As I See It

Over the last twenty years, the Republican Party has reversed the positions it has held since the turn of the last century on two major issues ” fiscal responsibility and international policy.

Ever since I can remember (and that goes back to the early 1930s), the Republicans, who preached fiscal responsibility, decried the deficit spending of the Democrats ” the so-called “tax and spend” budgets which increased the national debt because tax revenues failed to keep up with expenditures.

It was not until 1981, after deficit spending during the Great Depression, World War I and the Vietnam War, that the national debt exceeded $1 trillion. Then, under the fiscal policies of President Reagan and the first President Bush, the national debt doubled and then doubled again in just twelve years. During President Clinton’s second term it looked like the national debt might peak at a little over $5.5 trillion.

Now the second President Bush has come on the scene, and the combination of his tax breaks for the wealthy and the cost of paying for his Iraq fiasco have added another trillion dollars to the national debt and, if unchecked, could raise the debt to more than $8 trillion. If the policies of the Reagan and Bush years are examples of fiscal responsibility, we need someone with an entirely different viewpoint. The current “Republican fiscal responsibility” is a real oxymoron.

The Republican Party has also reversed itself on international policy. For most of the 20th century, Republican policy was strongly noninterventionist, to the point of being isolationist. Republicans loved to make the claim that it was Democratic presidents who had gotten us into all the wars of the 20th century ” Wilson and World War I, Roosevelt and World War II, Truman and Korea, and Kennedy/Johnson and Vietnam. President Clinton was roundly condemned by Republicans for his intervention and policy of nation-building in Haiti and Bosnia. And now who’s leading the policy of intervention and “nation-building” in Iraq? (What has happened might better be described as “nation-demolition.”)

Republican president Eisenhower issued a warning to the country to be wary of the threat posed by the military-industrial complex. Under Republican presidents Reagan and the current Bush, the country is becoming ensnared in the coils of the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about.

Republican presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon were supporters of the environment, Roosevelt in expanding national parks and forests, and Nixon in establishing the Environmental Protection Agency. Now Republican President Bush is working behind the scenes to undermine both.

There is however one area in which the Republican Party has been steadfast in its policies, and that is promoting the interests of business and the wealthy (both of which contribute heavily to the party) ahead of those of the American people. President Calvin Coolidge made no bones about it when he said, “The business of America is Business.” The one exception was Theodore Roosevelt, who embarked on a crusade against rough-shod business corruption, which had become so widespread and vicious that it threatened the future of our political system. But now we have President George W. Bush, who by stealth and edict is gutting the laws and regulations which have favored what the people support, but which industry finds to be an obstacle to its absolute control. More on this in a future column.

Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.

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