The Conservative Plan
by Donald Devine
Issue 216– November 28, 2012
All of the usual liberal suspects are crowing that conservatives are disoriented in the wake of the devastating election defeat. Nothing could be further from the truth. The way forward has never been as obvious as it is today.
The logic is simple. President Barack Obama will wield the veto for the next four years. That means no major conservative program can be enacted. The obvious conclusion is that conservatives must look elsewhere to make any progress. Of course, the right must support Republicans in control of the House of Representatives to block new bad legislation and to keep control there and win the Senate in 2014 but that is just catch-up. The fact is there will be little good news from Washington for the rest of the Obama term.
So where should we fight? As Craig Shirley argues in this edition, the way forward is to look back to our foundations. The first principle of both the Constitutional and modern conservative movements is federalism. Lord Acton traced America’s moral and legal traditions and even separation of powers to Europe – but the unique American contribution to world history was the doctrine and reality of federalism. Shirley suggests “localism” might even be a better term for what must be done. The great social analyst Alexis de Tocqueville found that what made America different at its founding was that unlike Europe it did not look to central government but the people did things themselves through their local governments and voluntary associations.
That is the plan. Forget about begging Washington and start building locally, back where we can really get things done ourselves. There is only one exception, the so-called sequester. Any “deal” will be cosmetic. As Gary North makes clear in this issue, the agreement to cut domestic and defense spending had already been agreed to in 2011 by President Obama, the Democratic Senate and the GOP House. The “cliff” was the solution because they could not agree on anything else. Only by doing nothing now can the House produce reductions in government spending over the next four years. Yes, taxes would go up too and that would hurt the economy but they would also increase in any deal and the Democrats could never again blame the economy on the Bush tax cuts. With no place to hide, the foolishness of the liberal plan to tax the economy to recovery will be revealed and make recovery possible sometime later.
What about Obamacare? How can conservatives turn their back on a plan that will ruin the best healthcare system in the world? In fact, the solution is in the states. The positive result of the Supreme Court decision was that it ruled that the Feds could not force the states to increase their spending through Medicaid to support Obamacare. Obama relied on Medicaid spending (including the national contribution) to support about half of the subsidies for the previously uninsured. The states can stop this and many have already said they will not participate. As many as half could opt-out. The rest of the uninsured were supposed to be subsidized through “exchanges” run by the states. Already 14 states have passed laws refusing exchanges and 22 more have not created exchanges even though the national deadline to do so has already passed.
A mass movement already exists. Conservatives merely need to keep it going. As our author John Goodman has been urging, the states can either stop Obamacare or force national revisions now or after Obama passes from the scene. Robert Moffit warns the Feds could use the opportunity to run the program themselves but they do not have the resources to make it work. Besides encouraging state opt-outs conservatives can lobby individuals and corporations too. Individuals can pay a mere $95 fine the first year to escape paying thousands in insurance premiums and insurance companies under Obamacare still have to accept them after they get ill. Businesses are finding it much cheaper to cancel their employee health insurance entirely and throw them into the exchanges, completely overwhelming their resources. Obamacare’s irrationality cannot be sustained. States, individuals and businesses will sink the whole operation.
The states are where the action is even in programs like the interstate highway program that are arguably national under the interstate commerce clause. As our Robert Poole has been writing over the past year, the highway trust fund is running dry and Washington cannot even keep the bridges from falling down. Only the states can solve the problems in these days of tight budgets. User fees and state-private partnerships are the only possible solutions. Paying a fee for a service is not a tax but equivalent to a fee for private service which is simply the responsible market solution. The problem is that many so-called user fees pay a minor fraction of the cost. The inland waterways fees pay a mere eight percent. Conservatives need to support the principle that there is no free lunch.
Social issues present other opportunities to look local. Social conservatives have been urging national and state laws confirming traditional marriage but, as Henry Potrykus, Patrick Fagan, Robert Schwarzwalder demonstrate, it is marriage itself that is in crisis. The solutions they propose are all best solved at the state and local level. As Marvin Folkertsma shows, America is in a crisis of aging that will not only drain resources in elderly retirement and health care but does not produce enough children to pay taxes and earn the incomes necessary for a growing economy. He believes only a drastic decrease in government dependency programs can moderate the problem but that Obama will not do so. But conservatives can demonstrate in their states like California, New York and Illinois to show dependency is the problem and prove in the more conservative states how reducing dependency helps families and social life generally.
Take education. As Mike D’Virgilio argues, the fact that 50 million children go every day to schools run by teachers propagandizing their liberal/left/progressive doctrines to generation after generation explains why Barack Obama won the election of 2012 and why so many leftist state social issue referenda prevailed. It so happened that I was visiting one of my children in one of those states to hear my smart and dear granddaughter give the liberal party line on gay marriage. With two intelligent conservative parents, where did she get this idea? She heard it at school, which she insisted was rated one of the highest in the country. Highest on what, in promoting national politically-correct ideas? At least she discusses these at home. Will conservatives fight Washington and lose their own children? Private schools are expensive and many preach the same line but the right one could save one’s most precious gift. Home schooling should be recognized for the truly heroic profession it is. There is no reason to sit still for the ruinous education the government monopoly indoctrinates, punishing parents with their own tax dollars.
Finally, under our Constitution all elections are local. Conservatives can organize in every district to recover in 2014 and 2016.
There is plenty for conservatives to do over the next four years. Complaining will not help. Hitting ones head against the Washington leviathan is a waste of time. Only working locally and earning back individual freedom, social responsibility, and economic prosperity will allow us to reverse the dependency and financial bankruptcy of the welfare state and return to the federalist society the Founders planned for us.
Donald Devine, the editor of ConservativeBattleline On Line, was the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management from 1981-1985 under Ronald Reagan and is Senior Scholar at The Fund for American Studies.