Tough Love from Tampa

I remember when W. ran for president in 2000 on the platform of Compassionate Conservatism. The idea was that Republicans would embrace many of the social programs that helped the needy while still maintaining their free-market orientation. It was supposed to be a way to win an election, help the poor, and still scale back government. It worked on the first count. I’m not sure about the second. The third was a terrible failure. Let’s face it. We are in big trouble with our national debt. Compassionate Conservatism didn’t help. Hope and Change made it worse.

The self-evident problem is that we spend more money that we have. A lot more. Even if we embraced the President’s proposal to tax the richest 1% of Americans at a higher rate, it still doesn’t close the gap. Either we start taxing many more people at a much higher rate, or we come to the conclusion that we can’t sustain this any longer. Having spent last week watching the RNC convention in Tampa, I’m hopeful we might have turned a corner.

What struck me about the RNC Convention is the relative youth of the speakers. It’s a new generation of Republicans. Most of them are my age, rather than my father’s age. These new Republicans seem to have outgrown the Compassionate Conservatism of their baby-boomer parents for a more realistic Tough Love approve to politics. The theme of the convention so far has been that success is a product of hard work, the gravy train is over, and we have to live within our means. That’s a hard message to push when you are running against Santa Clause. But it’s a message that a younger generation of Americans seems ready to embrace.

Romney might just be the man to sell it. Romney is not a young man like Paul Ryan or President Obama, but his age works in his favor this election. At a time of national crisis, Romney is the more fatherly figure – steady, experienced, optimistic. It works with the Tough Love theme of the convention. Young Americans are eager for that sort of leadership, which explains why so many of them have flocked to grandfatherly Ron Paul.

Tough Love can be a hard sell, but it’s a personal message that most people can relate to and understand. All of us look back in our lives and remember the people who saw in us more than we saw in ourselves. The teachers we admire most were the ones that made life difficult for us, like my Mrs. Perez or Mrs. Flournoy. They were the “mean” teachers. And they stand in contrast to President Obama, who is like the cool, young teacher you had in school. He was good-looking, popular, and funny. Only later did you realize that he didn’t expect much from his students, and as a result, you didn’t learn anything in his class. I had one of those too.

Romney, by comparison, is like old Mr. Chips. He’s the teacher that people avoid because he’s a little distant and he’s demanding. After being forced to take his class, however, they slowly realize that he’s demanding because he sees their potential. He knows they can make something of themselves. And he knows that the only way to get there is through hard-work.

Sure Will Schuester is a popular teacher, but eventually our time for dancing down the halls ends; we take on adult responsibilities. And when those days come, we thank our lucky stars that Mr. Chipping saw more in us than we saw in ourselves.

With the Democratic Convention coming next week, I’m anxious to see which the American people choose – musical theater, or tough love.

5 responses

  1. When you have 50% of the population not paying taxes, I wonder what the incentive is for them to vote for tough love vs Santa Clause.

  2. Mitt Romney is a financial rapist whose primary goal is to rape American Citizens of their financial resources just as he did to companies while working for Bain.

  3. Hello Dr. Hammons,

    (I’ll be nicer and less vapid than DaPoet.)

    I just discovered this blog, and immediately found it interesting enough to “follow.”

    I agree with every sentence of your Tough Love article except one, which I’ll get to in a moment. In the mean time, here’s an observation: You seem to have your thumb on the pulse of young students, and I hope your observations stretch to enough other campuses around the country to make your overall prognosis a good one (“The theme of the convention so far has been that success is a product of hard work, the gravy train is over, and we have to live within our means. That’s a hard message to push when you are running against Santa Clause. But it’s a message that a younger generation of Americans seems ready to embrace.”). But what about the 20 and 30 somethings that live in urban areas and are counting on government to take care of them? Are they ready for tough love yet?

    Now here’s the sentence that I think leaves a door open that you shouldn’t have left open: “Either we start taxing many more people at a much higher rate, or we come to the conclusion that we can’t sustain this any longer. ”

    Based on my self-directed study of “realistic” economics (not Paul Krugman’s “wishful thinking” brand of economics), I firmly believe that the problem with the idea of taxing many more people at a much higher rate is not just that it’s unpopular, but also that it won’t work. It’s not sustainable. Such a burden on the private economy would stifle growth, and essentially kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. We have to get government revenues settled at about 20% of GDP, and then get government spending in line with those revenues. 20% is sustainable, allowing the economy to continue growing and “floating all boats.”

    Lastly, here’s something that’s meant as a helpful suggestion: I read the bios of all your contributors, and I didn’t see an economics professor among them. Does HBU have a supply-side economics professor? If so, I’d be interested in hearing his/her response to my comment, and perhaps you could get him/her to become a regular contributor.

    I hope you keep up the good messaging work.

    – Jeff

    • Jeff,

      I concur with you that higher taxes are not the proper solution, though in theory you could tax people so highly that we could close the deficit and start paying down the national debt. That is, until those people we tax at such a rate stop producing, go broke, or leave the country.

      Thanks for your suggestion regarding an economist to contribute to our blog. I’ll start looking!

      CH

      • “That is, until those people we tax at such a rate stop producing, go broke, or leave the country.”

        Yes, exactly!

        Static models of economic cause & effect, such as those used by the CBO, do not account for the changes in behavior of the affected taxpayers. Incentives and disincentives matter. Dynamically understanding the second &third & fourth (etc…) dominoes that fall is what I call “realistic” economics. Such as that taught by Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Milton Friedman, Frederic Hayeck, etc.
        – Jeff

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