L.E. Brown / December 8, 2010

The Similarities of Democrats and Republicans

In the run-up to the November election Republicans did a pretty good job convincing voters that they were different from Democrats, and won many congressional races.

But how will they govern? History has shown that many politicians, Republicans and Democrats, campaign as conservatives, but govern as liberals.

Therefore it is instructive to analyze the governing policies of the two major parties by looking not at where they differ, but at where they are alike. In other words, let’s examine not what they say, but what they have done in recent years, and even go back 100 years.

Republicans once governed as the party of peace, as opposed to Democrats’ penchant for war, going back to World War I, and the notion that the U.S. should be a nation of “regime change” and “nation-building.”

(It is no disservice to veterans who served in it to say that World War I was not a war “to make the world safe for democracy” but was a struggle to decide which nations would rule Europe and who would maintain their colonies around the world. And, incidentally, to firm up fledgling communism in Russia.)

Today, Republicans have about as good a record on war as Democrats, though casualties in their wars don’t nearly approach Democrat war numbers, and they are seen as warmongers, given their support of pre-emptive wars. Granted, the action against Afghanistan was in response to an attack on America, but because George W. Bush and Republicans adopted the Democrats’ policy of “limited war” as practiced in Korea and Vietnam, troops are still there, engaged in “peacekeeping” 10 years later.

In Iraq, Republicans embraced the idea of regime change, notwithstanding the stated purpose was to find and destroy weapons of mass destruction. Since none were found, Bush could have pulled out troops forthwith, leaving Iraqis to deal with Saddam Hussein. Yet, the war has dragged on for over seven years, in part because Bush refused to go for total victory, including preserving sanctuaries in nations bordering Iraq, from where weapons and personnel came in to kill Americans, a la Korea and Vietnam.

Republicans and Democrats continue to force taxpayers to fund groups with agendas for which they don’t support. They won’t touch non-profits and end the tax-write-off bonanzas for corporations and wealthy individuals, who avoid taxes for which other taxpayers have to make up.

(In many ways, it is somewhat surprising that neither Republicans nor Democrats have embraced the notion of ending the tax-exempt status of nonprofits. It could easily be sold as a means to help balance the federal budget and to lessen the tax burden on the middle class. It would be a classic ploy long successful for Democrats especially, pitting the rich against the poor. If promoted by Republicans, it would help remove the stigma of being the party of the rich.)

Likewise, while they pay lip-service to the issue, neither Republicans nor Democrats want to end congressional perks. About five years ago, a study estimated that each congressperson cost taxpayers about $2.5 per year. The cost is likely nearing $4 million today.

Most Democrats and Republicans are known to cringe in fear and start sweating profusely when they hear anything about a serious attempt to replace the income tax code which taxes income with one that taxes spending. Some are known to faint after thinking that they might lose their ability to manipulate the tax code to punish some and reward others. If the present Tax Code were eliminated and the Internal Revenue Service disbanded, the only tax issue before Congress would be deciding what percentage of spending is to be applied as taxes.

(No one knows for sure, but it would be a good guess that Congress spends 90 percent of its time on matters that deal directly or indirectly with taxes. Witness what has happened so far during the post-election session of Congress. If taxes had not been present as an issue, Congress could have adjourned after sitting no more than three days.)

There are many more similarities between the two parties, and there is no indication that they will morph into two distinct philosophies, at least in the way they govern.

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