Sunday, October 22, 2006

My Declaration of Independence

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one person to dissolve the political bands which have connected him with a party, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that he should declare the causes which impel him to the separation. Today I must regrettably leave the Republican Party.

This has not been an easy decision to make. You see, I came of age politically about the time that the Republican “revolution” of the mid 1990’s was in full swing. I liked the Republican’s ideas about smaller government, a strong military, and lower taxes. Besides, I liked that they were supposedly the underdog party, taking on the “establishment” party which had been in control of Congress for forty years.

So, with my dog-eared copy of the Contract With America (which was inspired largely by President Reagan‘s 1985 state of the union address), I volunteered my time and my money to the Party and her candidates. I wrote letters to the editor, voted in straw polls and primaries, and locked horns with anyone who impugned the Republicans.

Things went well for a while. My party eventually gained control of both houses in Congress, then in 2000, the Whitehouse. Now at last they could advance their conservative ideals relatively unopposed. Surely balanced budgets, massive governmental reform, Congressional term limits, and shrinking budgets would be the order of the day. But, as anyone who’s been awake for the past six years knows, that surely didn’t happen. To their credit, the Republicans did roll back a few infringements on the Second Amendment. And they did cut taxes, but coupled that with massive spending increases that even the Democrats wouldn’t have dreamt of.

Now the party of the Balanced Budget Amendment, fiscal conservatism, and spending restraint has increased federal spending by 33% since 2001. Lest you think this is due to unforeseen disasters like 9-11 or Hurricane Katrina, if you factor out defense, homeland security and Katrina relief, discretionary spending has increased 34% in that time. Federal spending has grown twice as fast under President Bush as under President Clinton. And that rate of growth is accelerating, from 4.1% growth in federal spending in 2001 to 7.9% in 2005.

Now the number of “pork projects,” special appropriations that are “earmarked” for specific recipients in a Congressman’s home district rather going through the usual competitive application process, has jumped from 4,326 in 2000 to 13,997 in 2005. A recent Republican highway bill contained 6,371such earmarks, costing $25 billion. Somewhere up above, President Reagan is clutching his old veto pen sadly.

Now the party of welfare reform has increased “anti-poverty” spending by 39% under President Bush to a record 16% of all federal spending. Medicaid rolls expanded by 10 million and Food Stamp rolls by 8 million between 2001 and 2005. The average benefit levels grew faster than the rate of inflation. The conservative party even created a brand new welfare entitlement program, the Medicare drug plan, with no plan on how to pay for it. A universal entitlement that will go to all seniors regardless of need, it will cost $2 trillion over the next two decades. The Republicans even backed away from their own timid attempts to reform the socialist Ponzi scheme of Social Security.

Now the party that respects the individual wants to know what books the individual reads and who the individual talks to on the phone.

Now the party of states’ rights and defined federalism has increased federal control of many traditionally local activities from fire-rescue services, to law enforcement, to education. Once wanting to eliminate the federal Department of Education, the Republicans have increased funding to it by 137% from 2001 to 2006.

Now that the Republican Party are merely hawkish Democrats, I turn to the Libertarian Party, which I hope will more adequately express my beliefs in smaller, less intrusive government, and more personal freedom. Like many people I’ve heard who switched parties (like former Democrats Ronald Reagan and Phil Gram) I feel that the party left me, not that I left the party. On a few issues I have changed my mind from when I was young, but mostly the party has changed, at least from what I understood it to stand for.

Perhaps someday the Republican Party will return to me. I’ll be here waiting. Until then, I will be voting Libertarian. Will I waste my vote? No more than I have for the past twelve years.


freed_one said...

Impressive declaration, Ben.

People often become attached to, identify with, and defend specific organizations. After some time that connection with the group takes on a life of its own. The organization begins to represent who they are. If the group does something embarrassing, they feel embarrassed. In some instances the organization changes dramatically leaving behind the original reasons for our attraction. Yet most people will not or cannot emotionally separate from that fraternity. Instead they blindly defend the organization in the face of the indefensible.

Ben, you have demonstrated strength of thought and strength of character by examining what the GOP has become even though you've identified closely with that moniker for more than two decades. You have recognized the ideological chasm that has developed; and you have acted based on that change.

I commend you, Ben, for this revolutionary act. I hope many others who call themselves republicans or democrats will follow your lead on the path leading to political responsibility and liberty.

Ben said...

By the way, most of the figures I used came from the conservative Heritage Foundation's report: "Federal Spending:By the Numbers."