Deliver Us

by digby

Assuming that any future Democratic president will be unfairly pounded by the Republicans for all the things the Bush administration did for eight years, it seems to me that there should be an opening for sincere (if there are any) small government conservatives to vote for the Democrats.

Check this out:

Under Clinton from 1992 to 2000, according to Princeton political scientist David Lewis, political appointees in the federal government dropped by nearly 17 percent – from 3,423 to 2,845. From 2000 to 2004, that figure climbed back up 12.5 percent to 3,202. Similarly, political scientist Paul Light found that after holding steady during most of the Clinton administration, the number of senior title holders increased by 9 percent, to 2,592, between 1998 and 2004 -- the vast majority of which occurred under Bush. Light also found that 14 departments added new executive titles between 1998 and 2004. The Department of Veterans Affairs topped the list with six additional titles, followed by Defense, Education, Energy, and Justice with four, and Labor with three. Light wrote, “The fastest spreading titles continue to be ‘alter-ego’ deputies, including chiefs of staff to secretaries, deputy secretaries, under secretaries, deputy under secretaries, assistant secretaries, deputy assistant secretaries, associate deputy assistant secretaries, associate assistant secretaries, administrators, deputy administrators, associate administrators and assistant administrators.”

The Democrats will never be allowed to do this. It's impossible to even dream that they could create a massive new patronage machine and bureaucracy like the Department of Homeland Security with a Democratic majority or expand the government the way the Bush administration has. In fact, if the Dems win in 08, they will come almost immediately under pressure to shrink the government. It's like an inverted sort of Nixon China thing. The Democrats will be forced to do the Republicans' unpleasant work for them.

The broadcast and cable media, by the way, will help the Republicans do this by failing to ever properly put into perspective the fact that all the things the Republicans will be accusing the Democrats of, they did themselves. They are already failing to inform their audience, even though the print media have put it out there:

To President Bush, they are "pork-barrel projects completely unrelated to the war," items in the House and Senate war-spending bills such as peanut storage facilities and aid to spinach farmers that insult the seriousness of the conflict and exist only to buy votes.

But such spending has been part of Iraq funding bills since the war began, sometimes inserted by the president himself, sometimes added by lawmakers with bipartisan aplomb. A few of the items may have weighed on the votes for spending bills that have now topped half a trillion dollars, but, in almost all cases over the past four years, special-interest funding provisions have been the fruits of congressional opportunism by well-placed senators or House members grabbing what they could for their constituents on the one bill that had to be passed quickly.


The 2005 emergency war-spending bill included $70 million for aid to Ukraine and other former Soviet states; $12.3 million for the Architect of the Capitol, in part to build an off-site delivery facility for the Capitol police; $24 million for the Forest Service to repair flood and landslide damage; and $104 million for watershed protection -- the lion's share meant for repairing the damage to waterways in Washington County, Utah, at the request of the state's Republican senators.

The fight this year over $120 million for shrimp and menhaden fisheries in the Gulf, $74 million for peanut storage facilities in Georgia, and $25 million for California spinach farmers devastated by an E. coli scare is louder than past disputes but is substantively not much different, budget analysts said. Virtually all of the $3.4 billion in agriculture spending in the House bill had been worked out by farm-state lawmakers long before Democratic leaders settled on the Iraq troop-pullout language at the center of the White House's showdown with Congress, Lilly said.

I have no doubt that the tax and spend mantra will continue to be used by shameless, hypocritical Republicans to keep Democrats from funding the government they way it needs to be funded. I don't think it has the salience it once had, for obvious reasons, but it's still a good line that everybody in the country is comfortable nodding their heads and agreeing with over the kitchen table. After all, the GOP treated Bill Clinton like he was Lyndon Johnson when he was actually more like Nelson Rockefeller (which maybe was worse, in their minds...)And they will do it without any sense of irony or self-awareness and the majority of the media will never confront them on it. Indeed, when Democrats bring up Republican corruption and pork barrel politics under Bush they will be greeted with eye-rolling and head shaking from the punditocrisy for "living in the past" and "failing to solve the problems real Americans care about." It's a very predictable process.

So, my feeling is that the Dems should make a virtue of this somehow. Since they will simply not be allowed to get away with anything close to what Bush has done, both because of existing stereotypes and the massive mess the Republicans have made, they should at least make a case for being effective and efficient with the taxpayers money. (The PR on this supplemental "pork" thing doesn't give me a good feeling...) After Clinton and Gore's successful streamlining effort, watching this Bush trainwreck these last few years might convince a few of the last non-ideological, fiscal conservatives out there that Democrats are always the better choice to run the government. You wouldn't think you'd even have to make the argument --- a high school student council could have done a better job than Bush and boys --- but it's hard to break habits in politics. Dems have to put the nation's economic house in order and do necessary things like universal health care and deal with global warming and they are going to have to think of some way to do that while the Republicans and the lazy portions of the press corps ding them mercilessly from the sidelines about "pork" and "special interests" and "tax and spend" in a way they never did during the dark GOP majority years. Personally, I would like to see a case made for government that delivers. I'll be very interested to see how the presidential candidates approach this.