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Volume 24, Number 2
February 2004

Power over Principle
James Ostrowski

I write this dutifully and joylessly in the manner of someone taking out the garbage or performing some other unpleasant task that’s been done before but which must be done once more.

The Republicans have done it again. With their new Medicare bill, they’ve made government even bigger. This is not new to us here. We’ve been saying that for years. The Republicans have been expanding the size, scope, and power of government ever since they first got their mitts on power in 1861.

Their Civil War set the blueprint for modern America, according to liberal historian James McPherson. In modern America, unrestrained democracy—of the greedy people, by the greedy people, and for the greedy people—leads special interest groups to continually expand the size of the state for their own benefit and everyone else’s loss.

The Republican rank and file apparently do not know it. Why? They confuse talk and action. Republican politicians do speak the language of individual freedom and free markets and limited government. Most regular folks don’t have the time or energy or money to hang out in the Republican hacks’ palatial digs on Capitol Hill to see if their heroes actually do what they promised. (They don’t.)

This explanation is not enough, however. There are just too many examples of Republican sell-outs and cop-outs and logrolling over liberty. Reagan failed to cut the two useless departments he promised to cut. The 1994 "revolution" of Newt and the Gang was a flop. Yes, but we needed to get control of all three branches of government. Okay, you did that in 2002. What’s your excuse now? The federal government is bigger than ever; its debt is colossal; the US is in two wars; and there isn’t even talk of abolishing HUD, the textbook example of a corrupt, destructive, and unlawful federal agency.

There must be something that keeps the troops anteing up their votes and legwork and contributions to the mendacious Republican machine. There is. Hillary was right. There is a vast, right-wing conspiracy to whip up hatred of liberal Democratic icons like Bill and Hillary primarily for their personal peccadilloes. My response to most of the Clinton scandals? A big yawn. What politicians do in broad daylight is much worse than what they do at night or behind closed doors.

Yet, the Republican hacks can hardly talk about issues. They just did what we were supposed to fear from the Billary—they socialized medicine even further. Talk about scandals and side-issues like burning the flag is designed to cloud the minds of the rank-and-file with emotions that blind them to the disingenuousness of the Republican elite. And it works! It looks like the Republicans will retain control of their beloved federal government once more.

Here’s the key to the scam. All things being ideal, the Republicans actually would make small cuts in government. Things are never ideal, though. The Republicans always worry that if they cut government, they will lose votes from the special interest groups. That would bring on the worst of all possible worlds: people in charge who, like the Republicans, also support and nurture big government, but are called "Democrats." Horrors.

Now, I know what the hacks will say in response. That fella doesn’t know how Washington works. We just need to get a lock on power for another four years, and then we’ll lower the boom on big government. But I do understand, fellas. I’ve been watching the GOP for 25 years. The Republicans usually sell out: yes, they would like to make government smaller, but their desire to acquire and stay in power is larger.

There is no need to wonder about the source of voter cynicism.

James Ostrowski is an attorney in Buffalo, New York (


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