more than one-third of the entire population (34.5%) — are now receiving some form of federal welfare through Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment or disability claims, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s more than double the 17.1% thirty years ago.
Any talks of spending cuts aren’t going to win elections anymore.
Meanwhile, only 50.5% of Americans are even paying any income taxes according to the Internal Revenue Service, down from 85.2% thirty years ago. And 48% of our public debt is now held by foreign creditors, according to the Department of Treasury. That’s up from 6% in 1970 and 19% in 1990. In other words, we're at the tipping point, and I think it finally tips in 2013.
That makes me think of my father, who saw all the same signs coming and left Greece forty years ago to get away from a future like this.
The Affordable Care Act is also definitely here to stay — the name of which I still find so ironic and not just because health care premiums have only gone up since it passed. All it takes is a simple understanding of supply and demand economics. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the number of medical school students entering family medicine and primary care has fallen by more than 25% (and who can blame them in this ridiculously litigious environment?). Yet the ACA is trying to add coverage for another 35 million people. In other words, at current graduation rates, the nation is facing a gaping deficit of primary care doctors to cover these additional health care recipients, and what happens to consumer costs when supply goes down while demand goes up? We’ll see if anyone notices.
The middle class is also in for a rude awakening on that one too. According to the non-partisan CBO, 75% of the taxes to be collected on the ACA from the individual mandate will come from those making under $120,000 a year. Get ready for it.
As for the future of the Republican Party, I’ve had every liberal friend I know texting and e-mailing me over the last 24 hours offering me advice on the soul-searching the GOP needs to do — from dumping the ultra religious moral crusaders of the evangelical right to losing the economic and small government arguments of the Tea Party, which I find puzzling. If we did all that, essentially what would make us any different from the Democratic Party? More government vs. more government? More spending vs. more spending? More taxes vs. more taxes? Every election would basically just be a choice between two left-wing ideologies. Coke and Pepsi (then the Libertarian Party would really have an argument about presenting a different option).
Look, I’ve said this time and time again till I’m blue in the face: When I say I support smaller government across the board, I mean it. I don’t believe government has any more right or authority to tell women who can and can’t have children or tell couples who can and can’t get married than it should be running every aspect of our system from health care and finance to energy and education. The Chicago Young Republicans are as diverse as the city we live in. As a group of over 1,000 members, we have more females than males. We have African-Americans, Latino-Americans and LGBTs because the values that unite us all are free market principles, private sector solutions and a constitutionally-limited government. We can’t control what some Senate candidate in Missouri or Indiana says, which is a burden those states’ primary voters must bear; nor can I tell every Republican in America what to think, say, and do.
But our losses were more than just Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. There’s no doubt America has socially shifted to a center-left nation. We also lost in purple states like Florida, Virginia, and Ohio because I believe America has economically shifted to a center-left nation as well. Whether you voted for Mitt Romney or Gary Johnson, together they only managed to get 49% of the vote. Obama didn’t even need the independent vote. And if that’s truly the case at this point, the Republican Party is completely out of gas. The constant mocking from the liberal media’s generated caricatures (as I chronicled in my last piece) won’t be making things any easier for anyone unlucky enough to still have an "R" next to their name either. And as Romney’s candidacy demonstrated, you can’t come off as “too rich” now lest you be demagogued for your wealth and labeled as “out of touch” with mainstream America by the experts of the New York news media, Hollywood celebrities and Washington insiders.
And kudos to the David Axelrod marketing machine; they worked out all the margins. A Pew Research Center study showed that more than eight-in-ten voters ranked the economy (86%) and jobs (84%) as the most important issues in deciding who to vote for this fall, followed by the federal budget deficit at 74%. In fact, the four issues at the bottom of the list that voters ranked as least important were immigration (42%), abortion (39%), birth control (34%) and gay marriage (28%). That wasn’t a winning formula for Democrats, so they flipped that chart upside down and made those least important issues matter with enough Americans to clinch a 50% win.
As for me, I go on the endangered species list in my home state of Illinois. Republicans were massacred here. Democrats increased their majorities in the state legislature despite the fact that after monopolized control of Springfield over the last decade, Illinois ranks 50th in the nation in state pension funding, 50th in education, 48th in economic outlook, 48th in business climate and 1st in corruption. There is perhaps no better poster child of that last statistic than Derrick Smith, a lawmaker who was caught on tape taking a $7,000 bribe, and has been indicted by the FBI and expelled from the state legislature.
He won re-election too, by the way, 62%-38%, simply because he has a "D" next to his name.
How do you compete with that? What are anyone’s values, record and messaging worth if all people care about is whether or not you have a "D" next to your name? This is the story of my life as a Republican in Chicago. Any aspirations I had to run for office were pretty much killed after this week’s election results, especially in this state. If the majority of voters don’t support free market principles, private sector solutions, transparency, a constitutionally-limited government and being a good steward of taxpayer dollars, then there isn’t much else I have to offer. I think we’re definitely a center-left nation today, culturally and fiscally.
So that leaves me with two options in this state: either switch parties (meaning I lose all credibility, trust, and integrity) or hunker down in law school for the next three years and prepare for a future practicing law. After contemplating this all year, I’ve decided to take the second option. I’ve spent the last 10 years doing what I can to fight the good fight in this state without much to show for it, unfortunately. I can’t afford to do this anymore, emotionally and financially. It’s time I grow up, focus on my career and start making some real money, especially if I’m ever lucky enough to have a wife and kids some day. By the way, a tip for all you bachelors out there: if you’re really into politics as much as I am, keep it to yourself. There isn’t a bigger turnoff for women than working in politics. I’m hoping the lawyer thing turns out a lot better.
Wish me luck on my LSAT.