This page was last updated on March 27, 2010.
The Republican Party is the vehicle by which conservatives tend to implement their economic, political, and social beliefs.
Many Republicans, at least in southwestern PA, seem embarrassed to be Republicans. In a lot of contests, you can tell which candidate is the Republican because his signs and other collateral don’t mention his party affiliation. If you’re afraid to tell voters you’re a Republican, how much commitment will you have to conservative values once elected? Voters can “smell” fear.
Many Republicans in the General Assembly have gradually morphed into the equivalents of latter day Democrats. I’m sure some Republicans with conservative beliefs remain in the General Assembly, but it’s clear they are losing the battle.
Your values align with today’s Republican Party if you believe/believed in the values of the Democrat Party (plus civil rights) of the 1950s and early 1960s and still hold those values. Today’s Republican Party reflects the beliefs of the so-called “Rockefeller Republicans” of the 1960s/1970s.
To hear Democrats tell it, Republicans are a bunch of rich white guys. Let’s look at the facts.
During a Democrat infomercial (Capitol Connection; February 15, 2004) on Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN), state Sen. Vincent Fumo referred to Republicans as “haves” and Democrats as “have-nots” with respect to K-12 education. I don’t have data for the General Assembly, but here is how Sen. Fumo’s claim stands up for the U.S. Congress. In 2003, 52% of Senate Republican children attended private schools while 40% of Democrats attended private schools. In the House, the figures were 43% and 38%, respectively.1 While more Republican kids attended private schools than Democrat kids, there’s hardly a big difference, and nowhere near enough difference to support the have/have-not proposition.
· Roll Call reported in 2002 the four richest U.S. senators, and nine of the top 12, were Democrats. John Kerry, the richest Democrat, had over 13 times the wealth of the richest Republican (Lincoln Chafee).
· Of the five richest presidents, three were Democrats (John Kennedy, Andrew Jackson, Lyndon Johnson). The richest was George Washington (Federalist) and Herbert Hoover was the sole Republican (#5, and even he was a progressive). If John Kerry had become president in 2004, he would have ranked #3 on the list. Rounding out the top 10 are one Whig (Zachary Taylor), two Republicans [Theodore Roosevelt (a progressive), George W. Bush], and two Democrats (Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt).2 There’s nothing wrong with being wealthy, so why do Democrat elitists try to convince us they are not?
· Using Federal Election Commission data, the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) reports George W. Bush received more contributions from small donors (less than $200) than Al Gore. In other words, more “little guys” supported Mr. Bush than Al Gore.
· Likewise, in 2002, Republicans raised more contributions in the <$200 and the $200 - $999 ranges than Democrats. Democrats raised more contributions than Republicans in the $10,000+ and $100,000+ ranges. In other words, “fat cats” tended to support Democrats while “little guys” tended to support Republicans.
· CRP data shows the top 20 contributors to the Democrat Party during 2002 contributed almost two and a half times as much as the top 20 contributors to the Republican Party. The top Republican contributor would rank only number 10 on the Democrat Party list. Again, more of those “evil” rich guys supported Democrats than supported Republicans.
Based on the above data, Democrats deserve designation as “party of the rich” far more than Republicans do. Let’s not forget about all those “poor” Hollywood celebrities who constantly support Democrats. Once again, Democrats project one of their traits on Republicans.
There’s nothing wrong with the wealthy supporting either party. I suspect the contribution profile for each party varies from election to election, though I need to do some research to support this position. That is, in some years Republicans predominantly get the small contributors and in others Democrats get the small contributions. I made the above points to highlight Democrat hypocrisy in this area.
Are there rich Republicans? Of course there are. Every political party has its share of both rich and poor, and being rich or poor doesn’t make a person good or bad.
Democrats like to portray Republicans as racists at worst and insensitive to race at best. History tells a different story.
Frankly, neither the Democrat nor the Republican parties can lay claim to unblemished civil rights records. Democrats, though, have some minorities convinced Republicans oppose civil rights.
For example, the author of a letter to the editor claimed support for the civil rights movement is the reason black Americans vote for Democrats. 3 The author claimed black Americans previously voted for Republicans out of respect for Abraham Lincoln.
Let’s consider the following historical facts.
· In its first presidential campaign platform, the Republican Party opposed slavery. The Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, won the election and later issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
· In his final speech, Abraham Lincoln supported giving blacks full voting rights. This was the last straw for Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Before the speech, Booth “only” wanted to kidnap Lincoln in order to extort post-war concessions from the North.
· In 1954, the Republican Eisenhower administration sided with the NAACP (Brown v. Board of Education – separate is not equal) for school integration.
· In 1957, President Eisenhower sent the U.S. Army to enforce civil rights when Democrat Governor Orval Faubus used the Arkansas National Guard to block black students from attending a Little Rock high school. Can you imagine how tough it was for Eisenhower – himself a former five-star general – to pit one part of the U.S. armed services against another?
· Republicans delivered the votes for cloture of the Democrat-led filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In the Senate, 82% of Republicans voted for the act while only 69% of Democrats supported it. Of the “nay” votes, 78% were by Democrats. In the House, 80% of Republicans voted for the act while only 61% of Democrats supported it. Of the “nay” votes, 74% were by Democrats.
· Then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson (D-TX) watered down President Eisenhower’s 1957 Civil Rights Act. This was possible because Democrats controlled both houses of Congress for all but one early session during Eisenhower’s presidency. Johnson was worried Eisenhower’s more expansive proposal would prove divisive for the Democrat Party. As we learned in 1964, his concerns were well founded.
· Until 2004 there were only four black senators, three of them Republicans. The only Democrat (Carol Moseley-Braun) was not even the endorsed candidate in the primary.
To this day, Republicans fight for equal rights for everyone. That’s why Republicans tend to fight institutionalized discrimination going by the names of affirmation action and diversity. You can’t eliminate one kind of discrimination by replacing it with another form of discrimination.
Republicans were the minority party in Congress for so long they don’t seem to know how to lead. When Republicans became the majority after the 1994 elections, I held out hope for progress with the “Contract with America.” Unfortunately, many Republicans began behaving as Democrats had and alienated far too many people. I found myself cringing at the actions of these folks.
I know I wrote that I wouldn’t get into name calling, but here’s an exception to that rule. Republicans in the U.S. Congress are a gutless bunch. We elected these folks to be leaders, not playground pushovers. Democrats run roughshod over Republicans even though Republicans are in the majority. Here are a few examples.
· Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are threatening to filibuster judicial nominees whose political beliefs the senators don’t like. All of the opposed nominees have spotless records interpreting the law and received the highest rating from the American Bar Association (itself a left-leaning group). However, because the Democrats don’t like the political beliefs of the nominees, the Democrats threaten a filibuster so the full Senate can’t vote on the appointments. Republicans are letting Democrats get away with this. Democrats require candidates for “critical” appointments to be in favor of abortion and institutional discrimination (affirmative action/diversity).
· In 2003 a Republican staff member came into possession of memos describing Democrat collusion with special interest groups to subvert the judge appointment process. One objective was to affect the outcome of cases before courts.4 Unbelievably, Republicans allowed the discussion to focus on how the documents were obtained, not the conspiracies described by the memos.
As it turned out, the staff member did nothing illegal.5 If anyone had committed an illegal act to obtain the documents, he should have been charged and prosecuted. No charges were filed. Regardless of how they were obtained, the contents of the documents should not have been ignored, however.
· Republicans on the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee came into possession of a letter detailing a Democrat strategy to abuse the committee in an attempt to discredit President Bush during the 2004 campaign.6 Again, the focus was on how the memo was leaked, not on the conspiracy the memo described.
I don’t want Republicans to behave as Democrats. We don’t have to be offensive to be on the offense. We need to get a spine and stand up for our beliefs. In other words, we need to be leaders.
In the areas of limited government and fiscal conservatism, the Republican Party has lost its way. With no offense intended to sailors, let’s update a purported observation by President Reagan. Today’s elected Republicans spend like drunken sailors, but that’s not fair to sailors. Drunken sailors spend their own money.
Further, Republicans appear to be completely comfortable with big/central government as long as they are the tax-and-spenders and even work to make government bigger and more centralized.
These phenomena are apparent at the federal and state levels. Here are some examples at the commonwealth level.
· During the Ridge/Schweiker years, commonwealth spending increased an inflation-adjusted 24.4% with a Republican-controlled General Assembly despite a stagnant population and a state economy significantly under performing the rest of the country. To be clear, this does NOT include local spending. This is nearly the same as Casey’s 25.4% over the same number of years.
· Despite a Republican governor and a Republican majority in the General Assembly for eight years, Pennsylvania is still not a right-to-work state. Republicans had a chance to stand up for employees by ending monopoly bargaining by unions, but did nothing. Even if they had no interest in “doing the right thing,” self-interest should have kicked in. At the state level, campaign contribution records show 87% of union PAC contributions goes to Democrats. At the federal level, FEC records show that of contributions by industrial trade union PACs, 98% goes to Democrats; it’s 89% for union PACs in general.
· Municipalities must get commonwealth permission to levy a tax. What happened to liberty and self-reliance? While I don’t believe Pittsburgh (or any other government) will tax itself into prosperity, I believe any municipality should be able to levy any constitutional tax without commonwealth interference. This would allow each municipality to maintain a tax strategy tailored to its unique business and residential demographics.
· In late 2003, Republicans voted to raise the Pennsylvania personal income tax to 3.07%, an increase of 9.6%.
· On March 31, 2004, the General Assembly of The People’s Republic of Pennsylvania voted to spend $1 billion of taxpayer paychecks and pensions on corporate welfare – referred to as economic development by leftists. The Senate voted unanimously (50-0) for this exercise in socialism and corporate welfare while the House voted 188-7 (8 excused absences). Republicans had the majority in both houses of the General Assembly, yet only seven voted against this scam.
· Republicans have a reputation of being business friendly. If this were true, would Pennsylvania have so-called business taxes, let alone some of the most onerous in the country? The fact is, as a hidden tax, business taxes are unfriendly to business and individuals.
The Pennsylvania Capital Stock and Franchise (CSF) rate of 7.24 mills for 2003 was highest in the nation. Since then, the CSF rate was scheduled to drop by one mill per year until it expires completely in 2011. That said, at 2.9 mills, PA’s CSF tax was still fifth highest in 2009.
The Pennsylvania corporate net income (CNI) is 9.99%, second highest in the nation.
Pennsylvania is one of a minority of states imposing both CNI and CSF taxes. Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are the only two states that rank in the top 10 for both taxes.
According to The Tax Foundation, “If Pennsylvania were its own country, it would have the highest overall corporate tax rate in the world at 41.5% (federal plus state, accounting for the state-local deduction).”
· Politicians knowingly try to deceive us when they talk about making business pay its “fair share.” Ultimately, though, individuals pay all taxes. Politicians know businesses pass along taxes in their entirety to individuals via higher priced goods and services, lower employment levels, lower wages and benefits, or lower share value. Lower share value affects the value of pension plans, IRAs, and 401(k)s.
Elected officials know business taxes hurt us, but Republicans lack the conviction of their beliefs to take action. Instead, we get band-aids like Keystone Opportunity Zones and other temporary tax abatement schemes. Perversely, sometimes these political gifts harm existing businesses. Perhaps the biggest blow that could be struck for honesty in taxation and for economic development would be elimination of business taxes. The minor reductions in the business income tax and other business taxes we’ve seen aren’t enough to reverse Pennsylvania’s fortunes.
· Conservatives believe government has no business in an area that can be handled by the private sector. Therefore, how do Pennsylvania Republicans justify the continued existence of “State Stores?” Are Republicans addicted to the revenue from high prices and higher taxes, or are they afraid of labor union management? Though greater alcohol sales isn’t really something to aspire to, getting the Pennsylvania government out of the State Store business and lowering alcohol taxes would probably increase tax revenue.
· Transfer of tax revenue from the feds to state and local governments and from the state to local governments violates the principle of self-reliance. We see our representatives, Democrats and Republicans alike, brag about how they facilitated one “grant” or another. If Beaver County wants to run a money-losing bus operation (BCTA), Beaver County should be forced to pay for the whole thing. It’s not right to pick the pockets of taxpayers outside of Beaver County for this service, just as Beaver County taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to contribute to other local governments.
I’ve been griping about this for a while, so I was especially glad to see The Commonwealth Foundation include this point in its paper entitled “Rightsizing State Government.”7 The Commonwealth Foundation says this point alone would take about $327 million off the commonwealth budget. While local governments would pick up some of this spending, I suspect much of it would be eliminated when municipalities learned they could no longer “put the arm” on other taxpayers to subsidize their boondoggles.
PennDOT exercises a more subtle form of this behavior. By designating undeserving roads as state highways, PennDOT allows municipalities to transfer some of their road maintenance responsibilities to the commonwealth. For example, Center Township has several “state” roads that begin and end in the township or aren’t much more than paved cow paths.
· In a 2004 op-ed piece, State Rep. Sam Rohrer (R-128) lobbied for replacing local school taxes with changes to the state sales tax.8 In his enthusiasm, Mr. Rohrer lapsed into liberalspeak and called this “a consumer choice sales tax.” He tried to sell the ridiculous idea that Pennsylvania taxpayers could control how much we spend on schools by controlling how much we spend on goods and services! Using an example provided by Mr. Rohrer in a letter to me, a family could “choose” to pay less in school taxes by choosing to buy “a can of pizza mix” instead of a pizza. Yeah, right. Mr. Rohrer lapsed into liberalspeak elsewhere by referring to proportional property taxes as regressive taxes. He failed to identify the sales tax as “regressive,” however. Mr. Rohrer didn’t mention how many pizza place jobs would be lost because of the tax.
Mr. Rohrer wrote me saying, “the last thing anyone has ever accused me of is being liberal.” I’m afraid most elected officials of both parties have gradually migrated far enough left that what we used to consider liberal, they now consider conservative. That’s scary.
Mr. Rohrer appears to be a confused Republican. Though he obviously has leftist leanings in at least one area, he was one of the seven Republicans who voted against the $1 billion corporate welfare bill mentioned above.
Here are some examples at the federal level.
· One violation is “bringing home the pork” and/or letting others. Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) selected Pennsylvania then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter “Porker of the Year” for 2003.9 A Republican, “Porker of the Year”! What’s worse, Specter campaign ads portrayed him as a fiscal conservative! I’d hate to see his idea of a fiscal liberal. Democrat-turned-Republican Specter is now a Democrat again and this “fiscal conservative” <g> voted for the $1+ trillion healthcare bill.
· Ten of 16 “Porkers of the Month” during 2003 were Republicans.10
· According to CAGW, the fiscal year 2003 budget contained $22.5 billion of pork.11 Keep in mind that CAGW classifies pork as spending not requested by the president or other federal departments, offices, et cetera. Therefore, this is $22.5 billion over and above everyday wasteful government spending.
· In a letter to the editor, then-Rep. Melissa Hart’s (R-4) press secretary actually bragged about Ms. Hart’s efforts to bring inappropriate federal spending to Beaver County.12 The letter was in response to a letter entitled “Where’s Our Pork?” in which the author asked, “So what did we get?”13
· Spending and taxes increased steadily from 1994 despite Republican majorities in both houses of Congress for most of the time until 2007.
· Then-President Bush proposed adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. It passed with overwhelming Republican support. To his credit, then-Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey (R-15) voted against this atrocity.
· Then-President Bush proposed, and let Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) craft, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 that expanded federal intrusion into public education. Again, Republicans overwhelmingly supported this bill.
Though not an exhaustive list, it’s enough to support my position.
5. No one was charged with hacking, stealing passwords, et cetera. According to The Boston Globe, “A technician hired by the new judiciary chairman, Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, apparently made a mistake that allowed anyone to access newly created accounts on a Judiciary Committee server shared by both parties -- even though the accounts were supposed to restrict access only to those with the right password.” Unless Congress has written rules stating otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with accessing files to which your user account has access.
9. Senator Arlen Specter is Porker of the Year for 2003; Citizens Against Government Waste; February 5, 2004.
© 2004-2010 Robert W. Cox, all rights reserved.