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Where the GOP Went Wrong
Dude, Where's My Party...?
Times have changed. Whether you agreed with his policies or not, the truth is that once upon a time, the Republican party produced one of the most beloved, effective, and unifying presidents our nation has ever known – Ronald Reagan. Today, the GOP has allowed itself to indulge in mixed messages and radical positions on social issues, marginalizing entire demographics, and abandoning its core principles; in turn, losing its relevance with the American public. How can the Republican party change course? Only by returning to the Four Tenets of Conservatism – Limited Government, Free Markets, Strong National DE-fense, and Individual Liberty – will the GOP restore its influence in American politics, and restore the faith of the average citizen in the ability of the government to secure the welfare of the nation.
I. Limited Government
The truth about “limited government” is that elected officials on both sides of the aisle have consistently advocated and pushed for greater government control for decades. The most stunning display of the growth of the Federal Government in current history began during the tenure of George Walker Bush, and has multiplied under the tenure of Barack Hussein Obama.
The attacks on the World Trade Center ushered in a drastic and dangerous new era of American domestic policy that more closely resembled George Orwell’s nightmare of a draconian, all-controlling “Big Brother” government in 1984, than George Washington’s dream of a nation of free people unencumbered by an oppressive king, in 1789.
The Patriot Act began with the ostensible goal of targeting “terrorists” and culminated with the Federal Government’s expanded power to keep tabs on every American citizen through the NSA’s PRISM program. Currently, the Federal Government not only has the power to indefinitely detain suspected enemies of the State without due process, but also, to delve into the most private communications between its law-abiding citizens.
Education is the new frontier of government expansion, and the attempt to standardize education across state borders is the new agenda. In a technologically-driven, globalized world market, it is clear that the United States will have to tap into its human potential through the specialization and standardization of education if we are to remain relevant on the world stage. However, federal programs such as ‘Common Core,’ which has been neither sufficiently researched for effectiveness nor agreed upon by the nation’s 50 states, will not answer this need, but is a blatant attack on States Rights. Yes, we must revamp our current education system; but the forced implementation of an obscure government experiment is not the way to achieve progress. Clearly, policies such as the Patriot Act, the PRISM program, and Common Core as they are implemented today, are in direct conflict with the tenets of Conservatism.
Why has the GOP lost its credibility?
II. Free Markets
Free markets cannot exist in a monopolized environment. Without the possibility of true competition between firms, the term “Free Markets” becomes nothing more than rhetoric used to mask corporate plutocracy. Mergers and acquisitions have concentrated the fruits of entrepreneurship in the hands of a minority and are slowly but surely guaranteeing that every aspect of business will eventually be controlled by fewer and fewer firms.
On June 14th of this year, CNN Money reported that to date, there have been over $785.5 billion dollars worth of mergers and acquisitions in the United States alone, on a trajectory that will soon outnumber 2007’s record $880.7 billion dollars for that entire year. Why is this happening? Easy – large companies today have been holding onto stockpiles of cash that they have not reinvested in their own operations because of decreased demand. Contrary to popular belief, lower corporate taxes have not encouraged large businesses to expand and “create jobs,” but to take the extra money and invest it in speculation.
In hopes of quickly increasing their bottom line, large corporations today are opting instead to buy out existing firms, encouraging investors to hand over ever greater amounts of capital. In addition, record low interest rates make borrowing money for buy-outs even more attractive; why risk investing in your own company during a bad economy, when playing the stock market is not only cheap, it gives you fast and easy returns?
However, there are glaring pitfalls to this so-called “business model.” While mergers have encouraged investor confidence, if the newly formed companies are unable to deliver on their promises, we may see yet another market crash sooner than later. Keep in mind that the last merger boom happened in 2007. The Financial Crisis of 2008, although profitable for some, cost the American taxpayer $700 billion in bank bailouts and an additional $12.8 TRILLION to “rescue” the economy. We should all be asking ourselves if the United States could afford a repeat scenario.
Another question is what this all mean to small businesses in America, and to the ability of common, everyday citizens to achieve the American Dream of business ownership? While most mergers are between the largest corporations in the world, it is naïve to think that this concentration of power will not have lasting effects on small businesses that will effectively be priced out of the market altogether.
Besides the obvious cost of bailing out stock market failures, there are other, far-reaching threats to our liberties. On May 15th, 2014, Obama-appointed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, an ex-lobbyist for both cable companies and cellphone carriers, proposed a plan that would permit Internet service providers to charge extra fees to content companies like Google and Netflix for preferential treatment. Under these new rules, telecom giants like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon would be able to create a “two-tiered Internet,” with fast Internet access for those who can afford it, and the slowest access for everyone else, giving these companies the power to pick what Americans get to see, hear, and buy on the Internet, legally discriminating against online content and applications. And no one would be able to stop them from doing it.
What would this mean for start-up content producers, like bloggers, entrepreneurs, and small online businesses? What would this mean for Free Speech in America…?
Net Neutrality is the concept that ALL data on the Internet should be treated equally. Mr. Wheeler’s plan is a direct attack on our rights to connect, communicate, and conduct commerce online; but it is also the natural consequence of the monopolizing power of corporate giants who are allowed to rampantly buyout their competition and control policy in Washington.
A Federal study found that 96% of the American population has access to 2 or LESS cable/broadband providers, who have divided their areas of operations, agreeing not to compete with one another; in essence if not in fact, operating in collusion. Comcast has recently proposed $45.2 billion to acquire Time Warner Cable, and if the merger goes through, it will combine the two largest cable providers in the United States, with a total of over 30 million customers.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association and Comcast are working hard lobbying against Net Neutrality; Comcast alone spent over $18,810,000 in 2013 to sway Congressional support in favor of Mr. Wheeler’s plan. Only Northrop Grumman, one of the leading global security companies in the world, surpassed Comcast’s lobbying efforts; this should shed some light as to the depth and scope of Wheeler's plan over life as we know it, if his plan is actualized.
The more concentrated the power in the market place, the greater the ability of large corporations to call the shots and infringe upon our rights as American citizens. Simply put, if we truly advocate for free markets, we cannot also advocate for the expansion of large corporate power, as these two ideals are in direct conflict.
The End of a "Free" Internet
III. Strong National DE-fense
National defense is a concern for all Americans, but the term “defense” is being indiscriminately used to justify every American military operation abroad, as well as unconstitutional policies here at home.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost US taxpayers $6 trillion, $60 billion to rebuild Iraq alone, at the tune $15 million a day from 2003 to 2012. The corruption in war funding is astounding; according to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John F. Sopko, $102 billion set aside for the reconstruction of Afghanistan has gone completely missing, with no accountability whatsoever. Because of this, US world power will face economic constraints for decades to come, limiting legitimate military initiatives, curbing US research and development abilities, and severely affecting US diplomacy strength for generations. Of course, that’s not to mention the over 6,000 American lives sacrificed on those battlefields, nor the countless service members physically and psychologically impaired in those wars.
National defense is also being touted as the reason behind the NSA’s PRISM program and its violation of the 4th Amendment. We are told that there are terrorists amongst us and that the best way to protect our freedoms and liberties is by giving them up. The logic of this argument is questionable at best, and yet, there continue to be Americans that are only too happy to repeat the mantra that keeps these policies firmly in place.
While some in the GOP have voiced opposition to sweeping surveillance programs, both House Homeland Security Committee Chairman, Republican Michael McCaul of Texas, and senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Representative Peter King of New York, have sounded warnings that President Obama’s proposal to provide a new advocate for privacy concerns to NSA practices would, “slow down the… efficiency of our counterterrorism investigation.”
And yet, while we argue about where national defense truly begins and ends, our Southern borders are being systemically invaded by illegal immigrants coming through South and Central America, and no one in government seems willing to address this obvious threat head on. Yes, plenty of representatives on both sides of the aisle talk a good game and tweet constantly about what “the government” should do to deal with this issue, but – aren’t they “the government”? How many of them have actually put forth viable ideas and used their office to implement solutions? Pointing out glaring realities isn’t enough to solve them, and if national DE-fense is a tenet of Conservatism, then Conservatives should be the first to hold representatives’ feet to the fire when it comes to dealing with legitimate national defense concerns.
With violent conflicts gaining strength in Iraq; in the Ukraine; and between Israel and Palestine, many elected officials are once again banging on the drums of war, advocating more aggressive US involvement in these regions. However, considering the great cost of war and the debt already amassed by our recent operations, we would be well served to question the use of “national defense” as a reason for US involvement, and to define once and for all the difference between “defense,” and “offense.” National defense cannot be sustained with a decimated economy; if we continue to focus on foreign wars instead of on rebuilding our economic structure and protecting the nation here at home, no military, however powerful, will save us from internal collapse.
IV. Individual Liberties
Freedom is an absolute. Conservatives cannot advocate for the Individual Liberties of a chosen few; either we are all free, or none of us are. Nowhere is this more prevalent today than in the struggle of gay Americans for marriage equality.
All change is met with opposition, and throughout our national history, minority groups have had to fight long and hard to achieve the equality promised to them by our Constitution. The good news is that, through the adherence to the Conservative ideal of Individual Liberty, these challenges have been overcome; and a stronger, more equal America has emerged from it.
The contributions of the gay community to our nation in the fields of the arts, science, medicine, engineering, and government are well known; how, then, can gays not be considered deserving of the same rights afforded to the rest of us? It is easy to say that we believe in liberty when our beliefs are not being questioned; how many of us are willing to stick to our ideals when confronted to defend them?
A Return to Founding Principles
The Four Tenets of Conservatism – Small Government, Free Markets, Strong National DE-fense, and Individual Liberty – are the pillars that our nation was founded upon. If we desert them now, we will forever change the landscape of our nation. Party affiliations do not trump our responsibilities as American citizens. As long as fringe groups within the GOP are allowed to continue to advocate for expanding the power of the Federal Government, expanding the power of the corporate plutocracy and corporate welfare, unbridled military offensives, and discriminatory definitions of our Constitutional Rights, the GOP will continue to lose elections and the trust of the American people.