The definition of a conservative philosophy used to be limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, most services to be provided by the private sector in a free market, individual financial responsibility for retirement and health care, sound fiscal policy, free trade and low taxes. Most of the core beliefs, but clearly not all, still exist.
Limited regulation of business and investing: While Democrats seem to desire endless rules for nearly everything, excess deregulation by Republicans has been disastrous at times. There have been multiple examples: four decades ago, several big banks took too many investment risks and had to be bailed out by our government in 1980. Some conservatives proclaimed, “Let them fail,” but wiser heads prevailed, preventing a likely national depression. The loans were repaid with interest.
In favor of a strong national defense: still applies.
Services to be provided by the private sector in a free market: A private contractor can usually do a job cheaper than a governmental agency; one major factor has to be government employees typically get decent retirement and medical benefits, advantages becoming increasingly rare for private-sector workers who are more likely to need public assistance when they age. There are occasions where governments can do a project cheaper. The city of San Francisco built the incredible Hetch Hetchy Dam project using mostly city construction crews. Ted Wurm’s book, “Hetch Hetchy Railroad,” details two instances when city crews outdid private contractors. There are almost surely other instances where governmental agencies perform better than private contractors.
Individual financial responsibility for retirement and health care: Many conservatives believe almost everyone who is not financially stable have only themselves to blame. Simple answers to sometimes complicated situations are … sometimes too simple. Many centuries ago, back in biblical times, Jesus reportedly said, “You will always have the poor with you.” However, Jesus helped the impoverished. Throughout the ages our world has had rich people as well as the deprived, who were mostly very poor. Some people are too lazy, or “laid back” to make much effort to better themselves; many others work hard but are in a perpetual struggle just to survive financially. They do not have enough income to save for retirement and pay for health care, too. A guide to determining political beliefs follows: conservatives may well say, “So what? It’s their fault; let them solve their own problems.” Liberals are often willing to help.
Sound fiscal policy: When the “tax-and-spend” Democrats ran big national deficits, Republicans unvaryingly declared the disastrous end of our country was imminent. When Republicans run (almost surely) even bigger deficits, all is quiet on the right. Plus, if President Trump is able to deliver his promised tax cut in 2020 (an election year … imagine that coincidence!) for our middle class, our deficit will increase dramatically, but conservatives will probably vote ”yes” to support their leader. Isn’t abandoning core beliefs hypocrisy? (No political party is free of hypocrisy.) A sound fiscal policy should generate enough income to balance the budget except in desperate financial times, which we have not had for many years. To “give the devil his due,” employment has increased by a reported 1 million persons and the stock market is at a record high.
Free trade and low taxes: Free trade has rarely if ever occurred not only in the U.S. but worldwide. Countries routinely protect industries seen as critical. Protection can come in the form of tariffs on foreign products or subsidies for certain industries. Both methods usually have the same effect on consumers: higher prices, but tariffs invite retaliation by other countries while subsidies are easy to overlook. Low taxes are the never-ending dream of conservatives. Their goal is to lower taxes by drastically reducing benefits for the less-prosperous segments of society who, in their opinion, are already receiving more than they deserve. On the opposite side of the fence, liberals want to increase benefits for the poor and are willing to pay more in taxes but plan to get most of the money from the wealthy who, they believe, have much more than they need.
Where, oh where have the conservatives gone? Gone to the mystical – and chaotic – Trump Land where long-time conservative beliefs are discarded and portions of author George Orwell’s book “1984” seem prophetic … and a bit scary. The book’s setting is the tyrannical land of Oceania, where the Thought Police persecute individuality and independent thinking. Our country has not even closely approached that level of despotic rule, but President Trump has said the “lying fake news” outlets should be investigated. For what? Our First Amendment covers free speech. Worse is his accusation that the “Deep State” secretive governmental agencies are intent on destroying him. No evidence has ever been provided, but conspiracy addicts have never required proof.
Ted Shannon is a Mokelumne resident and retired California Highway Patrol officer. Contact him at email@example.com.