It is possible to be a social liberal and a true fiscal conservative. It is also possible for a political party to completely misread its supporters. Let's take the last issue first.

Many years ago there was a story going around (possibly apocryphal) about a letter written by a draftee to his family about his experience with basic training. He wrote, "The food here is so bad you can hardly eat it and besides they won't give you thirds."


A similar incident, clearly not apocryphal, was shown on national TV concerning one of the early rallies of the nascent Tea Party right-wing movement. A woman carried a sign saying, "Keep Government Hands off my Medicare." More recently, a man in Kentucky spoke out against Obamacare, saying he much preferred the Kentucky Health Care Exchange. He didn't realize the Kentucky Health Care Exchange was indeed the Obamacare exchange for Kentucky.

In sum, what people say or even vote for may not be what they want. Republican candidates railed against Obamacare, said it was failing and needed to be replaced by a program that followed free market principles. For seven years they promised a better plan. But with majorities in both houses of Congress they failed utterly to achieve that goal. They misread their voters and also the realities of the situation.

The House plan would've removed health care for millions of people, and the best the Senate could come up with was a terrible plan which they sought to pass in the hope of buying enough time through the reconciliation process to come out with a plan that could actually work and still follow "free market principles."

It turns out that Obamacare is like democracy or, as Winston Churchill stated (quoting an unknown source), "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

Can a more cost-effective national health care scheme be created? Of course. If created, will this plan follow free market principles? Of course not. That is the problem and not the cure.

No other nation uses private insurance as the mainstay of their health plan, and every other national health plan is more cost-effective than ours.

People like to complain about Obamacare, like the draftee complained about his food. But while the Republicans have won elections by promising something better, they will lose the next election if they actually pass something that resembles any of their proposals to date. Their remaining possible strategy is to continue to complain but just fix a few things about Obamacare with the help of the Democrats.

Fiscal conservatism means ensuring that income covers expenditures. The last time we had a balanced national budget was at the end of the Clinton administration.

The last time the national debt was zero was in 1835. But that didn't last long. Wars and depressions are major contributors to debt. The value of the dollar steadily declines. A fairer measurement, then, is national debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.

The Great Depression and World War II ran this number up to 119 percent by 1946. From that point to 1981, this ratio declined to about 31 percent.

More recently we have had yet another stock market crash and two foreign wars. The ratio of debt as a percentage of GDP now exceeds 100 percent. No taxes have been raised to bring down the annual deficit.

Living on borrowed money is not a conservative tactic. We need to raise taxes and reduce out-of-control defense spending on unneeded super carriers and billion-dollar fighter jets. We spend more on defense than the next seven countries combined. That kind of spending caused the Soviet Union to collapse.

The social programs Social Security and Medicare are supported by trust funds and dedicated payroll taxes. They help fund the debt but do not add to it.

Those are the facts.


John Culleton writes every other Tuesday from Eldersburg. Email him at cct@wexfordpress.com.