They are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
Arizona Senator John McCain and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin are poised to rescue the GOP’s core commitment to limited government. Alas, it has been stomped to pieces by top Republicans such as President Bush, former House leaders Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay, Senate GOP chief Mitch McConnell, and his predecessor, Bill Frist.
After winning the White House and Congress in 2001, Republicans aggressively slashed taxes. Beyond so-called “tax cuts for the rich,” which irritate Democrats like Barack Obama, Republicans reduced the bottom rate from 15 percent to 10, slicing lower-income taxpayers’ levies by one-third. McCain supported most of these cuts but opposed others. He now pledges to make Bush’s tax cuts permanent and let every American choose between today’s impenetrable, 67,204-page tax code and an optional, flatter tax, perhaps at 25- and 15-percent rates.
While Republicans appropriately removed the boots from taxpayers’ necks, they idiotically launched an entitlement-busting, pork-barreling spend-o-rama that drained the Treasury and discarded Republicans’ hard-earned reputation for fiscal restraint.
Between 2000 and 2006 — the year that Republicans frittered away their Congressional majority — federal discretionary spending swelled 40 percent after inflation, from $762 billion to $1.067 trillion. Even subtracting defense and homeland security, such spending accelerated 27 percent.
Bush and most Congressional Republicans enacted the 2002 farm bailout (cost: $190 billion), the 2003 Medicare drug entitlement ($783 billion through 2018; $8.4 trillion through 2082), and 2005’s highway bill ($286 billion). McCain wisely voted no, no, and no.
Meanwhile, Citizens Against Government Waste calculates, pork-barrel projects ballooned from 4,326 earmarks worth $17.7 billion in 2000, under Democrats, to 9,963 boondoggles worth $29 billion in 2006, under Republicans. (Earmarks peaked at 13,997 in 2005.) John McCain condemns such gluttony and never has requested an earmark.
“We spent $3 million of your money to study the DNA of bears in Montana,” McCain said August 16 at California’s Saddleback Church. “I don’t know if that was a paternity issue or a criminal issue, but the point is it was $3 million of your money.”
The Right understandably rebelled in 2005 when Tom DeLay boasted about spending: “After 11 years of Republican majority, we’ve pared it down pretty good.”
“While others offer empty rhetoric on spending restraint,” says Heritage Foundation fiscal analyst Brian Riedl, “Senator McCain has been a lonely voice for fiscal responsibility in a free-spending Congress.”
For her part, Palin won a seat on Wasilla’s City Council in 1992 by opposing tax increases. She defeated a three-term incumbent for mayor, then cut taxes on property, business inventories, and aircraft — a not uncommon asset in America’s vastest state.
Palin eventually torpedoed incumbent liberal Frank Murkowski in the GOP’s gubernatorial primary, and then sank former two-term Democratic governor Tony Knowles.
Governor Palin sold via eBay a $2,692,600 Westwind II jet that Murkowski bought with taxpayer funds. “The purchase of the jet was impractical and unwise, and it’s time to get rid of it,” Palin said in December 2006. “In the meantime, I am keeping my promise not to set foot on the jet.”
Palin blew the whistle on oil commissioner Randy Ruedrich and attorney general Gregg Renkes, two Republicans who later paid a fine and resigned, respectively, for ethical violations. Palin signed a bill last year that, among other things, mandates ethics training for legislators and lobbyists, requires public officials to report bribery, and prohibits politicians from swapping votes for campaign cash.
Palin endorsed Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell — GOP primary opponent to Alaska’s pork-scented, scandal-scarred Republican Congressman, Don Young. She also has locked antlers with Senator Ted Stevens, whose federal corruption trial begins in October. As Amy Goldstein and Michael Shear wrote in August 30’s Washington Post, Palin “has repeatedly thwarted Stevens’s and Young’s interests and, at times, challenged their candidates — including their children.”
Palin’s first budget requested a 6.8-percent expenditure reduction. Her second proposed a 7.8-percent cut. When legislators spent even more, she could have holstered her veto pen, as Bush did for six years. Instead, Palin said, she exercised “nearly half a billion dollars in vetoes.”
“I told the Congress, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ for that Bridge to Nowhere,” Palin said in Wednesday night’s barn-burner at the GOP National Convention. “If our state wanted a bridge, we’d build it ourselves.”
“She has proposed restraint in state spending, which is impressive given the huge, oil-fueled surpluses the state is currently enjoying,” says Cato Institute scholar Chris Edwards. He called her gubernatorial tax record “uninspiring,” given her tax hike on oil companies and small state-level tax cuts, such as a one-year, $40 million suspension of state fuel taxes. Nevertheless, Palin enjoys an 86-percent approval rating.
Imperfections aside, these nominees offer a dramatic departure from the apostasy that has embarrassed the GOP, betrayed its base, and surrendered control of Congress, proving that bad policy equals bad politics. Together, John McCain and Sarah Palin will aim an urgently needed fire hose into the clogged gutter that is today’s national Republican Party.
– Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.
© 2008 Scripps Howard News Service