The evolution of the Republican Party has been one of the great forces shaping American politics since the 1960’s — an amazing transformation from pro-civil rights, isolationism, and fiscal prudence to advocacy of racism, foreign wars, and massive deficits.
- Goldwater’s decision to vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act inaugurated the first (a reversal of his long-standing support for civil rights), followed by Nixon’s southern strategy (crafted by Pat Buchanan and later Kevin Phillips). Note that Nixon, as the most-liberal President since FDR, probably did more for minorities than any President other than Lincoln and LBJ (America is a complex place).
- Foreign wars: adopting Vietnam from the liberals, the Gulf War and the Iraq War (establishing Iran as a potential hegemon in the Middle East), and the Af-Pak War.
- Massive deficits, the subject of this post.
Unlike the first two changes, the last has a definite origin, one of the most brilliant combinations of political insight and myth-making in our history. It’s worth reading, to understand why today America’s Federal and many State governments teeter on the brink of bankruptcy: “Taxes and a Two-Santa Theory“, Jude Wanniski, National Observer, 6 March 1976. Here is the opening; the remainder establishes the mythology of tax cuts.
The only thing wrong with the U.S. economy is the failure of the Republican Party to play Santa Claus. The only thing wrong with President Ford is that he is still too much a Hoover Republican when what the country needs is a Coolidge Republican.These statements, seemingly absurd, follow naturally from the Two-Santa Claus Theory of the political economy. Simply stated, the Two Santa Claus Theory is this: For the U.S. economy to be healthy and growing, there must be a division of labor between Democrats and Republicans; each must be a different kind of Santa Claus.The Democrats, the party of income redistribution, are best suited for the role of Spending Santa Claus. The Republicans, traditionally the party of income growth, should be the Santa Claus of Tax Reduction. It has been the failure of the GOP to stick to this traditional role that has caused much of the nation’s economic misery. Only the shrewdness of the Democrats, who have kindly agreed to play both Santa Clauses during critical periods, has saved the nation from even greater misery.It isn’t that Republicans don’t enjoy cutting taxes. They love it. But there is something in the Republican chemistry that causes the GOP to become hypnotized by the prospect of an imbalanced budget. Static analysis tells them taxes can’t be cut or inflation will result. They either argue for a tax hike to dampen inflation when the economy is in a boom or demand spending cuts to balance the budget when the economy is in recession.
Trillions of dollars in debt later, now conservatives spin a different story. As we see in this excerpt from “Goodbye Supply Side:”, Kevin Williamson, National Review, 3 May 2010: