Modern Republicans are all for the redistribution of wealth — but only when it’s going from the bottom to the top.
Senate Republicans defeated two measures last Thursday that would have extended cuts to the payroll tax. One was a Democratic proposal; the other was a GOP countermeasure. The first aimed to cut taxes for employers and employees and paid for it with a surtax on millionaires. The second cut taxes but balanced it by laying off federal workers.
I think this is what it means to be through the looking glass. It’s one thing for Republicans to oppose a Democratic bill. That’s to be expected, even if it means they are now on record as voting to raise taxes on 160 million middle class Americans who are the engine of a sputtering economy. But to kill your own bill, one that cuts taxes and reduces the size of government — well, that’s more than just loopy. It’s an identity crisis.
Simply put: These conservatives aren’t conservative. The Republicans Party has gone so far to the right that it has arrived on the other side of the political spectrum.
Conservatism, as a worldview, has privileged stability and community. It upholds the rule of law, religious values, and respect for tradition. I’m not talking about the Tea Party’s or Karl Rove’s kind of conservatism. I’m talking about the old-fashioned Edmund Burke kind that holds that social change must be gradual and deliberate, approached cautiously if not opposed outright. When it comes to the economy, conservatism has been historically skeptical. Capital tends to consolidate. Civic institutions keep that tendency, and its power, in check.