This year we are ready to embrace conservatism, which is remarkable because it is the antithesis of what most Americans believe. It would be funny, as in Jack Kemp’s 1980’s book “An American Renaissance – A Strategy for the 1980’s.” Because, to a large part, Speaker of the House Thomas O’Neil kept the Reagan agenda on the table to ensure that the most conservative ideas of Ronald Reagan never made it through Congress. The Republicans endear Ronald Reagan, but, aside from the Berlin Wall and the breaking up of the Soviet Union, he had a lackluster effect on politics.
But, let us give Reagan his due, he did foster the idea of a renaissance which has lasted to the current day. Conservatives endear his memory. He did his job, even if it was mostly felt in modern times. Conservatives like Kemp wrote of changes that should take place in the Congress. One of them, Kemp’s that is, was in dealing with cars. Kemp abhored the making of smaller cars with better gas mileage. At one point he wrote, and I quote, “Of all the sins committed in the name of conserving energy, none is quite so annoying and counter-productive as the government’s heavy-handed plans to cram the American people into tiny cars. Our cars are being designed in Washington to accomplish a variety of inconsistent objectives at the highest possible cost and inconvenience to the American consumer.” Obviously, Jack Kemp as late as the 1980’s refused to see global warming. We knew about global warming, but here was a conservative condemning the effort to use less fuel.
Jack Kemp is notable in that he was one of the most conservative Members of Congress in his day.
“The war against the American automobile must be motivated by more than saving fuel. My brother-in-law, Paul Tsongas, used to say that there were no more dinosaurs to turn into oil. Eventually, we will lose this race, because it is based on an unreal premise, that being that oil is not a limited resource. It is a limited resource.
Farmers during this election season want ethanol in the gas. The problem is that ethanol cannot be used in certain containers. I believe that motors on boats cannot take ethanol due to the fact that so much of their composites are plastic. Many yard motors are the same way.
I personally find it strange that the foremost Conservative of his day found fault with smaller cars. The only explanation I can think of is that Kemp was protecting American made automobiles that were larger than the smaller foreign made cars.
Kemp wrote that “Our cars are being designed in Washington, D.C.” “Once our government realizes that we are all in this together, it will find that its most pressing task is to remove many of its own obstacles to the common goods of quality and growth.” (ibid.) We did not often hear from Conservatives of the day that we are all in this together. That was foreign to the discussion, but shows a willingness to reach across the aisle that does not currently exist.
It is not just the Republicans or Conservatives who refuse to reach across the aisle nowadays. During the discussion on “Obamacare,” no Americans who were on the Republican side of the aisle voted for the measure, despite the fact that the administration accepted over seven hundred amendments from the Republicans. It was carried over by the Democrats who had the majority of the House and Senate in that day.
I call that Congress the “Suicide Congress.” There was a great deal of impaling oneself on the political sword of liberalism. The public was not quite ready for a three thousand page document detailing the health care act. People who would have made good Congresswomen or Congressmen were impaled on Obama’s sword. It seemed to be a requirement for being in that Congress. If Obama had waited until after the mid-term elections, I personally feel that some of those people might have been re-elected. Instead they were gone because of their vote for the Executive-led law. To me that was a great travesty. So many liberal Democrats lost in those mid-term elections.
I remember my Sister-in-Law, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas going to Chelmsford to try to enlighten the Chelmsfordians as to the need for a comprehensive health care act. I have never heard people so vicious towards a Member of Congress. I worried about her health. One year later, while campaigning for her in Chelmsford outside of a grocery store, I ran into a woman who crowed that she was proud of that day. I told her she should be embarassed by the actions of her fellow townspeople. She stormed off. I felt better but it was fleeting. Too little discussion on the effect of pushing through that bill, too little care for the Members of Congress who sacrificed themselves to get the bill passed.
I am going to quote from Paul, not Niki, Tsongas’ words as set in his campaign pamphlet “A Call to Economic Arms,” which was written for the 1992 Presidential campaign. Paul thought there should be a synergy between opposite sides of the pole, to the point that he felt that “American companies need the United States government as a full partner if they are to have any hope of competing internationally.” (A Call for Economic Arms). Paul believed in business, something most liberals of his era felt was incompatible with the goals of the Democratic Party. At that time, his call for the government in the business environment was heresy. But he was on television because of it. When we visited him at his home in Lowell, or his vacation home in Chatham, the chances were fairly good that there would be a satellite Channel 4, 5, or 7 truck in his driveway. He made the news. By that I mean he was the person who literally used his imagination to make the news.
He argued, in 1992 that “To argue the case for sustaining a company with a viable future product line was difficult because some (Republicans) felt it was government intervention. And it was.” (ibid) Democrats and Republicans have to work together to make a better economy. In his book, “The Road from Here,” Paul Tsongas states an obvious truth that we all seem to have lost. I would like to believe that Paul would have had pointed questions for the Clinton administration’s NAFTA proposal. He stated, and I quote, “We must not be reduced to the status of a glorified banana republic diminishing its raw materials while importing man-made goods.” (Page 131)
But, and this is the part that makes us so impatient now, we do have that status. We are a major exporter of oil. Oil prices do not currently reflect the value of the limited resource. We are ruining our environment to make way for small purchases of our natural resources and driving up our purchases of foreign-made goods. China is busily building a Navy, at least partially, in my opinion, to get ready to take back the seventeen or so trillion dollars that they are owed by the U.S. It might be that they used American made items to build a better military force. Certainly, when they took down the AWACs plane to plunder it and build their own similar plane, we (it was a Republican President at the time), should have bombed the plane before they could dismantle it. We did not do that and I think that our reluctance was due to the fact that it would have been seen as an act of war. But so was the downing of the AWACs plane and something retaliatory should have been done. Nothing was. They took their time stealing our hardware and software from that airplane.
Our problem is that we are too willing to attack ourselves, to make us the economic target. Democrats cannot fathom Republicans and Republicans cannot make Democrats fit into their mold. The fact is that Obama did pretty well for a guy who inherited a runaway economy in peacetime. Well, it was not really peacetime, but it was not a time of war either. He used Keynesian Economics to right the ship of the economy. He spent past the point that he probably should have in order to make the economy bounce back. And, it did. Keynes said, in his book, “How to Pay for the War,” In the book, Keynes states that, “…rights to immediate consumption during the war can be allotted with a closer regard to relative sacrifice than under any other plan. It also means that rights to deferred consumption after the war, which is another name for the National Debt, will be widely distributed amongst all those who are foregoing immediate consumption, instead of being mainly concentrated, as they were the last time (WWI), in the hands of the capitalist class.” (Page 11; ibid.) He is saying that the people have to buy into a national debt, like they buy into credit cards, and they must pay the debt off. The Obama administration is drawing Republican ire because they do not seem to be ready to pay the piper. But the Republicans have not admitted to their constituents that taxes will have to be increased in order to do just that. Nothing comes at no cost. Taxes must pay for the trillions of dollars in debt in which we find ourselves.
This election is about paying the piper. Too many of us, of both parties, seem to think that we do not have to buy American, that we do not have to pay our multi-trillion national debt, or that we do not have to pay for what we buy. The American dollar, for some reason, is still the strongest money you can own. But, that does not mean that we do not have to watch out for Chinese competition. We must if we are going to be true to all of our standards of fair play, paying a living wage for work that is done, and living comfortably in our political morass. We are most comfortable in debt, but let’s remember what Paul Tsongas wrote about in “A Call to Economic Arms,” and that is that we must not pass on trillions of dollars of debt to our chidren, saddling them because we did not want to take the saddle ourselves. We have recovered some of our economy, let us take the time to follow the rest of Keynes’ advice that we pay for our extravagances when things finally become better. There is one thing that Republicans and Democrats agree on, and that is that no one really wants to pull their belts tighter and pay for the excesses of our own generation. Let us try it, it will probably be easier than it seems.
Jack Kemp and Paul Tsongas are just memories. The real task of righting this ship-of-state is in the fine print. Loans have to be repaid. Countries have to continue to grow. The United States of America is not in the position of underwriting every problem incurred by every nation-state. Some of our allies, and most of our enemies should be challenged to fix their own problems. Current office-holders have to be defined by their approach to debt. A friend once told me that we have a two-party system, the Incumbents and Non-Incumbents. Once a person becomes an incumbent, most of his/her time is spent worrying about how to get re-elected, not having the courage to vote for what is right. That has to change. We must make it change. We are going to be the best generation possible by having the courage to follow our convictions. If that is the Democratic ideal, so be it. If that is the Republican way, it may be the right way, it may not. It is time for us to step forward and fight for what is right. But, first we have to define it. That is the next stop on our journey.