TOC used to critique conservatives for the apparent worship of President Reagan until just recently. Ronald Reagan was the dream of conservatives – one who truly believed in the power of the private sector while having the charisma to draw people to the concept. This characteristic seems to be in short supply for recent GOP leadership. Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee for President, has seemed defensive when talking about his wealth and success. As TOC has said before (see Regretfully Rich), the fact that Romney is rich should be compelling – not repugnant. We have someone in Romney that has turned failing companies into juggernauts. That is far more fascinating than someone who can slow-jam the news. Fortunately with his VP choice of Paul Ryan, Romney seems fully dedicated to addressing the need to embrace conservatism in the general election rather than shy away from it. Ryan has a history of being tirelessly dedicated to fiscal conservatism and limited government.
Like Reagan 32 years ago, Ryan and Romney must now explain how limiting government and cutting taxes is not just “helping the rich,” but putting money in the private sector so that the private sector can produce value. Government has never created anything on its own other than services the Constitution mandates.
To a passive citizen, such may be counterintuitive. For some, the poor should be helped by the largest entity in our society (government). For some, Barack Obama needs to take from the “evil” rich people to fund government. For some, we need to take better care of the environment, so it makes sense to allow the government to force citizens to buy clean-burning ethanol. Clearly, we need to put more money into our education system when we have schools that do not graduate half of their students. Last but not least, when we are running budget deficits consistently over $1T, the rich should pay their “fair share,” and it is certainly not fair that the ultra-rich pay lower tax rates than the “working man.”
Ryan and Romney must explain the error in this logic. Yes, you can give to the poor, but you risk creating a cradle-to-grave welfare system that destroys incentive for people to unlock their potential and contribute to (not take from) society. Yes, you can take from the “evil” rich and give to government, but that means you are taking money from some that have a proven track record of creating value from resources and giving those resources to a less-productive government. We hear all the time that we need to raise taxes to build roads and bridges and fix schools. Why is it that “bridges are falling apart” and we are falling behind the world in education while spending has been increasing every since 1965? What has all this money been spent on? Who knows, but TOC does know that government is failing to deliver the things we all agree it needs to deliver, but not because of a lack of spending. Nobody wants a dirty environment, but forcing people to buy ethanol leads to overconsumption that increases corn prices and hurts the poor but does nothing to improve the environment overall. Perhaps we need to consider a voucher system so we can have competition in order to force schools systems to improve themselves. Consider Detroit Public Schools (DPS) as an example of why pouring money into a system alone does not work since you do not compel the administrators to make improvements. At DPS, kids and teachers have suffered as administrators robbed and plundered. If a poor, inner-city mother does not like the toy she buys from Wal-Mart, she can take it back, but if her child is not getting educated, what recourse does she have? All of this is in light of Democrats demanding the rich pay their fair share. Turning back to “Regretfully Rich”, the argument that “rich man pays lower tax rate than not-rich man” does not take into account that a) the capital gains tax is assessed on money you invest after you have already paid income taxes –for example, if you earn $100,000 on a $1M dollar investment, you may already have given the government another $1M in income taxes to earn the $1M to invest – and b) when you increase the capital gains tax, the rich will not just continue to behave the same. They will decrease certain activities, leading to less investment in businesses while the additional money seized by government will be spent on who-knows-what (for doubters, please walk me through a business case for the $840B investment known as the stimulus – the next time TOC sees that business case will be the first time).
We as black conservatives face a similar challenge as Romney and Ryan – leading other blacks to the virtues of conservatism. Democrats approach blacks with a simplistic argument that the government is here to help you and you need help (with the implicit message that blacks are not capable of across-the-board success given the right resources). As evidence, it took President Obama almost four years to create some bureaucracy, via executive order, to “help” black students. On the other hand, it took Obama just a few months in office to expand entitlements, such as lengthening unemployment to 99 weeks.
The biggest, but most immediate hurdle we have is explaining to blacks that conservatism is not “racist” as the Democrats have pushed for generations. The argument that smaller government is racist because shrinking government will disenfranchise blacks is a racist statement itself. Again, there is an implicit message that blacks inherently need government to survive – this is offensive and unacceptable. The conservative message of giving our children school choice so they can receive an education, kick the need of government assistance, invest in themselves and – eventually – thrive in a small-government environment (not suffer from it) is a central part of the black conservative’s vision.
TOC hopes more of us continue to accept this challenge.