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Rebuilding Republican credibility

By Charles Bloomer
web posted September 26, 2005

In a recent column, I criticized the Republican leadership for ignoring two topics that have become important to their conservative base – illegal immigration and massive spending. In this column, I want to follow up with some ideas for actions that the party can take to help regain credibility.

The conservative base is not opposed to immigration, so long as it is legal and in the best interest of this country. The base is opposed to those actions or proposals that reward and encourage illegal immigration. Proposals such as guest worker programs that do not recognize or deter illegals from flooding over our borders, proposals that smack of amnesty are unacceptable. Proposals put forward that pander either to minority groups such as Hispanics, or business groups that want a supply of cheap labor will not get core support.

The larger issue here is one of national security. If immigrant workers can cross our borders with impunity, so can our enemies. The massive holes in our borders provide easy access to terrorists who wish to do us harm.

The solution is simple, but will cost money. The Republicans in office, including the president and congress, must authorize and fund significant increases in our Border Patrol. We need more boots on the ground, to use a military concept, to monitor the borders and apprehend those who illegally cross into this country. The Minutemen project has already shown that the presence of monitors can significantly reduce illegal border crossings. Additionally, the Border Patrol needs the equipment that will improve the efficiency of their efforts. This equipment includes helicopters, unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles, night vision equipment, and biometric processors to identify repeat offenders.

Among fiscal conservatives, the Republicans in office have lost all credibility as the party of smaller government. What the Republicans have done is use their majority status to govern by bribery instead of being a party that can govern by intelligent ideas and Constitutional principles. Congress and the Bush administration have increased spending faster that any recent Democrat administration and show no signs of slowing down. Most recently, President Bush has promised taxpayer dollars, to the tune of $200 Billion, to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. As of this writing, I haven't heard what he will promise to the victims of Hurricane Rita. Whatever it is, it will be some expensive "compassionate conservatism".

At least some Republicans are paying heed to the grumblings of conservatives. The Republican Study Committee in the House of Representatives has responded to the challenge laid down by Tom DeLay. The RSC has come up with a list of recommendations for cuts to offset the funds to be spent on Katrina rebuilding.

The RSC ideas are a good start, but need to go further. Rather than spend billions of tax money to rebuild New Orleans, the administration should encourage private investment in the rebuilding process. Tax incentives on investments in post-Katrina and post-Rita, recovery such as an elimination of capital gains tax on those investments would draw considerable private money. Make the tax holiday on capital gains effective for ten years.

Beyond hurricane relief, the RSC should study ways to seriously cut the fat and pork from the federal budget. A great start would be to eliminate the 6000-plus pork barrel items in the Transportation Bill. Republicans need to stop trying to buy votes with spending in their districts and develop the courage to stand up to wasteful spending in every bill they encounter. Ideally, a Republican majority would seriously review the Constitutional limits on their power and adjust their spending accordingly. Require Constitutional justification for every dollar proposed to be spent, recognizing that the General Welfare Clause is not a legitimate reason to ignore the few and limited powers granted to the federal government.

An immediate lack of action may not cost the Republicans their majority standing, but a perception of ignoring key issues important to their conservative base can make the difference between a slim majority and a wide majority status. Immediate moves to correct the course of Republican office holders now will go far toward restoring Republican credibility as the party of laws and fiscal restraint.

Charles Bloomer is a Contributing Editor for Enter Stage Right and the creator of Liberty Call US.

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