CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera Writes ‘You Know I'm Right’
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Right-wing talk radio and TV aided and abetted the GOP by focusing on social issues rather than fiscal ones and in doing so wasted an opportunity to fight for the goals of the Goldwater and Reagan-era Republican Party. How much time did shock jocks spend covering nativity scenes when they could have been asking President George W. Bush why he kept spending and expanding government? Why were these right-wing pundits with such powerful platforms wasting an opportunity to fix the fiscal mess our nation faces? Where were the right-wing pundits, who are suddenly all about small government now that President Obama has taken office, when President George W. Bush went on a spending spree?
The conservative media needs to start embracing policies, not politicians.
So that’s what this book is about. It’s about fixing the way we do business. It’s about how we as a society should look at government. And by the time you’ve finished, you’ll know I’m right.
Chapter 1: MIND MY BUSINESS, NOT MY BEDROOM
Mind My Business, Not My Bedroom
I want a government that stays out of my pocketbook and stays out of my private life. I find it frustrating that the Democrats think I want to keep paying for their big government and endless spending projects. But I am equally annoyed that the Republicans turned their backs on a voter like me and now think it’s okay to run my personal affairs at the expense of fiscal issues. So as a voter, I’m partyless. I’m left out in the cold. And frankly, I’m feeling a little unwanted—unwanted from a philosophical, political standpoint, that is. I’m not alone. There’s a major problem with the political system in the United States today: neither party truly represents a growing number of middle-class Americans.
Where does a fiscal conservative and a social liberal go? For me, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats represent my values and beliefs. Neither envisions reduced spending and less government involvement in the private lives of the American people.
I am part of a new and growing crowd of “sort-of” Republicans. I am far too fiscally responsible to want to reach out and hug the Democrats. Their social spending will keep the next several generations laden with debt. At the same time, I am too fiercely independent to embrace the Republican Party, because I want people to be free to make their own choices about their personal lives. I don’t want Washington insiders to tell me what to think and how to behave in the privacy of my home.
There are a lot of us that don’t like the tax-and-spend approach to budgeting but also believe in, for example, a woman’s right to choose. Michael Petrilli at the Hoover Institution said it best when he used the term “Whole Foods Republican”—someone who embraces a progressive lifestyle, but not progressive politics. It’s not a great place to be. No matter where I turn to for leadership, I have to compromise. Over the past decade, both parties seem to have been hijacked by social issues such as abortion, the environment, and gay marriage. These issues don’t define us as a nation, so why do they define our two political parties?
Here’s the thing: I believe in low taxes, and a small, nonintrusive government. I don’t really care if gays want to get married or not. I don’t smoke pot, but frankly, I don’t care if you do. Of course I want us to live in a healthy environment. But that doesn’t mean we stop drilling for oil. I believe in God, but I don’t think everyone else must accept my God. In fact, I don’t think religion should have anything to do with governing at all. I also know we can be good neighbors even when the family next door looks different.
By that, you might think I’m a Democrat, but the Democratic Party is out of control when it comes to spending and intrusive government programs. They have a never-ending appetite for taxpayer dollars to advance their causes. I don’t believe in socialized health care. In fact, I don’t believe that government can fix much of anything. But members of the Democratic Party consistently claim the moral high ground by calling themselves compassionate in order to justify excessive spending on social initiatives. There is nothing compassionate about running the country into the poorhouse. By abandoning any form of fiscal responsibility, the country will soon be unable to afford to support anyone. Democrats need to understand that the most compassionate country is one that allows people to make their own choices and live with the benefits and consequences of those choices.
The Republican Party of the last ten years has courted the religious right at the expense of fiscal conservatives who believe that less government is better government. It has embraced programs designed to do social engineering much in the same way the Democratic Party has always done. Why is it that the Republicans seem more concerned about creationism in the schools and debating stem-cell research than they do about balancing the budget? Simple solution: let’s not tell educators how to educate or fund any research. That is not the role of government.
Things didn’t used to be this way. Republicans were the party of Barry Goldwater and Nobel Prize–winning economist Milton Friedman, who believed in free markets and a limited role of government. It was the party of Ronald Reagan, whose emphasis on less government and less spending became the heart and soul of Reaganomics. These men would be aghast to see what has happened to their party.
Now both parties have abandoned those of us who believe in a secular state with a government that limits its spending and regulatory intervention in the economy. The government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation, and it should not distort the economy with rules, susidies, and tax policy. It needs to represent those of us who believe in personal responsibility.
If a strong independent emerged in the next presidential election, I might embrace him or her. But under the current primary and electoral college system, a viable independent is unlikely to happen.
Ronald Reagan represented my views. He was my favorite president. My second favorite? Bill Clinton. Even though according to their party affiliations, they would seem to be polar opposites, in reality they were very similar. Just as strange, George W. Bush and Barack Obama share an emphasis on using big government to fix everything, which makes them oddly similar.
If the government got out of the business of making social and moral choices for us, not only would it be more efficient, but legislators would also have more time to focus on fixing the economic well-being of the nation. Milton Friedman was right when he said government has just four roles: it should protect our freedom, provide law and order, enforce private contracts, and foster competitive markets. Government shouldn’t tell you who you should share your bed with, which god (if any) you should worship, or whether or not you should use marijuana. In a free society, people need to make those choices themselves.
The other big problem with big government: overregulation. Paradoxically, underregulation didn’t cause this current financial fiasco we’re in. Overregulation got us here. The recent economic disaster that we’ve just experienced is a direct result of abandoning the core principles of Reaganomics: less government, less spending. Instead, the last Republican administration spent vast sums of money and inflated both the size of government and its red tape. During his time in office, President George W. Bush did things that were fundamentally leftist in nature, such as imposing steel tariffs, expanding entitlements for the elderly, and encouraging home ownership for everyone. Even those who didn’t have enough income to afford a home were able to buy one. And look where that got us.
The United States is a world leader. Democracy, the rule of law, and the rights and freedoms entrenched in our Constitution make us the envy of friends and foes around the world. But if we want this great nation to continue along on this path and if we want to ensure that we are a prosperous nation, we need to get back to these core values and principles: less government and more personal responsibility.
Look at this current recession and the rash of foreclosures: it’s heartbreaking to see so many people lose their homes. Washington wants to blame business, but let’s face it, in many ways government is responsible. The tax structure encouraged and facilitated home ownership even when people couldn’t afford it. Fannie and Freddie fueled the mortgage market. The Federal Reserve created cheap money with low rates. Taxpayer dollars were used to create a system that made it possible to buy a home with no down payment.
The business community, particularly the banks, made its share of mistakes, too: the ratings agencies that rubberstamped mortgage securities did us no favors, and the lazy fund managers who didn’t do their homework and just kept buying junk made the problem worse. But government officials promoted home ownership as if even the unemployed should be entitled to buy a house. Americans bought into this fantasy, thinking that a worker making $45,000 a year could afford a $300,000 home. The mortgage brokers and the banks had a big hand in that, but logic should have prevailed on an individual level. Homeowners need to take responsibility, too. Don’t buy what you can’t afford.
Economic policy truly matters—not just to big business but also to the everyday lives and livelihoods of moms and dads trying to support their families. It is the basis for every aspect of our lives in this country. The government needs to stop trying to command and control the economy, and the government can only be smart about that if it focuses on getting smaller and purges social issues from its agenda. That way the government could emphasize personal responsibility and create a foundation that allows anyone in the country to achieve success.
So people like me—people I call “the great unwanted middle”—are in a real predicament. We have nowhere to turn in 2012 unless one of these parties decides to return to these fundamentals: smaller, not bigger, government and less involvement in our personal lives. I know I’m right when I say, “Whoever wants to be our next president should campaign on one line: I’ll stay out of your private life and out of your pocketbook.”
Text copyright © 2010 from You Know I’m Right by Michelle Caruso-Cabrera. Published by Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed with permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.