26 May 2005

Common Ground: Fiscal Conservatism and Liberalism

Many fiscal conservatives, like the Cunnning Realist, are sounding more like liberals than like the "Radical Conservatives," (as Robert Reich calls them), who rule Washington these days. It seems the terms "liberal" and "conservative" are becoming increasingly inaccurate and irrelevant as labels for people's political persuasions. See avowedly-conservative columnist David Brooks's piece in today’s New York Times, in which he talks about an emerging alliance between "liberals" like U2's Bono, and evangelical Christians on the issue of poverty amelioration.

Many Goldwater-style conservatives look at the 30+% growth in Federal spending in this administration, the unprecedented policy- and tax-cut- driven shift of wealth from the middle class to the rich, the fast and loose attitude towards the obligation to tell the public the truth, and the incredibly unrestrained growth in the national debt and annual deficit spending ... and say, “if this is conservative government, I want no part of it.”

At the same time, many liberals have come over the years to realize that a balanced policy, which respects the rights and values of religious people, which recognizes the necessity for incentives to work, and which strives to keep government within the means provided by its revenues, rather than shifting the burden of today's government to future generations, is best. These people are finding fiscal conservatives, who generally believe in the right of privacy and keeping government out of people's private lives, their natural allies.

The war in Iraq, too, is a terribly divisive issue. There are rational reasons for believing it was a good policy, although I do not believe they are right. In fact, this administration misrepresented the reasons for war, and continues to do a very poor job both of managing it and explaining in plain language why they believe it is in America's national interests to continue prosecuting it. Old fashioned conservatives, like
Marshall Wittmann, even if inclined to give the administration some benefit of the doubt, just don't go for the kind of propaganda and double-speak coming out of the administration. No wonder many traditional conservatives are abandoning the Bush radical right-wing movement, and thinking it's time to work with liberals to move the country away from polarity and divisiveness, and towards comity, mutual respect, and a government which can function effectively both in the World and as steward of America's economic and social weal. Here, it seems to me inevitable that history will judge this President's government harshly indeed.

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