The expected Republican upset at the voting booth today is bound to leave many inside the Beltway confused. What on earth do the American people want? After all, just two years ago they threw out the Republicans, and now they are throwing out the Democrats.
What Americans want is a government that stays out of their pocketbooks and out of their private lives. Under Presidents Bush and Obama, we've gotten just the opposite: government program after government program created with our money to socially engineer the economy.
Evidence of voters’ desires lies in the huge swing we are seeing in the so-called independents. They are leaning heavily Republican in every poll. Pundits and political observers use the word independents frequently, but rarely do they define it. Now would be a good time.
I believe independents are fiscally-conservative, yet socially-liberal. How do I know? I’m one of them. I don’t want to be taxed to death, and I don’t want to tell other people how to live their lives.
Yet, for decades the choice has been either A.) a party that didn’t want to overtax me, but seemed awfully concerned about what happens in people bedrooms, or B.) a party that was far more tolerant on social issues but loved spending taxpayer money to “fix” things.
But many believers in small-government think it is a concept that should dictate every aspect of Washington, not just the size of say, the Department of Commerce. Laws designed to legislate social values run contrary to the idea of small government because making laws about peoples private lives is about making government bigger, not smaller.
Now to today’s election and the supposed flip-flop of the American public. To independent voters, Presidents Obama and Bush look awfully similar. Both have presided over enormous increases in government spending, and deep government intervention into large portions of the economy. From President Obama we got health care reform, from President Bush we got the largest federal intervention into education in the nations history, and huge subsidies for people to buy homes. Both have given us protectionism. Both bailed out the banks. Both bailed out the auto industry. For 10 years now we’ve had no difference in governing policies regardless of who was in power.
So now what?
After the Republican sweep of 1994, President Clinton was forced to find fiscal religion, and independents finally got policy changes they wanted: welfare reform, an embrace of the free markets with the passage of NAFTA, and a balanced budget driven in large part by less spending. (Thank you Newt Gingrich.) With the glaring exceptions of the tax-hike of 1993 and the Defense of Marriage Act, President Clinton looks pretty good to the independent voter of today.
Will President Obama learn from President Clinton? Only if he corrects his view of history.
Right now, the President consistently blames a lack of government oversight and regulation under the Bush years, as one of the key reasons for the nations economic woes. The truth is just the opposite and the American people know that. President Bush may have been Republican, but he didn’t preside like one. We haven’t seen a Republican president who truly believed in keeping government small in the lives of its people since Ronald Reagan.
Despite an enormous amount of new legislation (the stimulus bill, health care reform, financial regulatory reform, and education finance reform) President Obama’s ratings have never been lower.
He needs to ask himself why.
The answer: because he is doing exactly the same thing his predecessor did. Spending too much, regulating too much, and intervening too much, with little to show for it in the way of economic improvement.
To the American people, less is more. They know exactly what they want. Now if only the politicians they vote for would give it to them.
Michelle Caruso-Cabrera is an anchor of CNBCs Power Lunch and author of 'You Know I’m Right, More Prosperity, Less Government.'
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