Musings of An Economic Conservative


The more I watch the news, and read the papers, the more frustrated I get. Just last week, the State of New York gave away 140 million dollars to welfare recipients so that they could buy school supplies and clothing for their kids. (Money from the Federal “stimulus” package.) Even if we don’t talk about the logic of a program that had no strings attached, no stipulations of how the money was to be spent – this was borrowed money that we don’t even have.

Or another way of looking at it; the federal government gave money that they borrowed, to states that can’t balance their books, so that only some families who already receive welfare get $200 per child of extra welfare money to spend any way they like.

What is wrong with this picture?

Tough to be an Economic Conservative

It is sometimes tough to be an economic conservative in this country. Reagan was a conservative, and federal spending and debt exploded when he was president. George W. Bush was a “compassionate conservative” and yet he presided over huge deficits, and expanded welfare programs. Like Clinton or not, at least when he was president, federal spending increased by a smaller amount under his watch than it has since. He even signed welfare reform in 1996, requiring people to go off the public dole, and get a job.

We all know how tough it is for conservatives to say something nice about Clinton. I will do it for them. He was right on that one.

What is wrong with our country today? The government is giving away billions, trying to spend its way out of the recession. Money for automakers. Money for banks. Money for expanded welfare payments. President Obama’s administration is now hinting that his promise to not raise taxes on the middle class might be thrown out the window, to start attacking our huge debt, and pay for health care reform.

Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution states, “Congress shall have the power to collect taxes, pay debts, and provide for the defense and general welfare of the United States.”

Just because welfare spending is Constitutional, is it the way out of our troubles? Spending borrowed money in the attempt to hold the economy together? To mortgage our future to save some jobs right now?

It has been tried before.

During the Great Depression, Roosevelt increased taxes on the rich, and launched numerous public works programs to keep people working. Unemployment reached nearly 25% when he took office, and 6 years of FDR ‘s new deal, only brought it down to 18.9%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finally recovered its Depression losses in 1955.

Did the new Deal work? Will today’s massive spending and tax increases help us now?

Some wisdom from our past on the subject:

Davy Crockett, (he of killed himself a bear when he was only 3 fame) also served in the House of Representatives. During a debate about giving a sum of money to the widow of a war hero, he said, “We have the right, as individuals to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money.” To give money to her, but not every widow of every person who died in the war of 1812 would not be fair. He then offered a week of his own pay to help out the widow, and asked every other member to do the same.

The bill failed to pass.

Do you really want get our economy going, and work our way out of a deficit? John F. Kennedy said in his budget message to congress in 1963, “Lower rates of taxation will stimulate economic activity and so raise the levels of personal and corporate income as to yield within a few years an increased – not a reduced – flow of revenues to the federal government.”

Perhaps Abraham Lincoln said it best:

“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

Wise words.

I know there are people who are hurting. Nothing anyone says or does can make that better, but perhaps if leaders make the right choices, America might just work out of this mess sooner rather than later.