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What’s a “conservative”?

This isn’t a rant, a polemic, a diatribe. It’s a question.
I had breakfast yesterday with a highly-regarded executive at a top-shelf TPA, and during the course of our conversation we got to talking about the Republican convention.
From there the talk turned to the current GOP platform of small government and government-controlled social engineering and then to a discussion of how the party has evolved from small government, low taxes, controlled entitlements and social libertarianism to where it is today – using entitlement expansion to schmooze specific constituencies (Part D, pharma, and senior citizens), using social issues to motivate groups (abortion, immigration), and what can only be described as fiscal irresponsibility (current antagonism towards any increase in taxes despite huge deficits).
As a self-described Democrat, I long for the “olden days” of the GOP, the party of adults who trusted individuals to make their own decisions about their lives, relationships, religion, sexual choices, procreation. The GOP of the sixties railed against Medicare as an intrusion into the private health insurance/care industry, a principled stand (OK, with a bit of pandering to the AMA, but pandering consistent with their ethos of the time) that stands in sharp contrast to the GOP passage and promotion of Part D.
Part D is moment the GOP went completely off the rails. A sop to seniors passed by Republican Congress and signed by a Republican president, Part D has added $16 trillion to the ultimate deficit.
The party of Goldwater would no more have passed Part D than substituted la Internationale for the Star Spangled Banner. It would have been unthinkable.
Now that same party condemns the opposition for its own expansion of health coverage, citing a (highly inaccurate) projection that Obamacare would add a trillion dollars to the deficit (a projection that is directly contradicted by CBO figures).
Sure, that’s politics, and this is convention time, and it’s all about winning the election.
But at what cost? The GOP has strayed so far from their fiscally-responsible roots as to be more like the Democrats than the Democrats are these days.
What does this mean for you?
When thoughtful, educated, influential executives like my breakfast companion are gravely concerned about the party that used to be their’s, one wonders where the GOP will be in the future.

6 thoughts on “What’s a “conservative”?”

  1. Joe,
    With all due respect, nothing will be more costly to the American taxpayer than Obamacare. Part D is chump change in comparison. All of the mandated coverage is simply going to increase costs. Then to cap insurers profits with the MLR rules? That’s simply un-American. What happened to the free market?
    We are in the longest stretch of high unemployment since the depression. Go ahead, blame Bush. Obama has been in office for 4 years. When will you hold him accountable?

  2. The fate of the GOP that represented a credible and challenging alternative to the Democratic Party before the 1990’s will be similar to that of the Communist Party of the USSR!

  3. Well put. Today’s campaign is each party screaming “my fantasy is better than your fantasy!” None of the discussion is fact based on either side. Ryan, the supposed wonk, buys into the same anti-gravity machine hokum (no tax increases) as the rest. No one is making sense and no one is acting like an adult speaking to adults. DeTocqueville said that democracy will founder when the people realize that they can vote themselves money and benefits. He was one smart Frenchman.

  4. As a Democrat myself, and a MA in American History, the question really is, does what the GOP stand for today really reflect reality, or some sort of counter-revolutionary fantasy of what the nation should have been like, post-1776.
    Norquist’s comment about taking the country back to beforre the “Socialists took over”, refers to the reforms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially by that dirty, rotton “socialist”, Theodore Roosevelt, who passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, wanted to pass health care, and broke up the trusts.
    They are self-styled libertarians and historians who have excised the truth about our mixed economy. Every road, bridge, highway, canal ever built since the beginning of the federal republic under the Constitution was either built with government money or by government in some manner, as was the case with the Eire Canal.
    The building of the nation’s railroads and telegraph lines required government assistance with either money for land acquisition, or the US Calvary to protect it from Native American attacks.
    The question should be asked, “Did you (business) really build all those things? The answer is No, they did not, they had help, from the government, but this is an inconvenient truth that economic libertarians (conservatives – radical, in fact) choose to ignore or flat out lie about.
    Even the site of their convention was built by government, so no, they did not build it.

  5. Yet all of these elected representatives claim that what they do is based on the Constitution. I wonder if the founding fathers could see this now how they would react. I suggest a big dope slap.

  6. Hair – thanks for the comment.
    I’d merely note any credible forecast of cost indicates Part D is going to be much more expensive than Obamacare. While some may think that ACA will lead to higher costs, the research and analysis doesn’t support those opinions.
    If you have any studies that support that perspective, please send them on; would like to see them.
    cheers – Joe

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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