Monday, January 14, 2008

Why I'm Not A Liberal--Part One

I was a liberal once...kind of...sort of. The problem I've always had is that liberals strike me as pansies. Always have. Even when I was an agnostic, I just never really got it.

Once I started reading folks like P.J. O'Rourke (especially Parliament of Whores...a classic that even libs like Jon Stewart recommend), I was convinced that the last thing in the world I wanted to be was a tree hugging, granola crunching man who cries and wants to give commies and terrorists a hug.

But then I went to seminary and had profs who were liberals. I read a lot of people like Richard Hays (who is a pacifist that opposes the death penalty) and spent a lot of time wrestling with Richard Foster's book "The Freedom of Simplicity" and Ronald Sider's book "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger." I subscribed to Sojourners, drank fair trade coffee, perused the NY Times online and, in law school, even worked for the anti-death penalty Cornell Capital Trial Clinic.

Thankfully, the 2004 Presidential election jarred me back into reality. With the candidates in my face (and spending a lot of time just down the street from town house in Charleston, West Virginia where I lived at the time) I spent a lot of time looking back over my years in politics (1992-1997 including 2 Congressional campaigns, a slew of public policy seminars & campaign schools, a series of interviews on NPR and a 2 year stint on Capital Hill) and read and re-read a lot of stuff on history, foreign policy and economics. I came to the following conclusion--my gut instinct was correct...liberals are pansies.

They also just don't get it or they are world class liars and front men for various special interest groups.

For example, Jim Wallis and others will tell you that when Congress "cuts" funding for social spending that they are hurting the poor. Yet, I spent enough time pouring over departmental budgets as a Congressional aide to know that's just not true.

No conservative that I ever met wanted to hurt the poor just to cut the size of the enormous bureaucracies that claim to help the poor! A shockingly large portion of federal funds are sucked dry by governmental institutions rather than going directly to the impoverished themselves.

Certain special interests have a lot riding on federal budgets increasing the number of federal employees and the wages of current employees. The Democratic party protects these budgets because these special interests protect them come election time. Thus, when Democratic senators and congressman increase spending to "help the poor" they usually only help the special interests who fill these Democratic policymakers campaign coffers.

Former Congressman Jack Kemp (above), by no means a hard core, old school Nixon conservative, told me that many of his inner-city African American colleagues would tell him on the floor of the U.S. House that they would love to vote with him on proposals such as private home ownership instead of more crime ridden government apartment buildings and school voucher programs instead of increased funding for schools without any incentive system but if they did then the inner-city unions would defeat them in the Democratic primary.

Many of my fellow Christians are reading books like Jim Wallis' "God's Politics" (which is nothing but an expansion of his earlier book "The Soul of Politics"), which argues vehemently that Christians need to advocate public policies that help the poor. I whole heartedly agree but simply spending more won't do the trick, which is reason #1 of many that I'm still a conservative.