Friday, March 07, 2014

Towards A TR Conservative Republican Party

Many people may be surprised to hear that President Teddy Roosevelt, the Bull Moose megaphone and the first serious presidential progressive, was a Republican.

It is Teddy that prevents the term “Republican activist” from becoming an oxymoron. There is no question that TR –- some call him the good Roosevelt -- was what we should call “an activist.”

In the post-Ronald Reagan period -- the present era of a boisterous modern progressive party led nationally by President Barack Obama and here in Connecticut by the ubiquitous Governor Dannel Malloy -- some Republicans are beginning to ask dangerous questions: For instance, what would the policies of an activist Republican look like? Is it possible to imagine an activist conservative government that would carry us far from the modern progressive and destructive bonfire?

One of the most enticing features of modern progressivism is that it gives politicians something to do. Of course, they always go overboard, carrying most of us with them. A government that sets a minimum wage is an over-reaching government that has stopped governing. And the problem with over-reaching is simply this: If a U.S. Senator were to fancy himself a sort of populist consumer protection agent determined to guard his constituents from the ravages of sugary breakfast cereals, that senator would not have sufficient time or inclination to devote himself to the proper responsibilities of his office – say, developing a strategy to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from swallowing large parts of Eastern Europe and re-assembling the Soviet Union. This is what modern progressivism does: It burns down your house and then forces rug makers to sell you a carpet at a reduced price.

The conservative who chastises U.S. Senator Busybody for neglecting his constitutional responsibilities ought not to be shouted down as someone who hates government, when in fact he may be someone who appreciates much better than Senator Busybody the necessary and indispensable responsibilities of a responsible senator. But, more often than not, he is shouted down – as someone who believes cities should be allowed to rot while he twiddles his thumbs and repeats conservative nostrums concerning the dangers of an immodest omni-incompetent government.

Suppose a conservative TR, a Jack Kemp sort of guy, should come along in Connecticut and propose an “extreme” solution that would lead cities out of their jobless doldrums by means of a proposal to place business tax reduction zones in large poverty infested urban areas. If you’re a business in Hartford or New Haven or Bridgeport, for instance, you might be able to take advantage of a reverse progressive business tax that diminishes in proportion to a diminishing jobless rate in the targeted cities. Suppose reverse progressive tax reductions were applied to married couples in poverty stricken cities, individual tax reductions being greater in mom and pop households. Such a scheme might well reverse the plague of fatherless households in major urban centers. Would this not be a noble effort in reducing poverty in cities where fatherhood has become a distant memory?

One wonders how a modern TR would sell such ideas in Connecticut. He almost certainly would be instantly confronted by a governmental apparatus allied with powerful interest groups and a left of center media more intent on expanding transfer payments than lifting the poor from poverty. For every dollar Connecticut taxpayers send to Washington – a laundromat for dollars that otherwise would be invested in job production at home – Connecticut receives back about sixty-eight cents in services and rhetorical baloney. The percentage is probably similar in the case of tax money collected by the state and distributed by the General Assembly: For every dollar appropriated to alleviate poverty, a large bite is consumed by the state’s caritas apparatus. And since the advent of Mr. Malloy as governor, a portion of tax money collected is delivered, more or less as a pay-off, to multi-million dollar companies that have threatened to leave the state for greener pastures elsewhere; such tax consuming companies will be generous to the Democratic machine come election day.

Very likely any effective effort to ameliorate the condition of the poor in cities by making them independent of government succor would be a battle to the death. But then, if we could summon TR from the dust that is the final condition of all men and women – there are no rich or poor corpses – he would find a way. And that way would be shouted from bully pulpits in Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven, whose recently elected mayor, Toni Harp, has just imposed more taxes on Mike Stratton, a New Haven alderman allied with a breakaway group of city lawmakers known as the People’s Caucus.

Mr. Stratton, a heretical Democrat in New Haven’s one-party town, was on the verge of proposing spending cuts and operational cut backs.

When Mr. Stratton rose in opposition to the tax increase levied by the wife of New Haven’s most notorious tax scofflaw, lately deceased, he was told – politely, to be sure – shut up and go away.

Revolutions begin this way.
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