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A Pro-Choice Agenda Conservatives Can Support
Bush Team more pragmatic than Gingrich Revolutionaries

By Jeff Brewer


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 Fellow conservatives, we should be encouraged by the early returns from the burgeoning Bush presidency.  Daily, we need to remind ourselves, no pinch ourselves, in amazement as we consider that the initiatives being batted around in Washington these days are of a decidedly conservative, even Reaganesque variety:  Missile Defense (SDI), cuts in marginal tax rates, serious talk of school choice, and even faith-based charities will partake of the government pie. It seems that after having staved off a Rockefeller- wing takeover in last spring’s primaries, President George W. Bush and the conservative GOP majority in Congress are now so buoyed by recent electoral victories as to be fearless in presenting conservative convictions as foundations for policy making.  And more specifically, their modus operandi seems to revolve around the “revolutionary” concept of choice, of alternatives, that free up a greater number of Americans to consider for themselves what exactly it is they are going to purchase, where they are going to send their kids to school, how much money they can stash in savings and where they are going to invest these earnings. 

The Republican Party has learned from the mistakes of previous years.  Whereas Speaker Gingrich and other members of the 104th were prone to thoughtful yet seemingly belligerent courses of action, today’s GOP conservatives are much more subdued, even calculating in their demands. Bold proclamations declaring highly expendable, the Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service, are no more; on tap today is a more docile but equally ambitious agenda that allows individual Americans to decide for themselves whether they prefer private sector or government-laden solutions to their mortal problems.   This new administration wants to provide all Americans several options from which to determine what suits their particular social, political or economical fancy.  Subsequently, not only are conservatives putting forth a bold new agenda, but we are able to do so without appearing too hard-line.

Look at the President’s proposed social security privatization:  Bush wants to give workers the option of staying entirely in the current system or else investing a small portion (roughly 2%) of their social security taxes in individual retirement accounts.  Contrary to the bold-faced liberal lies, the Executive’s plan does not plot the destruction of social security, but what it does entail is options.  Would Americans continue to have 12.4 percent of their paycheck squandered away in a program that offers maybe a 1 percent return, or would workers rather take a portion of social security and put it into some sort of money market account, ie. mutual funds (or even bonds), where even the most conservative estimates put a person’s return over 30 years at 10 percent?!   Seems like a no-brainer to anyone that works for a living.

Yet detractors of the plan claim this proposal would harm the elderly and baby-boomers, which are near retirement en masse.  Nonsense!  Social Security is imploding on its own; the Bush privatization plan simply offers choices for young workers, and not any sort of ultimatum demanding workers jump ship or else.

Talk of vouchers and more freedom in the parental selection of schools for children also raises the angst of big government and teacher union types.  Here again, though, the President’s plans aren’t cause for liberal alarm…yet.  Bush’s $47 billion, 10-year plan merely aims to set high standards, promote character education and guarantee school safety.  (Un)Fortunately, the federal government won’t have too much say in the implementation of these proposals; the grunt work will be left up to the individual states, rendering the states accountable for the results of their education policies.  If after three years schools fail to show improvement, students will the have the option of taking a portion of allotted education monies and use that to attend another school, private or otherwise.  Hardly the sort of talk that provokes a revolution!

But Bush’s Reagan-esque tax plan is potentially revolutionary.  For not only would it infuse the private sector with a much larger cash flow for consumers, but it would also mean increased sales tax receipts, because presumably more disposable income means folks buy more good and services.  Either way, government and citizen alike get what they want for their respective survival; Washington’s coffers are still running over with tax dollars (which is unfortunate) and consumers have more net income with which to spend.  Specifically, Bush’s $1.6 trillion cut over the next decade would reduce the lowest rate to 10 percent and the highest bracket would fall to 33 percent.  Again, these cuts in marginal tax rates would allow people more choice, as individuals are empowered to determine what they spend their money on and consequently what they are taxed on.

Lower corporate tax rates would also assist in the feasibility of the President’s other major initiative, health care coverage for the nation’s estimated 43 million uninsured.  Bush envisions a system that makes it easier for small businesses to get lower-cost insurance through associations, and what better way to assist these entrepreneurs than by cutting their taxes and allowing them more choice and more maneuverability concerning their health care provider.  In the same vein, the President seeks to create a $158 billion plan to cover prescription drugs for the elderly poor and subsidize choice in drug plans for other Medicare beneficiaries. 

Again, the Bush administration is not abolishing Medicare as we know it, but instead simply providing the American people with alternatives to the government dole. 

And why should government funded social service programs exclude philanthropic Christian and Jewish organizations from doing likewise?  President Bush welcomes their input and their participation not as a replacement for Uncle Sam’s secular services mind you, but as an alternative…a co-participant in the effort to assist the downtrodden.  Now of course, I think you’ll see these faith-based groups continue to outperform their woeful federal counterparts, but conservatives should be hoping to spur the government providers to do a better job via this introduction of competitors.  This is republican capitalism as good as it gets, and the end result will ideally be a more efficient War on Poverty (if there ever was one).

Conservatives have reason to believe this new president is one of us; his policy proposals thus far, are promising.  And we must remember that President Bush and his handlers are more pragmatic than the well-intentioned Gingrich Republicans from the 104th congress.  This newest edition of conservative leaders is smart enough to realize that a complete overhaul of any particular federal program, no matter how archaic and how unconstitutional the program is, is not only viewed unfavorably by the public, but it is also unfeasible politically.  The American public has sucked for so long on the tit of big government that any weaning demands incremental, subtle change.  This is simply reality, and if a party wants to play the political game, they must play by the presiding rules.  Hence, the latest strategy of offering Americans choices between Washington solutions (an oxymoron) and private/marketplace remedies is really the only viable alternative.

           In the process, however, we present a kinder, gentler Conservative Movement, as congressional Republicans and President Bush look less “extreme” (perception is everything), even while our ideals and values are given a real chance of becoming law. 

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© Jeff Brewer, 2001

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