Sunday, December 18, 2005

Where Are the Conservatives?

In Germany, I was a conservative. I still have conservative predispositions and lead a conservative lief style. In the United States, however, conservativism has degenerated into a label for a worldview beyond reason.
  • The rejection of science: intelligent design, stem cell research, denying global warming in spite of the consensus of the scientific audience.
  • Fiscal irresponsibility: structural deficits as far as the eye can see, more spending and more tax cuts every year.
  • Scapegoating: blaming gays for the crisis of American families.
  • Lack of support for the military: reducing the size of the army from twelve to ten divisions, cutting the budget of the Veteran's administration every year, trying to take combat and family separation pay from soldiers in Iraq and Afganistan, six draft deferments by Cheney.
  • Cronyism: cost-plus contracts for Halliburton and Bechtel.
  • Wishful thinking instead of cold blooded analysis: going to war assuming the best, never planning for the worst case.
  • The middle class squeeze: the evaporation of affordable housing, health care, and higher education.
  • Lacking commitment to democracy: the lack of commitment by Republican elected officials to provide equal voting rights, providing too few voting machines in black neighborhoods, emaciating the civil rights division in the Department of Justice.
That's not conservative. Conservative is about tradition, stability, responsibility, service, and the common good. Until the Republican party recovers these values they are merely a tribe with a tribal agenda at the expense of the nation and our children.

But not even tribalism is the ultimate end of the Republican party. It is only a cover in the pursuit of personal wealth. The Bushies are spending billions so that their friends can make millions. We might as well be governed by self-righteous robber barons.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Republican party here does not really care about offending people with the issues you described because they have tried to paint themselves as the party of God. God, according to them can do no wrong and Democrats are Godless. They hope the rank and file will not see anything else but this issue. Our job is to convince them that God is not a Republican and that the Rs have been selling them up the river by stealing their lives, money and votes.

As for the money hungry, tax loving Rs, we can never change them until their hearts catch up with their minds.

So, continue on. Make sure people know what has really happened to them. It IS about moral values, the moral values as we define them (the right way), not the way the current power grabbers have.

This discussion is great. Let’s all keep it going and work on helping each other. If we agree 100% or not is not the issue, it is the dialogue!

Blogger Mahoun said...

I think this is really a rhetorical know where they've gone...they've gone where they must when not checked by a true the logical extreme...wacko-ville. God help, wait...maybe we should help ourselves?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good question and thoughts, Helmut. It's interesting that you are
conservative in a German context.

One thing I keep wanting to ask conservatives, especially neo-cons,
is...What exactly are you conserving? Jobs? The environment? The
rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights? The American tradition of
separation of church and state? What?

Don Bradley

Blogger Brian M. said...

"Our job is to convince them that God is not a Republican and that the Rs have been selling them up the river by stealing their lives, money and votes."

...God is also not a Democrat.

A true conservative is one who wishes to conserve the US Constitution, in the tradition of the Founding Fathers, and preserve the liberties and freedoms granted by The Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Bush and the Neo-Cons are merely liberals in conservative clothing.

Sadly, today the only place you'll find true conservative constitutionalism is within some of the 3rd parties.

Blogger Morty said...

Your post demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of both the conservative ideology and American government. Perhaps you intentionally built up a straw man to stir the pot but based on some of your postings and comments at other blogs I seriously doubt that supposition. You seem to use the adjectives “conservative” and “Republican” interchangeably—a huge mistake because there exist many who vote and identify themselves as Republican who would not describe themselves as conservative (I’m one of them). I'll treat each of your bullet points individually.

Rejection of science: What you characterize as the rejection of science would be better identified as skepticism-- especially in the face of the realities of policy decisions. ID is not a real issue but it gets lots of press because it scares the bejeezus out of the Left and sends its members into histrionics. Outside of some isolated school districts (and the state of Kansas) the issue of ID never reaches the level of serious policy discussion. Most Republicans don’t doubt the fact that global warming occurs in cycles. What many do object to is making policy decisions based on the unscientific conclusion humans are capable of altering that cyclical course which is not an unreasonable position to take. I’m not sure what you’re trying to get at with respect to stem cell research. Conservatives only object to using tax dollars to fund research using fetal stem cells—not adult stem cells (which happens to be where the most promising discoveries appear to be today) or cord stem cells. Their objection is not related to a belief or lack thereof in the science but in the morality of the sourcing of fetal stem cells. You conveniently leave out the scientific endeavors championed by conservatives such as space exploration, pharmaceuticals and medicine, and genetics just to name a few.

Fiscal irresponsibility: Fiscal irresponsibility is not the unique mark of any single ideology so blaming conservatives for deficits is asinine. Democrats and the Left controlled the purse strings for nearly 50 years prior to 1994 and lorded over decades worth of deficit spending. It wasn’t until Republicans took over the purse strings in 1994 that the federal government began to realize budget surpluses. Deficit spending did not return until the recession of 2001-2003. I don’t think you can pin the runaway spending we’re seeing today on Republicans alone. First of all, the majority (60%) of the federal government’s budget is fixed from year to year due to mandatory funding of SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and other statutory programs with funding formulae. Who do you want to blame for that 60%? Republicans/conservatives? Get real! All of the responsibility for those boondoggles falls to Democrats and the Left. As for discretionary spending everyone gets to share the blame for that piece—just look at all the pork in the 2005 highway bill to get an idea. So on the spending side of the equation it looks like the onus is on the Left because it owns at least 60% of the responsibility. Now as for tax cuts, I wonder if you are at all familiar with the concept of the Laffer Curve. If not you should do a little reading on its underlying principles. I challenge you to trace the history of tax cuts here in the US and find an instance when cutting taxes resulted in a subsequent reduction in revenue (at the federal level). You will search in vain. In fact, history has proven that cutting taxes causes revenue to increase at a faster rate than the size of the overall economy and that increasing taxes stunts economic growth and tax revenues. Republicans and conservatives favor tax cuts and, consequently, increasing government revenue while Democrats and Lefties favor tax increases that stunt economic growth and reduce revenue growth. Making the case that Dems and Lefties are more fiscally responsible than Rep and Cons would require some very creative accounting.

Scapegoating: Again this is not unique to any particular ideology and in some formal definitions of ideology it is included as an essential component of ideology. In a two-party system like we have here blaming the opposition for undesired outcomes is part and parcel of politics and everyone does it. For example, Lefties like to blame conservatives for “poverty” despite the fact that Lefties (on average) donate a much smaller percentage of their incomes to charity. As for the specific instance you mention, only a small minority of conservatives actually “blame” homosexual society for any of the social ills that may be plaguing the world.

Lack of support for the military: The reduction in the number of divisions was the result of two separate initiatives. First, reduction in the overall size of the military was actually a result of policies implemented under Pres. Clinton. Consolidating the divisions was done to enhance efficiency. That whole issue is a non-starter as a slap against conservatives. The VA budget has never been cut—all that’s happened is that growth in spending has been curtailed. Budget dollars per vet have actually increased in the last decade when conservatives have controlled the purse strings. As for taking away combat/family separation pay, that never happened—it’s a Leftie myth.

Cronyism: Hiring the only firms or those most qualified to perform specific work is not cronyism. The fact that, by coincidence, the VP used to be the CEO of one of the companies with the greatest expertise in some of the specialties needed most by the government today does not make hiring that company a case of cronyism. Now if Cheney used to be the CEO of Microsoft and the government was hiring Microsoft to build new power plants, dams, and schools then one could suspect cronyism. I work for a large MNC and there are certain jobs that only my company does and there are a number of jobs we do where we are far and away the best in the field and one would have to be insane to chose to use anyone else. When governments come to use to do these jobs it’s prudence that guides them—not cronyism. If it’s the “cost plus” issue that bothers you then you don’t understand what “cost plus” truly means. In essence, under such programs the “plus” part only pans out if everything runs exactly as planned (which rarely happens).

Wishful thinking instead of cold-blooded analysis: There’s absolutely no support for this claim. I happen to be related to one of those “war planners” to which you allude. He told me that they had actually planned on suffering more than 10,000 casualties during the first year of the Iraq war and that materiel cost would be twice what has been realized. They expected to have to completely rebuild most of the major cities. The problems they have encountered have centered on the initial victory coming too easily. And, believe it or not, my relatives on the ground “over there” emphasize that we are winning—after all, they’ve held three successful elections in fewer than 18 months.

The middle-class squeeze: Hello, Mr. Marx. Housing, education, and healthcare inflation are problems caused by Leftie policies that distort the those markets by handing out freebies to the “deserving few” leaving everyone else to bid up the price for what’s left over. Get government out of those markets and you’ll see a rationalization of the prices in those markets.

Lacking commitment to democracy: Every last item you list here is a Leftie myth—it never happened. It’s so blatant that any attempt to respond specifically to any one would only serve to perpetuate the myth.

Blogger Hellmut said...

Thanks for your post, Marty.

My post is about the Republican party in government, in the White House and in Congress. It does not discuss voters, such as yourself, or voting behavior. While there remain Republicans in Congress who do not subscribe to the conservative label, the research shows that this group has been diminishing. Clearly, moderates are less and less represented by Republicans in Congress. In light of the lip service that most Republicans in Congress pay to conservatism, the post points out, it is even more troubling that their policies and programs fail to reflect conservative values.

Your assessment of global warming is at odds with the National Science Foundation, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They have all issued evaluations concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling.

The quantitative review of 928 articles in scientific journals could not find a single peer reviewed article that would contradict the notion of human induced global warming. Unfortunately, your post is another instance of conservative denial.

While it is true that Bush 41 and Clinton both reduced defense spending after the Cold War, Bush 43 is exclusively responsible for the reduction of the United States army from twelve to ten divisions. When Clinton left the White House in January 2001, there were twelve divisions. The Clinton administration did not propose a further reduction.

The Bush administration's cuts to the army's strength were not a matter of rationalization. Two divisions are gone, six brigades are gone, all the troops are gone. The cuts were made to find money for star wars, a program that only works if one manipulates the assessment data.

You can check the personnel stats at the Pentagon's website.

Nobody ever said that the Bush administration took away combat pay from soldiers in Iraq. I said they tried. Democrats and the media shamed Republicans into abandoning that scheme. Here is a link to some of the press coverage. You can read here how the Bush administration back pedalled under pressure.

The Disabled American Veterans report that Chairman Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) has cancelled the joint session of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees for veterans' groups. Traditionally, veterans groups had the opportunity to inform United States Senators and Representatives about the needs of America's veterans.

In light of health care inflation and ten thousand severely injured additonal veterans, cuts in VA budget growth are irresponsible. Every major veterans group in the country agrees: America under Bush is shortchanging its veterans. We are not spending what's needed to keep our promises.

With respect to fiscal irreponsibility, the fact of the matter is that the budget was balanced until Clinton left office. Newt Gingrich deserves a lot of credit. But no Republican president in the last 25 years has been able to balance a budget ever. Bush I, Bush II, and Ronald Reagan have each increased national debt tremendously.

There are a lot of ideological groups out there that can sustain their ideology without hate and scapegoating. The persecution of gays has been key to the Republican get out the vote strategy in several swing states. While it is true that scapegoating appeals to the many extremists within the Republican coalition, the strategic plan is Karl Rove's, who is at the top of the Republican party.

No bid contracts for personnel acquaintances of the Vice President and Bush 41 are a highly questionable practice. If anyone is to blame for creating the wrong impression, it is the Bush administration that short circuited standard procedures.

Senior contracting officer of the Army Corps of Engineers Bunny Greenhouse: "I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to (Halliburton subsidiary) KBR represents the most blatant and improper abuse I have witnessed . . . in 20 years working on government contracts."

I don't have any problem with war planners but with the political leadership that ignores the advice of their experts and punishes those who speak out. The issue is, by the way, not the combat phase. It was always clear that the United States would easily overcome the armed forces of a nation that only spend two billion dollars a year on defense. The issue is that the political leadership ignored the projections about the occupation and the costs of reconstruction.

With respect to the middle class squeeze, welfare programs have been cut for 25 years. Health care, housing, and education inflation has nonetheless accelerated. If you were right then the opposite should have happened.

Michigan state Rep. John Pappageorge (R-Troy) was quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying, “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election.” African Americans comprise 83% of Detroit’s population. See the report by People for the American Way, for example. There are others by the NAACP and by various legal aid organizations.

I wish that you were right and I were wrong, Marty. The United States would be a lot better off if that were the case. Unfortunately, I can document all my claims. Wishful thinking doesn't make things better. Principled voters, who hold elected officials accountable, will.

Assess how the facts relate to your values, Marty, and join us.

Blogger Morty said...

Mr. Lotz:

The majority of you post does not address the substantive issues I raised. Concerning global warming the article you reference was written by a history professor who dismisses the technical problems with the models used to predict global warming. The problem with such a dismissal is that the the entire science surrounding global warming is entirely dependent upon those models becuase actual global warming has never been observed. I have copies of the three models used by the IPCC and frankly they are the work of amateurs. I have specific expertise in LP and NLP programming and modeling and I've played around with the models. The most most telling shortcoming associated with the models is that regardless of initial conditions they always produce the same functional drift-- a characteristic that any beginning LP programmer learns is a red flag indicating the model is flawed. I've built economic models far more sophisticated than the simple models that have been used to "prove" climate change and mine actually perform as advertised. The problems with the models are legitimate and represent real barriers to fully accepting the conclusions of climatologists for purposes of policy decisions. What one has with the "science" of global warming is that it has become politisized to the point that anyone questioning it's validity is automatically characterized as an extremist kook. I'm not in denial; rather, I've reviewed the tools employed by the scientists and found them wanting.

You maintain that the rationalization of 12 Army divisions down to ten was the result of continued reductions in force size but the facts do not support that conclusion. The very web site you refernce indicates that troop strength has remained constant since roughly 1999. As I clarified earlier the reduction in the number of divisions was executed to acheive efficiencies of scale. The changes were recommended by the bipartisan Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

You declare that "cuts in VA budget growth are irresponsible." What evidence do you have to support this? As I mentioned earlier the $/vet ration has increased every year for the last decade (due in large part to the fact that WWII and Korean vets are dieing off). What's irresponsible about that?

You point out that no Republican president has been able to balance a budget in the last 25 years but fail to take note that only the most recent Republican president also had a Republican Congress. Here's where you failure to understand US politics is most obvious. CONGRESS, not the president, carries with it the power of the purse. Yes, the president has veto power but the extent of his official input is limited to an all-or-nothing vote which can then be overridden by Congress if it so chooses. Government spending is the result of compromise with whoever controls Congress having the upper hand in the negotiations. You conveniently chose to ignore the substance of my response to your original post so I assume your conceding the point.

You state: "There are a lot of ideological groups out there that can sustain their ideology without hate and scapegoating." Please, name one major US group that does not (I'm talking about a group with membership in the tens of millions). You can't do it.

Regarding the no bid contracts, if Buny Greenhouse is your best evidence then you have no case. My analysis of her testimony and other news articles featuring her concludes that she was completely out of her depth when it came to evaluating the economics of awarding the contracts (despite her degree in business). She had tunnel vision and was unable to evaluate the situation as conditions changed. She wanted to run the process the same way she had done during peace time-- that was not going to work. When my own company wants to build a new facility the first place we call is KBR and we only make a second call if KBR cannot fit us into their schedule. They are far and away the best at what they do. For the government to hire anyone else to do the work-- even at a lower quoted rate-- would have been insane.

What evidence do you have that politicians ignored the advice given by the professionals in the military? Yes there have been some notable individuals come forward complaining of just that but that is just evidence that there was disagreement. My relative in the Pentagon assures me that every idea was considered and that only those with the strongest consensus made it into praxis. There is no evidence that politicians ignored any idea that had even the weakest of support.

Regarding the middle class squeeze, your dearth of economic accumen demonstrates itself in spades. Healthcare prices are affected most by Medicare and Medicaid spending; two programs that have never been cut. If you analyze healthcare costs over the past seventy years (which is about all the data that exist) you'll notice a hockey stick curve commencing at the same time Medicare was intoduced. The introduction of Medicaid made the problem worse. A similar pattern emmeges upon examination of spending on higer education. Fifty years ago government funds accounted for less than 15% of the average university's budget. Today that figure is nearly 50% and that number does not include funding for direct student assistance (i.e. subsidized student loans and grants). Fifty years ago the average household only had to work 288 hours to pay for a year of college. Today that figure is 900 hours. That's a three-fold increase since government began giving money to universities. With respect to housing, the budget for HUD subsidized housing has increased every year since 1978. In addition to direct assistance thare are other Leftie programs that cause housing prices to rise for the average person. Rent controlled apartments in New York are an example. The lucky few who live in those conditions get a great deal but what it does is reduce the the pool of avialable units to the rest and drive the price up for everything else. Efforts by Lefties to control urban sprawl drive up the price of housing because now there is less land available to develop even though the cities are growing. The welfare programs that have been cut have just been replaced with other spending that then gets transferred to others.

On the democracy front, if all you can do is cite reports from partisan organizations like People for the American Way and the NAACP then you've lost your case before it even began.

Blogger Hellmut said...


Your characterization of my global warming argument is incorrect. The global warming evidence is not only from a historian.

The National Science Foundation, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are all supporting that human activities are contributing to global warming. On top of that there is a quantitative literature review by historians of science that find a consensus of 928 peer reviewed articles. That is extraordinary. Your refusal to acknowledge that says a lot more about you than the state of the research.

Likewise, all the major veterans groups agree that the United States is not providing sufficient resources for veterans. That is probably why Republican leaders are afraid to provide high profile joint hearings. The Republicans know that they would be embarrassed.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission does not sign off on considerations of force structure but on geographic distribution of forces within the territory of the United States. Your claim to the contrary reveals that you are not familiar with United States defense policy.

Only Miss Greenhouse's psychiatrist could know if she suffers from tunnel vision. Blaming the messenger for bad news is intellectually dishonest. A simple Google search will reveal large amounts of data and press coverage about the KBR abuses.

I don't know why you would think that this is about the causes of health care, higher education, or housing inflation. The original post makes no such claims. The fact is that the Republican party controls all three branches of government and is in the position to solve these problem but has chosen not to do so.

Your references to some phantom relative who can give you assurances are embarrassing. Shinsecki said what needed to be done and was fired. Likewise the civilian leadership has ignored the plans that prepared for occupation. These matters have been covered ad nauseum in the media. For a synopsis, you might want to view the Frontline documentary Rumsfeld's War.

Your low opinion of the NAACP is unfortunate. The NAACP happens to be among the premier American human rights organizations. Your disdain for the NAACP, its cause and its work indicates a troubling lack of reflection that also charactrizes the remainder of your post.

Blogger B. Lewis said...

Hellmut, your site is great. The insight and analysis that you provide is first-rate. Keep it up!


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