During this election cycle, 'It's the spending, stupid!'
Monday, January 2, 2012
Beth Cody, Writers' Group member
Iowa City Press-Citizen

The Iowa Caucuses are upon us and it is time for Republicans to cast their votes for the presidential candidate they believe would make the best president for our nation – and one who has a shot at beating the incumbent.

But what qualities make a candidate the best? Voters must decide.

Many conservatives and independents believe that we are facing a crisis that must be addressed if we are to recover the economic vitality we once had as a nation. But it's not directly about the economy.

To paraphrase Bill Clinton's advisors: "It's the spending, stupid."

And the size and power of government too, of course. Without cutting government spending and economy-stifling laws and regulations, our nation will follow Europe into long-term malaise. Many voters realize this.

The GOP thinks it can run a war-mongering, big-spending, paternalistic-big-government cultural conservative (again). But such a candidate is sure to lose (again), because the GOP cannot win without attracting fiscally-conservative independent voters who understand that controlling spending is paramount.

Nor can the GOP simply pick a "safe" candidate with seemingly no convictions about anything and hope to win. Voters know that such politicians will lack the drive and fortitude to confront spending, which is exactly how we got into this mess. There are times when doing nothing is the least safe of all.

So how do the candidates compare on this most important issue: the willingness to resolutely oppose the spending and growth of Leviathan?

Mitt Romney is the current GOP favorite. His successful business background is a positive, but his support for Massachusetts' Romneycare would serve as a deserved millstone around his neck during the election. He clearly represents More of the Same, and many voters will stay home out of indifference.

Newt Gingrich: Although he was willing as Speaker of the House to endure a federal government shutdown over spending cuts, his long Washington career is steeped in crony capitalist deals, kickbacks and ethics violations. Many voters, especially independents, loathe him both politically and personally.

Rick Perry criticizes many aspects of big government and Texas has done well economically under his governorship. But although he did cut spending, he also raised some taxes and presided over an explosion in Texas debt. More of the Same, Texas/Bush-style.

Michele Bachmann's voting record mostly supports limited government, although her anti-immigrant and extreme social-conservative views alienate many independents.

Jon Huntsman is clearly a smart guy and Utah prospered due to his cuts in taxes and regulations, but the Cato Institute gave him an "F" for his spending policies.

And Rick Santorum is foremost a social conservative and neo-con pro-war candidate.

Obviously, among the candidates, Ron Paul is by far the most likely to do what must be done to downsize government and cut spending. It is why he is running for president and his record is unimpeachable.

And Ron Paul is not an isolationist; he merely heeds the Founding Fathers' warnings against foreign wars. He understands that our troops are best deployed here at home, protecting our own borders – not overextended at great cost to police the rest of the world.

Republicans used to champion this concept, and soldiers evidently still do – Ron Paul receives more donations from active military troops than all the other candidates combined. Are these donating soldiers merely cowards who want to cut and run, or do they perhaps understand that their current missions might not be in the best interests of our nation?

It is tempting to believe that any Republican would be better than our current president, who openly espouses European-style collectivism.

But "better" is just not good enough in times such as this, when our candidate will determine our future economic trajectory. This is a pivotal point in history when "playing it safe" will only make us less so.