I’ve heard a theory that the Republican Party is losing support because its rhetorical weapons are outdated. What worked before doesn’t really apply now. It made sense for Reagan to mobilize Americans against taxes when the top income bracket was 90%, but this won’t work so much now that it is 35%. Even though Libertarians are a considerable force within the Republican Party, no one will ever win a general election promising to simply eliminate chunks of the government based on ideology.
We are just too rich and soft; we can afford mommy government and people don’t want to look mean.
Of course there are still other areas where Republican appeal still works… but moral and defense issues aside, any party needs some sort of economic plan for the country.
My proposal to combat the usual democrat mommy government is what I call the daddy government. This is an upgrade on the failing Bush doctrine of “compassionate” conservatism.
Here is how it works:
For instance, this subprime brouhaha deal. Mommy government is offering to hand out checks, freeze interest rates and other things of this sort. Daddy government could offer some of these same things, but with some requirements. Want a rebate check? Only if you pledge to pay it back to the government (with interest) when you sell your house. Want to freeze you interest rate for a year? You will have to re-finance into a 30 year fixed and will not be allowed to have an adjustable loan for the next 15 years.
Other services would follow: People would still be charged when they used government health care, but in community service hours. You could receive unemployment for longer time, but would have to pay it back once you found a job.
It is basically a way to help the “downtrodden” while at the same time maintaining at least an appearance of fairness. You get the benefits of mommy government while at least decreasing the intrinsic negative nature of the system (getting from well behaved and successful citizens and giving it to the not so much). In the long run, you might end up with less people using government’s help.
It would be, of course, mostly a moral trade off. Whatever income you get from the pay back would probably be spent on the extra people you need to hire to verify that the system is working. You would also end up with a considerable amount of people who would use the system and not pay back. What to do with these people would indeed be a problem (prison? bankruptcy?)
However, in these times of unseen prosperity and cheap money I think this would be the only solution for the Republicans. The other solution is to continue losing to Democrats until they mess up things bad enough that Reagan’s message of lower taxes and less government makes sense again.
I don’t think anyone wants that…