July 29, 2003

The GOP’s New Deal: Big tent, big government, big mistake

Timothy P. Carney analyses the consequences of Bush's "compassionate conservatism" and the GOP's attempt to co-opt the Left's issues:

In the name of "Compassionate Conservatism," the Bush administration is now pressing the Republican-controlled Congress to create the largest new government program in 40 years - a prescription-drug entitlement that will cost an estimated $400 billion over five years. This is only the latest of President George W. Bush’s massive additions to the federal government, and the costs will be political as well as fiscal.

Bush’s advocacy of increased spending on government schools and federal education programs, efforts to ameliorate AIDS in Africa, and the mendacity of tax "rebates" for those who pay no income tax (honest men call this scheme "income redistribution") has some advocates of limited government complaining that the president is sacrificing conservative principles for political expediency. But this understates the hazards of the administration’s profligacy. While Bush’s largesse arguably aids his re-election efforts, the long-term political costs for the Grand Old Party will rival the fiscal and economic costs of our 43rd president’s compassion.


The education bill shows that attempts to appease the Left are futile because its appetite for spending is boundless. It ignores history and common sense to expect the likes of Ted Kennedy and John Edwards to play nice come election time because Bush gave the Left some of what it wanted.

The tax credit "fix" demonstrates that political gain from policy mistakes only goes to those who sell out their principles. Pushing bad bills on the GOP crowds out the conservatives - who support the tax cuts and conservative judges Bush wants.

Increased farm subsidies are a good example of how bad policy can increase the constituency for the welfare state and hence the Democratic Party.

The president’s compassion may help him win a second term, but it will only make the Democrats demand more and more from the GOP. If Bush keeps increasing the size of this big tent, it will soon come crashing down on itself.