December 8, 2008

Billy "Big Government" Kristol

The countdown is at 5 more flaccid, ill-reasoned pleas for conservatives to find some semblance of rationality, influence, and  a vague consistency with some revamped verdict of fifty years of lying rhetoric.  Today's is particularly funny.

First off, he admits (discovers, apparently) that the central theme of conservativism--small government--has always been, well, a lie.

It turns out, in the real world of Republican governance, that there aren’t a whole lot of small-government Republicans.

Five Republicans have won the presidency since 1932: Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the two George Bushes. Only Reagan was even close to being a small-government conservative. And he campaigned in 1980 more as a tax-cutter and national-defense-builder-upper, and less as a small-government enthusiast in the mold of the man he had supported — and who had lost — in 1964, Barry Goldwater. And Reagan’s record as governor and president wasn’t a particularly government-slashing one.

Even the G.O.P.’s 1994 Contract With America made only vague promises to eliminate the budget deficit, and proposed no specific cuts in government programs.

It's true, Billy. Not one Republican Senate, not one Republican Congress, not one Republican President, has ever proposed a budget smaller than the one the year before.   Turns out the real difference is that conservatives are all for big government, they just don't want to pay for it.

If you more or less accept big government, you’ll be open to the government’s stepping in to save the financial system, or the auto industry. But you’ll tend to favor those policies — universal tax cuts, offering everyone a chance to refinance his mortgage, relieving auto makers of burdensome regulations — that, consistent with conservative principles, don’t reward irresponsible behavior and don’t politicize markets.

This one is sort of a laff riot.  Universal tax cuts while the budget grows. So we can strike that "fiscally prudent" bit off the list too.  And, yeah, he really did put "save the financial system" in just before he said "don't reward irresponsible behavior."

Like Douthat yesterday, it's really remarkable to see these guys squirming, trying to revive their bumper sticker policy-making.  Their positions never really made sense, but they were protected by always being able to blame the branches they didn't control from letting true conservatism flower.   So they never truly had the opportunity to deregulate, to cut taxes for the rich, to show the power of  the marketplace to create jobs and fuel robust economic growth. 

Until they did.

It turns out there is still one principle left intact--the mine-shaft gap.

Billy's close includes:

You might then suggest spending a good chunk of the stimulus on national security — directing dollars to much-needed and underfunded defense procurement rather than to fanciful green technologies, making sure funds are available for the needed expansion of the Army and Marines before rushing to create make-work civilian jobs. 


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