Alex's Outlook

Friday, February 07, 2003

The Georgia GOP was jubilant after electing Sonny Perdue to the governorship and breaking the Democrats' 130-year lock on the statehouse. They won on returning the Confederate flag to Georgia and slashing taxes. After his victory, Perdue did a 180 on taxes and demanded that the Georgia legislature approve a $762 million tax hike. Besides spitting on his anti-tax campaign pledge, Perdue's treachery contrasts sharply with the policy of the Democrat he defeated, Roy Barnes of Georgia. Barnes was one of the three most tax-cutting governors in America (along with Jeb Bush and Bill Owens), and he made an enemy of the GA teachers' union by blaming them for the state's public-schooling shortcomings (which wasn't far from the truth...while Perdue took the union's side to keep the union on the sidelines) Barnes was also unapologetically pro-gun. In short, Barnes was one of the most conservative governors in the United States, and he has been replaced by a big-spending Perdue masquerading as a conservative Republican.

Sadly, Perdue's conduct is typical of today's Republican governors. Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn (who said that rejecting a billion-dollar tax hike would be "cowardice"), Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, John Rowland of Connecticut, Bob Taft of Ohio...and more. All Republicans, all tax-hikers during a recession. I count a paltry seven Republican governors (Romney, Owens, Bush, Sanford, Martz, McCallum, Ehrlich) who are actually trying to cut spending and/or cut taxes. That makes 19 Republicans who refuse to follow the party platform!
What is most sad is that the Democrats are almost leading the way on tax-cutting. Bill Richardson, a former Clinton apparatchik who now runs New Mexico, plans to slash New Mexico's capital gains rate in half and income tax by about a third, making him perhaps the most supply-side governor in the country. Democratic Governors Granholm, Sebelius, Locke, Kulongoski and Richardson have all promised to cut spending and/or taxes. So has Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (blah-GOY-uh-vich), but he essentially promised everything to everybody in the 2002 elections, so he will prolly have a hard time cutting taxes. Almost as many Democrats are officially tax-cutters as Republicans. As I said, that's sad.

On the national level, too, one can see the same big-government-GOP. It is woefully apparent that the Republicans, who will celebrate ten years' control of Congress in 2004 (except for the 01-02 Jeffords hiccup), have been corrupted by ten years' power in DC. Gingrich rode to power on a wave of Republican enthusiasm coupled with the Democrats' discontent, vowing to balance the budget by cutting government programs. Eight years later, government expenditures are up 50% despite Bush's little "tax cut for the rich". The deficit is exploding. Bush has hiked government spending 18% since he took office, and no more than a third of that has anything to do with the war on terror. When looked at from a small-government perspective, the Republican earthquake of 1994 was a miserable failure.

What I have to wonder is this: the Republicans seized power in 1994 because of the Democrats' disillusionment with their own party and an enthusiastic turnout among the Republican base. Barring military or economic catastrophe, it seems that the Republican grip on power will remain until at least 2010 (the next census, when Congressional districts get sliced and diced again). But what happens when the Democrats get a charismatic leader who energizes their base? Republicans will have a couple of tax cuts to point at, but that's it. No progress on abortion or trimming government OR the deficit. On almost every possible occasion, Republicans have voted for bigger government and bigger deficits instead of smaller government. A conservative is defined by his opposition to more government programs, not tax-cutting zeal; anybody can cut taxes. Why should the Republican base turn out in favor of a party that is not conservative? What happens when the Democrats have something to rally around, and the Republicans have years of mostly failed promises? A Democrats' 1994? Probably.

In any case, a good first step would be kicking out Guinn, Taft and Perdue, because they're the most shameless Republican tax-hikers. Maybe the Georgia GOP could use another 130 years' irrelevance to learn its lesson.


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