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If you ask anyone that considers themselves a member of the Grand Ol' Party what their party's principles are--what is the base for which your party exists--you will probably hear an explanation of the Conservative Principles of Ronald Reagan that believes in low taxes, small government, free market solutions, a strong military, and a strict-constructionist school of thought to the Constitution. In my opinion these principles--on the surface and in theory--are actually very good ideas for national success (other than the Constitution crap). You will have a tough time finding someone that says they enjoy the government taking away their hard-earned dollars, and then doubling the deed by wasteful government spending in programs that are too large and extremely inefficient. You will also have to look long and hard for someone that doesn't think a vital part to our national security is having a military that can defend our country from the other guys. And anyone that owns a business is probably against the government dictating how to operate or completely taken over a certain industry. So why exactly have these "Conservative Principles" failed so miserably in the past few years?

My argument is that the Grand Ol' Party is currently a party without principles, and that is the centerpiece of its self-destruction. First, low taxes and small government go hand-in-hand. Having a large government (high government spending) without the necessary amount of tax revenue may work in the short run in emergency situations like, say, a Great Depression. But over time this policy does horrible things like, well, maybe creates a 9.4 trillion dollar national debt. On the opposite side, having high taxes and low government spending doesn't make much sense unless you are, let's say, paying off a 9.4 trillion dollar national debt, or something along those lines. In theory, by keeping taxes low you are putting more money in the pockets of the consumers that are spending, which in turns gets spent by the businesses that take those dollars and reinvest it back into the economy through labor or other resources. On that same note, by keeping a small and focused government you are influencing entrepreneurship for the free market to provide the services that the people want, therefore creating new jobs and industry opportunities. None of this is even objectionable.

One of the only areas our Constitution actually says, in plain English, that the government has a right to do anything at all is its right to establish a military to protect our national security. Having a strong military--at least stronger than our enemies--must always be a top, if not the top, priority of our government. Without a strong military we would not have prevailed in WWI or WWII, and therefore would not have ever lived through the decades of prosperity that followed the post-WWII era. The sacrifice of the brave men and women of those times are directly responsible for many of the freedoms and luxuries we still reap today--have you thanked a veteran today? If you don't believe me, go ask an older German citizen how it felt for the decades that followed the Last Great War.

So where exactly has this gone wrong for those that claim to live by conservative principles? Well, for starters, over the past seven years (and specifically the six under a GOP controlled Congress) the greed of the party allowed President Bush to sign into law over 70,000 earmarks--pork barrel projects that nobody really knows where it goes. In a series of three tax plans--we know as the Bush tax cuts--our government's tax revenue was reduced to one of the three lowest periods in history as a percentage of Real Gross Domestic Product. At the same time government spending (the size of our federal government) was at an already all-time high as a percent of Real GDP prior to any of the three tax cuts. But then they went a step further and increased discretionary spending (spending that is debatable) at a faster pace than we have ever witnessed in our nation's history.

Oddly enough, overall spending in the Department of Defense (which covers Iraq and Afghanistan) has only been a very small portion of this steep increase, contrary to what many believe. But I don't think anyone can argue that spending $144 billion a year on Iraq alone equates to sound fiscal policy without the sacrifice of raising taxes. But the GOP's fundamental flaw in the principle of having a strong military is we are currently on a destruction path that is severely weakening our military overall. General Cody, the Vice Chief of Staff for the Army, briefed Congress a few weeks back and basically said our Army (more than half of our overall military) is extremely stretched and cannot sustain the current operational tempo over any extended period. He also said that due to our Army's current status, we would have great difficulty defending ourselves from any other major threat. Our strategically pre-positioned equipment throughout the world in now being sent to Iraq, and we have plans to start sending equipment from home station--the equipment our troops use to conduct pre-deployment training--to Iraq which will have some affect on our ability to send properly prepared troops to war. This is all going along while al Qaeda--our enemy number one--is stronger than at any time since 2001, and as a result from our actions in the Middle East, Iran is much more powerful than prior to our invasion. The overall goal of any war we engage in IS ALWAYS to enhance our own national security. But for some reason those that are responsible for Iraq cannot answer when asked "Are we safer as a result?"

What the GOP fails to recognize with regards to the free market is that it's not a perfect system and doesn't fix everything as they would like to believe. We have come to a consensus in the past on this topic, where the free market fails to provide an essential service the our people--the Tennessee Vally Authority, for example. The TVA was created to provide energy service to millions of people in the rural Tennessee Vally region that no private corporation wanted to touch because it wasn't profitable. But today more than 40 million Americans are denied quality health care--something that should be a right just like voting or free speech--because "there are free market solutions to fixing our health care system". This is another example of greed over principle due to corporate lobbyist having far too much access to our government.

So let's summarize here. Our media is stuck trying to equate flag pins to Patriotism, and asking questions like "does your pastor love America as much as you do?" (a big fuck you George--excuse me) while the current administration pushes us into recession from a dogma of a tax policy and extremely poor fiscal policies, ruins the Dollar's standing in the world exchange, literally doubles the national debt, severely weakens the readiness of our military, leaves 40 million people without health coverage, and flushes the Constitution down the toilet with claims of "Executive Privilege". All the while the rest of the world is standing by--if not taking a step back--and wondering "what the hell is the United States doing?" If I was able to pull off any of the above things I would be convicted of treason.

But these, my friends, are Conservative Principles!

Originally posted to Matt from Iraq on Sat May 03, 2008 at 11:57 AM PDT.

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