By the numbers: since President Barack Obama was sworn in, the financial markets have dropped to ten-year lows, housing prices are off by ten percent or more, nearly a million jobs have been lost, federal discretionary spending has doubled, the share of federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product is set to soar by 50% by the end of the year, and there’s to be a trillion dollars in new taxes, trillions more in new debts, and even more trillions due as interest payments. Oh — and Republicans are the bad guys.
I say: Yeah, OK, we can do that.
A few years back, television writer/producer/director/visionary Joss Whedon made a little libertarian-themed science fiction movie called Serenity. In it, our ragtag band of heroes make their way around the ‘verse by trading freely when they can and by stealing from the corrupt, oppressive central government when they must. Before launching a minor raid on a government stash of ill-gotten gold, Jayne, the hired muscle (played with an endearingly ignorant malice by Adam Baldwin), cocks his shotgun menacingly — is there any other way? — and suggests, “Let’s be bad guys.”
Yes. Exactly. Let’s.
Look. We cannot buy our way into friendship in Washington for the next four years. We aren’t going to become popular by playing along with Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi or the president. Barney Frank and Chris Dodd aren’t going to stop calling us names just because we vote with the majority. That’s not how politics work, and that’s certainly not how these guys play ball. They play hard; they play for keeps. And when their grand plans fail, they’ll need someone to blame: us.
They’ll blame us in the corridors of power. They’ll blame us on the TV news. They’ll blame us on the blogs. They’ll blame us in a whole slew of new movies where evil white men are behind everything from the Democrat-created credit crisis, to the war we “lost” in Iraq, to a sand flea epidemic inflicted upon some poor, third-world nation. But we don’t have to let them get away with it.
I’ll give you another bonus quote from Serenity — again, absolutely free. Our intrepid captain, Mal Reynolds, tells of some sage advice once given to him by the late Shepherd Book, a former passenger: “If you can’t do something smart, do something right.”
Republicans spent the last eight years trying to do the “smart” thing, by buying out the Democratic agenda. It was “smart” to “take Medicare off the table” by expanding it in ways so vast even Democrats hadn’t gotten away with it in 40 years. It was considered “smart” to “take immigration off the table” by forging a grand alliance with Ted Kennedy. It was considered “smart” to “take education off the table” by federalizing it under No Child Left Behind.
Well, we’ve tried the smart thing and all it got us was a bigger, more meddlesome government. Now it’s time to do the right thing.
What’s left of the conservative/libertarian movement in Congress, for the first time in a decade, showed us the way by standing on principle against the pork package a couple of weeks ago. Every Republican member of the House, plus seven Blue Dog Democrats, voted against the thing. Only the misguided yea votes of three liberal Republican senators allowed passage. Had Olympia Snow, Susan Collins, and Arlen Specter gone the other way, the Obama administration would have been virtually DOA.
But there are things we can do. They might not be smart, but they’re sure as hell right.
When the president calls for tax hikes, we should not play the old lap dog, me-too Republicans and put on our green eyeshades, trying to compromise on slightly smaller tax increases. We need to push for cuts, at least as deep as the ones President Bush pushed through during his first term.
It’s time to walk the walk on earmarks and hold the president’s feet to the fire on his campaign promises. Republicans, when in power, proved just as corrupt on this issue as the Democrats ever were, so we have some serious repenting to do. Now is the time to start — and you can help by lending support to Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and anyone else willing to pick up the ball and run with it.
Most importantly, we need to push for a sunset provision to all this so-called “stimulus spending.” Here’s a measure so simple and commonsensical, we should have no problem explaining and selling it to the American people. As political junkies, we know the stimulus was really Porkzilla, with most of the “emergency” spending of this monster back-loaded into 2011 or beyond. The Democrats can be cornered on this one — demand that any back-end spending provision expire as soon as the economy returns to positive growth. The American people want their economy to recover, but polls show they remain wary of Porkzilla. Give them an out and they might just force the Democrats to take it.
If not? Then at least we’ll have offered them “a choice, not an echo.”
Don’t expect to see any results in the polls any time soon, however. At CPAC in Washington last week, I got to spend a few minutes with PJTV’s Bill Whittle and novelist Andrew Klavan, picking the brains of Michael Barone. Barone reminded us that Americans are a “magnanimous people” who want “firsts to succeed.” As our first Catholic president, Jack Kennedy’s poll numbers rarely dipped below 70%, even after bad calls like the Bay of Pigs or scarily close calls like the Cuban Missile Crisis. “His numbers actually went up a bit,” Barone said. He thinks something similar might be true of Obama as our first African-American president. People will, quite simply, want him to be a success — even if they don’t necessarily agree with what it is he’s trying to accomplish.
So we’re stuck: the bad guys. But don’t simply accept it; revel in it. In the movies, after all, the bad guys are usually the people having the most fun. All we need to do is the baddest thing of all: change the rules.