January 25, 2008 - 8:19pm ET
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Dave Roberts of Grist takes a look at Newt Gingrich's innovative new environmental proposals which, unsurprisingly, looks like another fantastic opportunity for rich people to bleed the taxpayers:
[W]hat Gingrich recommends is, in Sean's phrasing, pro-business, not pro-market. He wants to ladle out public money to favored corporations while shielding them from any regulations....This is what passes for conservative in today's party of economic royalists, but it is not conservative in the original sense.
It leaves Gingrich with very little to offer beyond media-friendly rhetoric. Look at the answer he offers Sierra Magazine (in a roundtable well worth reading) on what the next president and Congress should do first:
Americans are concerned about global climate change, but they want legislation that does not expand the size and severity of federal control of business enterprise. American businesses want to be part of the solution, and they have good ideas that are being implemented. Our business community is already ahead of the American government, so government must become a facilitator of innovation. The federal government could enact creative legislation that keeps businesses on task as we work to develop clean and sustainable alternatives to petroleum. Americans will elect candidates who support real changes in energy policy and market-based innovations that will lead the world to import clean American technology.
Rhetorical fluff aside, it seems that "facilitator of innovation" is the key concept here, and in Gingrich's mind, that translates to "dispensers of subsidies and tax breaks."
That would be in keeping with everything we saw the conservatives do for the last few years. From "faith-based" programs to Blackwater and everything in between, conservative businesses collected a very nice tithe from the American taxpayer for the past few years.
It's a testament to the pragmatism and creativity of the right that when they find themselves on the losing side of an issue they always find a way to use it anyway to deregulate business and funnel tax dollars to their contributors — and keep up the fiction that they believe in small government. Clearly, Gingrich sees the new Green Conservatism as another opportunity to use tax dollars to benefit their wealthy contributors without the inconvenience of regulations and oversight. (Plus, he's always thought of himself as something of a "futurist," so this issue this is tailor made for him.)
The truth is that "small government" was always hype. After all, the modern conservative movement was built on the idea of the need to build and maintain a large and very expensive police and military state to combat the commie boogeyman. The GWOT has brought that back with a vengeance.
Here's the small government philosopher king Gingrich in 2005:
We ought to say to [state university] campuses, it’s over…We should say to state legislatures, why are you making us pay for this? Boards of regents are artificial constructs of state law. Tenure is an artificial social construct. Tenure did not exist before the twentieth century, and we had free speech before then. You could introduce a bill that says, proof that you’re anti-American is grounds for dismissal.
Big government, conservative style. The amount of money being spent on Homeland Security and skimmed through war profiteering alone is enough to make a Roman Emperor jealous. Indeed, they've appropriated so much money they can't figure out how to spend it. It was reported not long ago that even small Alaskan fishing villages were being absurdly outfitted with surveillance tools intended for anti-terrorist activity:
So eyebrows were raised in January when the first surveillance cameras went up on Main Street. Each camera is a shiny white metallic box with two lenses like eyes. The camera's shape and design resemble a robot's head.
Workers on motorized lifts installed seven cameras in a 360-degree cluster on top of City Hall. They put up groups of six atop two light poles at the loading dock, and more at the fire hall and boat harbor.
By mid-February, more than 60 cameras watched over the town, and the Dillingham Police Department plans to install 20 more — all purchased through a $202,000 Homeland Security grant meant primarily to defend against a terrorist attack.
True, this was undoubtedly part of the Alaska congressional delegation's amazing ability to lard on the pork, but it illustrates the fact that there has been a huge amount of money specifically designated for very intrusive police agencies, and much of it is not being adequately monitored. If little Dillingham, Alaska, has 60 surveillance cameras, it's hard to imagine what kind of surveillance the Big Brother conservatives approved for the big police agencies in major cities.
This is a big, modern country with a large government sector and it always will be. The difference between the two competing American political philosophies is how government should be run and for what purpose. Modern conservatives believe in using government as a patronage machine to expand police and military power while dispensing tax money to (and protecting the interests of) big business and the wealthy. Modern progressives believe in using openness and transparency to protect civil rights and civil liberties, expand security and provide necessary services the markets can't adequately provide to average citizens.
So since it's clear that both conservatives and progressives agree on the fundamental question of the size of government, the only real question for citizens today is what they want their big government to do.
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