Subtle Differences

John J. Walters Dec 21, 2010

I was musing the other day on what the actual-factual differences are between modern-day democrats and republicans and I came up with only two major items where I think the two groups diverge.  I admit that there are many, many more subtleties than this, but I think you can really distill their essential tenants down to these two things.

1)  What they do when they identify a problem.  The major difference between democrats and republicans is not whether they favor a big government or a small government.  I know a lot of left-wingers who want a smaller government -- they just don’t see this as a possibility.  Why?  Because democrats look to the government to solve problems while republicans look to individuals and private organizations to solve problems.

Take healthcare for example.  We recognize that our healthcare system has some very tragic shortcomings.  Namely, there are people who can’t afford to get the kind of medical care that they need.  In response, democrats pushed for ObamaCare, which put a lot more people in the care of the government; republicans looked for ways to make private insurance more available at a reasonable price.  This had nothing to do with big or small government -- both options are merely solutions to the problem that the people have identified.

2)  When they spend money.  The classic argument between democrats and republicans is over how much money the government should spend.  Republicans call themselves “conservatives” and act as if their party spends less money.  Democrats call themselves “liberals” and ruthlessly defend their party’s spending record by pointing out the various social needs of mankind.

The sad reality today is that both parties spend too much money -- just look at the comparative spending records of Ehrlich and O’Malley.  If a politician has money to spend he will find a reason to spend it.  Period.  There isn’t any such thing as that “lock-box” that Al Gore was talking about.  The question is not, “will the government spend money?”  The question is, “when will the government spend money?”

Bush and Obama provide an excellent example of this.  Bush entered office with money to spend and he spent it.  Obama was not so lucky, but because he is a liberal he decided this meant that it was his job not just to spend money but to spend even more money to stimulate the economy.  So there you have it.  Republicans spend if they got it.  Democrats spend even if they don’t.

I realize that I’m generalizing here, and that all generalizations are false (including that one).  So I invite any and all feedback on this one.  Tell me if you think I’m off-base or right on target here.  Our primary focus with this blog is to get people thinking about the problems our state faces, not just to push one particular agenda.  Clearly, we have our biases (just like everyone out there), but to remain wedded to one ideology is to fall behind the times.