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If You're Conservative, Vote for Hillary, Part Two

Pope Francis recently gave us a good short summary of the conservative philosophy:

          Reality is more important than ideas.

I'm talking about the conservatism of years ago, when I first got interested in politics. Back in the 1960's conservatives prided themselves on being the realists, as opposed to liberals, whose idealism was thought laudable except that it wouldn't work. Capitalism had a proven track record of bringing prosperity to millions. Communism? Well, it sounds good in theory, but just look at the Soviet Union. Reality beats ideas. Liberal ideology just makes reality hard to see.

Between then and now we had the Reagan presidency, and I think that was when Democrats and Republicans started switching sides on  reality versus ideology. Capitalism became a sacred idea that couldn't be challenged regardless of what reality was trying to tell us. We were supposed to be able to solve the problem of government debt by cutting taxes. Tax cuts grow the economy and the result would be even more tax revenue than before. Well, it sounded good in theory. In reality government debt soared. And in the face of that reality George W. Bush pushed through more tax cuts, supposedly to grow the economy, at a time when the economy was growing just fine. Debt soared higher.

Strange reversal there: You'd think a political conservative would be fiscally conservative as well. It seemed to me that the new "conservatives" were secretly rejoicing over this mounting debt. Liberals won't be able to pay for all their government programs if government goes bankrupt. "Small government." "Get government out of the way." "Let people do with their money what they think best." It sounded good in theory again. "A rising tide lifts all boats." Let the rich get as rich as they might. The wealth will "trickle down." And again ideas went one way. Reality went another. The tide rose, but it didn't lift very many boats. The rich got immensely richer. Millionaires became billionaires while the middle class shrank. The wealth didn't trickle down. You could say it gushed up.

If you're conservative, I would ask you to return to the actual conservatism that says reality counts. Think of capitalism as a system that actually has brought prosperity but not as a sacred cow, perfect and untouchable. There are real human values that can only be secured by people with the clear sight and the power to guide a system that works well in some ways but not in others. There must be government; and politics, with all its faults, must lead economies and not the other way around.

Return to the conservatism that says we have to pay our way in this world. Reject the mantra that says taxes are bad. Recognize the Republican pledge never under any circumstances to raise taxes for what it is: a flight from reality. Even Reagan raised several taxes when he saw that his tax cuts had gone too far. At least to him reality counted for something. I'm not saying become a Democrat for life. I'm not saying give up the Republican preference for small government. That's a valuable corrective for the tendency of any institution or program to outgrow and outlive its purposes. I am saying take a realistic look at what capitalism can and can't do. I am saying that current Republican leaders, most of them, have lost touch with reality because of their ideology. Capitalism is a good economic theory, but they have worshiped it as if it were a perfect one. There is no such thing.

Go to If You're Conservative, Vote for Hillary, Part 3