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Today’s Election: Progressive Socialists vs. Conservative Con Men

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Before nagging your neighbor about his yard, it’s not a bad idea to take a look at your own first. It’s like making sure you’re not in a glass house before throwing a rock. But these pearls of wisdom aren’t of much interest to a lot of people calling themselves “conservatives” these days.

Whether it’s Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, or any standard Republican candidate, they’re all highly vocal about Democrat big spenders and President Obama’s socialism leading us down a path to big government and a socialist agenda that threatens to bankrupt America.

Several years ago a friend of mine told me, “Conservatives like to talk about limited government, they just never get around to saying what it is they want government limited to.” Beyond the libertarian rhetoric that Republicans throw out every election year (or at least those election years when Democrats are in charge), conservatism looks like a variation of the same old socialist theme.

During the American Revolution, Americans denounced the British for having “erected a multitude of New Offices to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” A few years later they would write a Constitution enumerating a few defined powers granted to the federal government. They had experienced bureaucracy and the petty tyrants it creates, and wanted to protect themselves and their posterity from a central government that, if left unchecked, would drain their wealth and snuff out their freedom.

Conservatives often point this out. But how many Republican candidates (other than Texas congressman Ron Paul) have called for abolishing the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Transportation, or the Department of Agriculture, just to name a few, pointing out that they are not specifically authorized by the Constitution? Conservatives routinely call themselves “strict constructionists,” so it would be interesting to hear their arguments for keeping these departments in existence.

Talk of “trimming the fat,” “doing away with pork,” and “getting rid of waste, fraud, and abuse” are certainly good campaign sound bites, but they are no substitute for sound fiscal policies. If conservatives are really concerned about the enormous amount of debt incurred by Congress and the president and an imploding economy that threatens our future well-being, then think of the money that can be saved by targeting and abolishing some of these massive federal departments and agencies that help no one but the bureaucrats who staff them. The “party of limited government” could at least be having a serious debate about it.

All over the country Republicans are promising voters that Social Security and Medicare are “safe”. The Federal Reserve, socialist institution par excellence, is never criticized. They don’t even mention it. Ditto the federal income tax — Republicans just want to cut the rate a bit. And don’t forget George W. Bush’s massive prescription drug-entitlement program that Republicans voted for.

Conservatives would have us believe that conservatism is about supporting freedom and opposing socialism, but in actuality it is about maintaining the status quo, especially when Republicans are in power. A socialistic status quo. When pressed, some conservatives will even accuse you of wanting to throw old people out into the street. Yes, oftentimes Republicans sound exactly like Democrats!

We are long overdue for an honest debate about government. Conservatives can take aim at Obamacare and TARP, but our nation’s march towards socialism didn’t start in January 2009. Since they support every other socialist program, they ought to at least be honest with themselves and with voters. When they talk about a “conservative ascendancy,” don’t they actually mean a Republican-managed socialist status quo?

Let’s face it: In order to get elected, Republican candidates preach free enterprise while supporting socialism. Our choice in today’s elections is between honest-to-goodness progressive socialists and conservative con men. God help us.

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    Scott McPherson is policy adviser at The Future of Freedom Foundation. An advocate of the Free State Project, he lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.