Annapolis Institute Overview


No revolution won without pain

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Rocky Mountain News, January 6, 1996

Is Speaker Gingrich being unreasonable in the budget debate? Should the Republicans be more compromising? The answer, in my view, is a resounding “No!”

It is important for the Republicans to stand firm because the current debate is about new choices, not variations on the theme of more government, more taxes and more spending. The Republicans stand for a new paradigm — a frontal assault on the bureaucratic state — not business as usual. Both the President and Speaker Gingrich agree: The issues that divide are about policy, not numbers.

Newt Gingrich and the House Republican majority are a new force in American politics because they stand for principle-centered change. The principles are simple and have two roots: (1) the principles of limited government that are found in the major testaments of American democracy: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist Papers and (2) the principle of keeping your promises, which goes back at least to admonition Nine of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”

The Republicans are in hot water, at least temporarily, because the established forces of the Left and the Right are lined up against them. Even national conservative magazines and local business journals will regularly will scold House Republicans for their intransigence (principles).

Bottom line: Republicans are under attack — not just by their enemies, but also by their “friends.” Reason: the forces of the status quo — to expand government and increase spending — are huge, relentless and bi-partisan.

From Nelson Rockefeller to former House Minority Leader Bob Michael and Bush budget chief Richard Darman, the GOP response to the Democrats has always been: “We will not jump off a 1,000 foot cliff. Let’s make it a 500 ft. cliff.” “Compromise” is always in the direction of more government and more spending. When Republicans do “win,” it is typically only “a little less more.” And media mavens say Congress is “productive” only when it writes more laws and generally expands the role of government in our lives.

But results from the snowballing bureaucratic state have been a disaster for our society. The most tragic example: a welfare system that pays children when they have babies out of wedlock but makes it hard for an adult family to adopt a child. Result: we have gone from 3.5% out-of-wedlock births at the beginning of the welfare state to more than 30% today — more than 50% in New York City and other large urban areas.

The revolt against the bureaucratic state is real, but Republicans are having a lot of trouble. They can’t even eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts. But they have succeeded in getting the President to agree to a balanced budget in seven years. That’s an important achievement and has caused some pain. But you can’t have a revolution without pain. There aren’t many bloodless revolutions.

Republicans are trying for the first time in 100 years — since the beginning of the Progressive Movement, which nationalized, professionalized and bureaucratized public policy in America — to relimit government. They must succeed before Americans can restore strong families, regain control of neighborhoods, and re-establish religious and community-based organizations to their rightful place in a truly caring and progressive society. Government has become an enemy of civil society. It shouldn’t be. It needn’t be.

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