Vail Daily column: Tough dilemma for GOP
October 29, 2016
Picture classic Republican Party's convictions as a three-legged stool. Principled conservatives such as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R, Wisconsin) sit on this stool, which is supported by three political legs: limited government that protects personal liberties, lower taxes and loyalty to a market- driven economy. These governing principles keep the Feds off citizens' back, declare Ryan's core conservatives who admire Ronald Reagan.
Donald Trump doesn't endorse this classic conservative agenda. He's savvy enough to know that an independent candidate can't get elected president in a nation whose history since the 1850s has been shaped by two dominant political parties. Consequently, acting like a political Independent, Trump uses the Republican Party's apparatus. Through it, he achieves an agenda markedly different from what Republicans have always believed. After switching party affiliation multiple times, he now uses the Republican Party to press for three policy goals that are anathema to conservative political doctrine.
How far has Trump diverged from non-negotiable convictions that the GOP's principled conservatives stand?
Time Magazine editor Nancy Gibbs strikes at the heart of why Trump rejects principled conservatism. "A formerly pro-abortion-rights, thrice-married, Big Government, neo-isolationist candidate could depart from Republican orthodoxy because base voters agreed with him (Trump) that immigrants pose a threat and crime is out of control and global markets are rigged against the working man."
"His voters' unwavering faith," Gibbs rightly concludes, "despite every new outrage, is the very opposite of traditional small-government conservatism" (Time Magazine, "In the Year of Character, Issues Still Matter," Oct. 24).
When President Obama first took office in 2009, then-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty raised red flags, warning Republicans that their umbrella wasn't wide enough to cover working-class, white "Sam's Club Republicans." These folks, loosely attached to the GOP, don't shore up the three traditional legs of Republican orthodoxy, which Reagan and Ryan espouse. In fact, with his populist leaning, Trump cuts off the legs of limited government, lower taxes and loyalty to a market-driven economy.
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His financial policies will grow government, not limit it. In contrast, small-government conservatives ardently believe building government blocks economic growth. On the surface, Trump sounds Republican by bulking up military spending. Then he adds additional funding for veterans' health care, in addition to rubberstamping growing Medicare costs. He won't tamper with Social Security cuts. Principled conservatives hate these latter fiscal policies.
Moreover, Trump sounds very Republican, promising across-the-board tax cuts. When such a stimulus was enacted in the Reagan and George W. Bush presidencies, what happened? The economy got a boast but additional revenues in the Feds Treasury from a ginned-up economy didn't begin to cover the massive tax-cut deficits. Trump and core conservatives cringe at what history shows under Reagan and Bush II. Tax breaks don't stimulate much beyond increased budget deficits, which rose like a rocket in the Reagan/Bush II administrations.
Trump's tax cuts will incur $9.5 trillion revenue losses over the decade starting with his presidency. This is a lousy way to practice limited government, by strangling it with debt.
The biblical book of James 1:27 requires that Christians "visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Trump heeds neither command. He hikes tax cuts for the very rich and stains his life with sexist "locker room bantering."
The Tax Policy Center adds up Trump's tax cuts and finds that the top 0.1 of America's highest earners would see their incomes rise 14 percent. To keep them flush with cash, Trump wants to entirely eliminate the estate tax —a double bonus for the richest of the rich.
He contradicts principled conservative Republican orthodoxy with his skepticism over free trade, also. He wants to regulate the import market, particularly with goods from China. Hike tariffs against them, he declares, in order to cut off China at its economic knees. China will back off, all because the Donald decrees it.
Such a policy will have disastrous financial consequences for "Sam's Club Republicans," many who can hardly pay their bills. In fact, raising tariffs on Chinese goods spells trouble for all Americans' pocketbooks. Once economically burned, Beijing will play with fire and scorch Washington with its own tariff hikes.
Who pays as the Chinese retaliate when Trump raises levies on them? Rich, poor and middle-class consumers. Consumer prices will rise almost 3 percent in such a tariff tug-of-war. Trump can personally absorb such losses without feeling a financial pinch, but how about "Sam's Club Republicans?"
The Republican Party finds itself in a tough dilemma. Their presidential nominee won against conservative candidates Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Trump's policies undercut the stool upon which Republican orthodoxy sits: limited government, lower taxes for all, and love of trade rid of government regulation.
Here's the most frightening fact of all: Trump detests top-down government. He aims to blow it apart. The GOP is part of this Washington-based bureaucracy. So Trump blows apart the Republican Party, too. Ask Paul Ryan about that grim fact.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God's history come alive.
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