Senate Republicans Raise the Banner of Freedom

Conservatives have long been frustrated at Republican politicians’ seeming inability to strike back against the Democrats’ slurs by making the moral case for freedom. So it is great to see that the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee are preparing to do just that.

Ranking member Jeff Sessions, who in recent years has emerged as one of the soundest and most important conservatives in Washington, has written a memo to the other Republicans on the committee laying out a strategy in the wake of the Democrats’ announcement that finally, after four years, they will grudgingly allow the Senate to adopt a budget. Sessions’ memo is reproduced in its entirety below–please do read it all–but I want to highlight these paragraphs, which should be music to the ears of conservatives everywhere:

This week Chairman Murray is holding a hearing entitled “The Impact of Federal Budget Decisions on Families and Communities,” in which we expect her to portray the fiscal debate in stark moral terms. She will describe Republicans as the enemy of the working class and the protectors of the rich. We can expect this to be Democrats’ theme throughout the budget season. It is the narrative around which President Obama has framed virtually every fiscal debate and his own reelection campaign. He will no doubt repeat this fiction during his State of the Union address. …

Too often, Republicans have responded to this attack upon our morality by either ignoring it altogether or dismissing it as “class warfare.” Other responses have usually included the suggestion that Democrats are failing to lead, that we are offering credible solutions while they are not, or that their policies will hurt job creators. These are all true and important points, but they fail to rebut the underlying slander. They also fail to cast the argument for conservative reform in the necessary moral dimension. …

Consider the debate over welfare reform. We now spend a trillion dollars annually on federal welfare programs. Converted to cash, spending on federal poverty programs would equal $60,000 for each household living in poverty. Almost 1 in 6 Americans are now on food stamps. The Administration is aggressively working to boost these figures even more, and labels any attempt at reform as uncaring and heartless. They even rewarded a food stamp recruiter for overcoming a community’s “mountain pride.”

Yet what has all this spending produced? More people are living in poverty, wages are flat, millions have completely exited the labor force, and fraud and abuse remain rampant. We will make the case that the time has come for another 1996-style welfare reform that reduces poverty, strengthens family, and helps more Americans transition from dependency to self-sufficiency. This is not merely a financial imperative; it is a moral imperative. …

We will also explain how excessive taxation and debt is weakening growth today. Weaker growth translates to fewer job openings, smaller paychecks, and more people dependent upon the federal government. Balancing the federal budget is the only way to replace a future of weak growth and high taxes with strong growth and high wages. We have a moral obligation to taxpayers, and to our children, to balance the budget of the United States. …

If the Democrat Majority accuses us of the same fictions I have listed earlier, we will reply: your policies are creating poverty, dependency, and chronic unemployment. Your policies are responsible for lost wages and lost jobs. Your policies have denied people access to quality health care. Your policies have shut down factories, surged energy costs, and brought economic growth to a standstill. And your policies are responsible for a nearing debt crisis that threatens each and every American family.

Here is the full memo:

Memo On FY14 Budget Process
February 11, 2013
To: Republican Members
From: Ranking Member Jeff Sessions

Senate Democrats, bowing to Republican pressure, have announced that they will finally relent and produce a budget this year as the law requires.

This week Chairman Murray is holding a hearing entitled “The Impact of Federal Budget Decisions on Families and Communities,” in which we expect her to portray the fiscal debate in stark moral terms. She will describe Republicans as the enemy of the working class and the protectors of the rich. We can expect this to be Democrats’ theme throughout the budget season. It is the narrative around which President Obama has framed virtually every fiscal debate and his own reelection campaign. He will no doubt repeat this fiction during his State of the Union address.

In her speech at Brookings last year, Chairman Murray declared that “I will not agree to a deal that throws middle class families under the bus and forces them to bear this burden alone. Unless Republicans end their commitment to protecting the rich above all else, our country is going to have to face the consequences of Republican intransigence… They pay lip-service to deficit reduction, but what they actually seem to be concerned about is cutting taxes for the rich and starving programs that help middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans.”

Too often, Republicans have responded to this attack upon our morality by either ignoring it altogether or dismissing it as “class warfare.” Other responses have usually included the suggestion that Democrats are failing to lead, that we are offering credible solutions while they are not, or that their policies will hurt job creators. These are all true and important points, but they fail to rebut the underlying slander. They also fail to cast the argument for conservative reform in the necessary moral dimension.

As we enter the first Senate budget process in four years, it is my intention as Ranking Member not to let these slanders go unanswered. But in order to fully respond to Democrats’ charges, it is useful to consider the central premise upon which it is based: that every single penny the public sector extracts from the private sector is wisely spent and improves the quality of life of everyday citizens. Only if one accepts this ludicrous premise could one characterize even the slightest attempts to reduce the $47 trillion CBO estimates will be spent over the next 10 years as an assault on the middle class.

The White House has succeeded to an alarming degree in framing the fiscal debate as a choice between fiscal restraint and compassion. Reductions in government are, in the White House narrative, inherently harmful; therefore, any approach that mitigates spending cuts through tax hikes is always the morally preferable approach.

Consider the debate over welfare reform. We now spend a trillion dollars annually on federal welfare programs. Converted to cash, spending on federal poverty programs would equal $60,000 for each household living in poverty. Almost 1 in 6 Americans are now on food stamps. The Administration is aggressively working to boost these figures even more, and labels any attempt at reform as uncaring and heartless. They even awarded a food stamp recruiter for overcoming a community’s “mountain pride.”

Yet what has all this spending produced? More people are living in poverty, wages are flat, millions have completely exited the labor force, and fraud and abuse remain rampant. We will make the case that the time has come for another 1996-style welfare reform that reduces poverty, strengthens family, and helps more Americans transition from dependency to self-sufficiency. This is not merely a financial imperative; it is a moral imperative. No longer can we measure compassion by how much we spend on poverty, but how many people we help to rise out of poverty. Adding endlessly to the debt is not compassionate—it is destructive.

Compassion demands reform. We will confront the Majority directly with this argument. They will have to defend the social and economic harm their policies have afflicted on cities and communities across the country. And we believe the American people will be with us.

We will also explain how excessive taxation and debt is weakening growth today. Weaker growth translates to fewer job openings, smaller paychecks, and more people dependent upon the federal government. Balancing the federal budget is the only way to replace a future of weak growth and high taxes with strong growth and high wages. We have a moral obligation to taxpayers, and to our children, to balance the budget of the United States.

We hope to have a productive and cooperative budget process with the Majority this year. I have already expressed to the Chairman my willingness to work with her and her staff in an effort to balance the federal budget.

But, as demonstrated by their refusal to do a budget for nearly four years, the Majority has viewed the fiscal debate not as an exercise in problem-solving but an exercise in political combat. Their strategy has been to issue expertly crafted sound bites from their comfortable station in Washington while happily offering nothing to help those Americans trapped in a cycle of poverty and joblessness. Meanwhile, repeated good-faith Republican efforts to reform government have been rhetorically savaged by a Majority that refuses to contribute with a solution of their own. This pattern must end.

If the Democrat Majority accuses us of the same fictions I have listed earlier, we will reply: your policies are creating poverty, dependency, and chronic unemployment. Your policies are responsible for lost wages and lost jobs. Your policies have denied people access to quality health care. Your policies have shut down factories, surged energy costs, and brought economic growth to a standstill. And your policies are responsible for a nearing debt crisis that threatens each and every American family.

The budget process, carried out in the open light of day, is an opportunity to provide the nation with a bold contrast. The Majority offers a bleak future where millions of Americans are left behind, unable to find steady work, and where faceless government gradually erodes the human bonds of family and community. This will be contrasted against a confident vision of growth and opportunity where the central bonds in our lives are not with the government but with each other.

Our policies are rooted in our firm belief free people thrive most when a minimum burden is placed upon them. By capturing that spirit, and by defending working Americans from the surging federal colossus, our ideas will carry the day.

Responses