Lance T. Izumi - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Izumi is Director of Education Studies for the Pacific
Research Institute and
Senior Fellow in California Studies. He is a leading expert in
education policy and the author of several major PRI studies.
[go to Izumi index]
The Real Republican Party Please Stand Up?
Does the GOP remember "smaller government?"...Schwarzenegger
[Lance T. Izumi] 12/19/03
for the soul of the Republican Party is brewing over the issue
of government spending. At the national
level, Republicans have just pushed through the biggest government
entitlement program in 40 years. In California, however, Republican
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has gone on the offensive against
government spending. Sometime soon, Republicans need to choose
between these two conflicting visions and define their beliefs
about the size of government.
Republicans in Washington have declared their belief: spend
as much as necessary to win the next election. To take away a
campaign issue from Democrats, Republicans enacted a nearly half-trillion-dollar
Medicare drug benefit program. Overall, the new program, although
it has a couple of good aspects, doesn't make sound sense for
health-care, let alone for fiscal policy.
True, 24 percent of seniors have no prescription drug coverage
and five percent have annual out-of-pocket prescription costs
of more than $4,000. However, the just-enacted legislation doesn't
target these subgroups, but gives a universal government-subsidized
drug benefit to every senior in the country.
Congressman Mike Pence, one of the few GOP lawmakers to vote
against the bill, observed, "While the
need for some type of benefit is real, the need for a universal
benefit is not." The Republican leadership, though, wanted
to pass the bill at any cost. Putting profligacy and politics
above principle has been a disturbing trend under Republican
In the last
two years, the federal budget has grown by 27 percent with
controlling the legislative and executive branches.
Congressman Pence laments, "We Republicans seem to have
forgotten who we are and why voters sent us here."
who, so far, hasn't forgotten why voters supported him is Arnold
Schwarzenegger. Upon assuming the California governorship,
Schwarzenegger barnstormed the state to rally public opinion
for his cost-cutting efforts to address the state's massive budget
deficit. The new Republican governor labeled liberal legislators "overspending
addicts" and, in great Hollywood style, tore up a huge credit-card
prop declaring that "we want to take away the state's credit
card from the politicians, and cut it in half, and throw it in
the garbage can so they can never do that again."
Schwarzenegger initially proposed a tough cap that would have
cut spending by 16 percent from the current expenditure level
and adjusted future spending based on population and per-capita
income growth. Although Schwarzenegger dropped the cap idea because
of implacable opposition from the overwhelming Democratic majority
in the legislature, he negotiated a deal to require that state
spending not exceed state revenues and that there be no more
borrowing in the future.
More interesting is the fact that Schwarzenegger has not been
afraid to take on entrenched special interests. He shocked the
education establishment by telling CNN that he's considering
suspending Prop. 98, which guarantees education a big chunk of
the budget. He also proposes reductions in sacred-cow social
programs and transportation projects. He even wants to cut university
outreach programs that have been criticized as dressed up race-based
Regardless of whether his proposals are eventually approved,
Schwarzenegger is offering the Republican Party an alternative
fiscal vision. For fiscally conservative Republicans, who make
up the vast majority of the party, the prescription for long-term
success may lie in Sacramento, not Washington.
2003 Pacific Research Institute