Every time I talk with a Vermont Republican (which is happening more frequently now, by design), I hear a variation on the same tune: “I’m not that kind of Republican.” Meaning, I’m not like those extreme conservatives on the national level; I’m a moderate, Vermont kind of partisan.
Well, maybe, but what do they mean by that?
It seems to be roughly this: they don’t share national Republicans’ extreme views on social issues, which is a no-brainer; espousing the creeds of the Christian Right is a sure loser in Vermont. They don’t deserve much credit for tolerance on reproductive rights or marriage equality.
Things get fuzzier when it comes to fiscal issues.
They wouldn’t dare espouse the kind of slash-and-burn approach currently in vogue in Washington, but their rhetoric shares the same fundamentals. If we were only to unleash the power of capitalism through tax cuts and less regulation, the resulting boom would create broad new opportunities and even replenish government treasuries in spite of lower tax rates.
Which has never EVER been proven to work, and is often a disastrous failure. See, for example, the current fiscal messes in Kansas and Louisiana. See, for another example, when Ronald Reagan had to raise taxes later in his presidency because his initial tax cuts ballooned the deficit.
Take Governor-elect Phil Scott’s affordability agenda, which seems to imply one of two things: (1) cut taxes so deeply that taxpayers will be able to feel the difference, which is impossible*, or (2) supply-side will finally work this time. Cutting taxes and public spending will result in an economic boom that will materially benefit everyone and allow us to grow government programs if we want to.
*Last time I was on WDEV’s “Open Mike,” a caller asked it if wouldn’t be possible to simply cut state spending by a mere two percent across the board, and pass the savings on to taxpayers? I didn’t think of it at the time, but if I could go back in time I would respond, “Would you really notice a two-percent dip in your tax bill?”
Maybe, if you checked your withholding every time. But it wouldn’t make a material difference in lifestyle, and it clearly wouldn’t make Vermont a measurably more affordable place.
Phil Scott doesn’t consider himself at all like those other Republicans. He voted for John Kasich for President, after all, and Kasich was the sensible one, right?
Eh, not so much.
John Kasich is deeply opposed to abortion. In his home state of Ohio, he pushed for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Even for services entirely unrelated to abortion or birth control.
When his charter-school plan failed to produce any improvement whatsoever in standardized test scores, Kasich’s minions literally cooked the books — changing the numbers to make it look like the charters had accomplished something when they hadn’t.
When his massive state tax cut failed to produce the predicted burst in growth and revenue, he shifted the burden to local governments and public schools by cutting state payments. And then took credit for making the tough decisions. Classy.
Meanwhile, Kasich’s Ohio managed to rack up 38 consecutive months of negative job growth.
And while Kasich’s federal tax plan wasn’t quite as ridiculous as those put forward by his fellow presidential clown-car occupants, it was straight out of the Laffer Curve supply-side playbook.
Which is one of the reasons why many Vermont liberals, myself included, are a little skeptical about this moderate, inclusive, tripartisan Governor-elect we’ve got on our hands. And why I’m a little skeptical when other Republicans tell me how different they are.
There’s a fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals. It’s been this way since the days or Reagan. It can be put in these terms:
Liberals believe that most of our problems arise from the excessses of the private sector, and see government as a necessary counterbalance. Conservatives believe that most of our problems are caused by government intervention and interference, and want to set free the private sector so it can lead us all into a bright, prosperous future.
I know where I stand. It seems to me that most Vermont Republicans are on the other side. And in my mind, that makes them not terribly different from their national brethren (and occasional sisteren).