The Tortoise and the Best Hair

This morning I heard 3 different Republicans say a variation of the same thing:  “We will protect your freedoms by reversing the encroachment of growing government.”

Great line. This has been the talking point that all Republicans across the country have hammered since Sputnik first circled the Earth. And why not?  It resonates and there is a lot of evidence of that “growing government” by which to give the cause credibility.

But, there is a problem.  Big problem.  Do you know which party grows government?  Yes…Democrats.  AND REPUBLICANS!

In fact, I’m being a little soft here so as not to create too much animosity at the start from my Republican friends.  The truth is, Republican leadership has grown government every bit as much, if not more in the past 40 years.

Government surveilance programs have certainly gotten our attention as the most directly frightening evidence of Big Brother Government and current Republicans cite the NSA under President Obama as one of those expansions.  But it is only a continuation of the programs from the previous administration and is an outgrowth of the Patriot Act to “enhance law enforcement investigatory tools,” penned by Republicans and signed into law by President Bush in 2001.

Spending comes up a lot as evidence of government growth.  But, whereas total government spending dropped in 10 out of the 16 quarters during Obama’s first term, it rose in 13 of President Reagan’s first 16 quarters.  George W Bush’s first 16 quarters saw the same 13 quarter rise.average-government-spending

In the interest of fairness I don’t believe that President Obama sought austerity or that Presidents Reagan and Bush were inclined to be bigger spenders. Rather these numbers are reflective of the economies they inherited.  Each president saw a recession in their first term, but Obama’s was by far the worst and it led to severe cutbacks in state and local spending.

However, I am saying that to call President Obama the spender whose government has expanded the most, is erroneous.  It fact, it is an outright lie.

Welfare is always the conservative’s starting point in today’s spending conversation and it should be noted that the only significant welfare reform to ever pass was engineered during the Clinton administration.   Even though this was to the ire of many liberals, it was a Democratic president who signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act which made welfare entitlements require work development and limited time frames under the title “Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.”

How about military spending?  Well, if colonialism is still part of our foreign policy (and it is), then military spending is going to increase.  Certainly a pre-emptive war falls under imperialist expansion.  The cost of two wars over 10 years was been over 1.5 trillion dollars and that is not from policy that’s exclusive to Democrats; it has been a joint effort.  Any way you slice that pie, we have to consider our war strategies and proliferation a shared responsibility.

Gun rights are included in the Republican rhetoric concerning government encroachment, but it has to be confusing to realize that during the Obama administration there were no major new restrictions on guns or gun owners.  President Obama urged states to enforce existing laws, but in many states, gun laws loosened.

Granted the lack of new legislation to expand background checks was because a Republican controlled House stalled any Democratic initiative, but it still has to bethCA87JY01 a head scratcher to remember that it was Ronald Reagan (hands down the best hair in presidential history), that supported the last significant gun control measures in the 1990s:  1993’s Brady Bill and 1994’s Assault Weapons Ban.

I guess we’re going to have to talk about repressive taxes, too.  It is difficult to talk any Republican into taking President Reagan down from the Mount Rushmore of Tax Cutters, but he actually raised taxes 11 times.  While overall tax percentages came down, it was mostly from the top, while allowing fewer tax breaks at the bottom, just like George W Bush immitated 20 years later.  And every time that is done a recession follows the temporary economic growth…so, maybe. ..oh, never mind!

I read a post on a conservative website that included “religion” as a right being suppressed by liberals.  Apparently, to some people, the recognition of all religious freedom (also known as upholding the First Amendment) is an encroachment on Christianity.

Is government being too expansive when it stops a rancher, who refuses to pay taxes on the public land that he uses, from letting his cattle graze that land?  Some conservative pundits are being dismissive by pretending that it’s a liberal cause to save a desert tortoise (a cause which annoys the crap out of 503_1a28751_tortoisepeople who don’t value life other than their own), but that is just this reality’s B-story.

Public lands are a big deal out West as almost everyone depends on them. They are used for recreational activities like hiking, fishing, hunting and skiing and they are critical to people’s livelihood for timber, drilling oil, mining coal and for cattle.

It was President Theodore Roosevelt (a Republican, but also a great progressive) who signed The Antiquities Act which gave the President the sole authority to restrict the use of Public Land in the interests of preservation.

It aggravates law abiding, tax paying, environment and public rights respecting citizens, like me, that I pay to use and protect those resources while a self-centered, anti-government, fair-weather libertarian thinks his personal freedom dictates that he doesn’t have to and can do as he pleases.  http://www.latimes.com/opinion/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-cliven-bundys-militiamen-20140421,0,1467054.story?track=rss#axzz2zuvAdWob

And then, of course, there’s Health Care Reform.  While government involvement in the health market undeniably broadens the scope of government, there is something paradoxical about feeling infringed upon for losing our “right” to jeopardize our health or to carry insurance policies that were so useless that they were not actually insurance.

All of the issues I’ve raised here will be (and should be) debated and many of us will fall on different sides of those debates.  The point is that platitudes being used about “spending” and “government encroachment” and “losing our liberties” are confounding and distracting the public from the truth.  There are more complex and revealing realities with shared responsibilities for any result of government.  But, when candidates convince voters that their side is innocent of the very things they accuse the other of doing, and when they are elected on that premise only to betray their promise, the electorate loses.

There’s nothing wrong with concern of government overreach and encroachment.  We should all be aware of our personal liberties.  What is wrong is disingenuous rhetoric.  What is wrong is lying.

Both sides are guilty of that one, but…I’m being soft again…only one side has made it their continuing platform.

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