After six long years in the minority, Senator Mitch McConnell finally assumed leadership. Conservatives all over the country celebrated and Iowa’s new Republican Senator Joni Ernst exclaimed “We are headed to Washington…and we are going to make ‘em squeal” shortly after beating Democratic Incumbent Tom Harkin.
Tuesday seemed like the first bright day for conservatives amidst a long and dark winter where our principles were associated with the likes of Sarah Palin and Todd Akin.
However, the thesis of conservative revival gets more superficial as one takes a broader look at the state of the nation.
We are incredibly far from the country based on capitalism, small government, and the enshrinement of freedom and democracy that Conservatives hoped for. The numbers speak for themselves – total government spending between the years 2000-2013 was 16% or five trillion dollars higher than for the years 1900-2000! The Federal Reserve released more liquidity into the economy since 2008 than it did in its first ninety-four years of existence – which according to classical economics is a disaster for inflation and the creation of bubbles. What is more, the top marginal tax rate in California is higher than that of the People’s Republic of China! China has a lower top corporate tax rate than that of the United States.
Additionally, since Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidency, the government has become accountable to Americans for food, healthcare, and work. This is not a problem except that it comes at the detriment of future Americans who are going to have to incur even higher taxes to compensate for the genuinely astronomical amount of debt that we have accumulated as a result of these unaffordable programs. Not to mention the implications that debt payments are going to have on limiting discretionary spending in the future.
In the mean time, the government traces and records our personal information so as to prevent us from becoming “threats to the state”. This is particularly concerning in a context where we can be extrajudicially killed by a drone or imprisoned and tortured without any public trial at all under the suspicion of terrorist activity. But at least there is a clear definition of what constitutes a terrorist, right? Wrong. What constitutes terrorism is extremely unclear especially in a context where the government employs preemptive incarceration as opposed to the presumption of innocence that traditionally underlined our country’s legal system.
But alas, sometimes we must suspend freedom to gain freedom. Apparently non-Freedom is Freedom. This is the freest country in the world after all. Except of course that we have the highest rates of incarceration in the world, with the most humans incarcerated by one entity in the history of man.
You may point out that despite all of this I still have the right to write this critique of the government which is in and of itself a manifestation of freedom. Unfortunately it seems like that too is degenerating. The World Freedom Press Index from 2014 puts the US at number 46 in its yearly list of the country’s with the freest press, 14 spots lower than it was last year. At least last year we were 32nd, one spot behind Suriname, whose President Dési Bouterse took responsibility for torturing and killing 15 dissidents while we he was the dictator of Suriname in the 1980’s.
There is also very little realism in the notion that the conservative grip on the legislature could start to undo the great expansion that we’ve seen in the last twenty years. The logic that if they do a good job they can look forward to expanding their majority in 2016 and even secure the White House is not all that sound because the future for elected conservatives in the United States is extremely bleak. I wrote an article in the Daily last quarter explaining how the conservative base is shrinking wildly and the Electoral College system puts the GOP at a significant disadvantage in 2016. Moreover, all signs point to this last victory being exceptional given that the Republicans won during an election cycle that favors whichever party does not have control of the executive where the voters were disproportionately white and old and the voter turnout was the lowest since the Second World War – so it is not exactly an overwhelming victory for conservative America.
Although the conservative victory is better than a conservative defeat. I fear that its implications for this country are roughly as superficial as the constitution is in terms of determining this nation’s direction.