There They Go Again

What is it with the Laslo Boyds and Barry Rascovars of the Maryland political scene? Why is it that they continually engage in straw man arguments then gleefully exalt around the pyre like the pagan women from The Wicker Man? Seriously, is it too much to ask for these two supposed political experts to actually understand the definitions of the terms they are using?

Last week it was Boyd, this week it is Rascovar in a Gazette column about Bob Ehrlich. I’m not going to argue the obvious fact of the mountain sized hurdle Maryland Republicans face in this state. It was there during Ehrlich’s term and will be there for some time to come. Rascovar is right about that. Of course, my three-year old is perceptive enough to see that very obvious point.

However, in his zeal to pour kerosene on his straw man, Rascover gets some of that accelerant on himself.

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What they don’t mention is that even during Ehrlich’s years in the Governor’s Mansion, no dramatic sea-change occurred in Maryland. Budgets continued to grow, sometimes by double-digit amounts. No vast reforms were implemented. No major tax cuts happened.

The era of Big Government persisted during Republican rule, both in Annapolis and in Washington.

This is a fair and legitimate criticism of Ehrlich’s administration, one often leveled by Richard Falknor. However, goes on to contradict that point:

Though the former governor remains personally popular, that could fade quickly
in a hardball election campaign. The “R” next to his name has become the
equivalent of Hawthorne’s “Scarlet Letter.”

Part of the problem is that Republicans offer no compelling vision, no “other way” that seems to make sense. The narrow, neoconservative ideology of less government intervention and fewer taxes made a mess of things in Washington. We are paying the price for that discredited approach.

Wait I just thought he wrote that the era of Big Government persisted in DC and Annapolis? Well which one is it Barry? Are Ehrlich/Bush less-government neocons (an oxymoron if there ever was one) or are they big government Republicans?

I have my own disagreements with our former governor, some mirror Falknor’s some don’t. However, that is beside the point.

What’s at play here is Rascovar’s attempt to have it both ways, and his utter ignorance of what “neoconservatism” is, its conflict with limited government conservatism, and the true nature of regulation during the Bush era.

First, Irving Kristol, the father of neoconservatism always stated the importance of being anti-left not anti-state, a position that put the neocons at odds with much of the limited government paleoconservatives and libertarians, who compose the American right.

Second, it strains credulity to say that “less government intervention and fewer taxes made a mess of things in Washington” during the Bush era, when in fact the exact opposite that happened. Government regulation grew faster under George W. Bush than any president since Nixon. If only “limited government intervention” had indeed been put into policy during the Bush administration. Veronique de Rugy of Reason explains:

Since Bush took office in 2001, there has been a 13 percent decrease in the annual number of new rules. But the new regulations’ cost to the economy will be much higher than it was before 2001. Of the new rules, 159 are “economically significant,” meaning they will cost at least $100 million a year. That’s a 10 percent increase in the number of high-cost rules since 2006, and a 70 percent increase since 2001. And at the end of 2007, another 3,882 rules were already at different stages of implementation, 757 of them targeting small businesses.

Overall, the final outcome of this Republican regulation has been a significant increase in regulatory activity and cost since 2001. The number of pages added to the Federal Register, which lists all new regulations, reached an all-time high of 78,090 in 2007, up from 64,438 in 2001…

The data also show that, adjusted for inflation, expenditures for the category of finance and banking were cut by 3 percent during the Clinton years and rose 29 percent from 2001 to 2009, making it hard to argue that Bush deregulated the financial sector…

It takes a lot of bureaucrats to create and enforce all those regulations. In eight years, Bush increased the federal government’s regulatory staff by 91,196 employees. Clinton cut it by 969.

One rule in particular from the Bush Federal Transit Authority really chapped my ass.

Sorry to bust up old Barry with those inconvenient facts, but if he is going to use words/labels like “neoconservative” and “less government intervention” he should at least know what they mean and apply them accurately to those they fit.

Now, as with Boyd, if Rascovar wanted to opine on the faults of compassionate conservatism and the abandonment of conservatism properly understood during the Bush ere, then he’d be making cogent argument. If he’d even tried to talk about the original neoconservatives of the 1960s and 1970s, who argued against the dangers of overarching government—liberals mugged by reality—he would have been on better footing. But he doesn’t, he’s just types out the first liberal trope that comes to mind, recycling the same clichés he’s already used.

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