Yesterday on NBC, Chip Reid explained about Sen. Simon: “Politically, he was a fiscal conservative who fought for balanced budgets but a die-hard liberal Democrat on social issues.” On ABC Radio Tuesday night, Vic Ratner also used this “social liberal, fiscal conservative” mantra.
As we now brace ourselves for the constant repetition that Howard Dean is a “fiscal conservative,” Simon’s example shows how the word is misused. Simon favored a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, but his American Conservative Union rating (which is partially on fiscal issues) only rose to a lifetime average of five – yes, five – percent.
Simon also favored a single-payer health-care system. To win the battle of defining conservatism, conservatives are going to have to reject the notion that balanced-budget socialism can be defined as “fiscally conservative.” Fiscal conservatism should be defined as a preference for low taxes and strictly limited government. Simon (and Dean) have preferred neither.