She Turned Me Into a Newt!

As 2012 Republican Presidential candidates start signing on for a run, I get that sinking feeling that we are about to see another Parade of Fools.  Today, we tackle the first–Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich is credited with the 1994 conservative revolution, led by a cadre of limited government advocates who almost instantly devolved into a new flock* of career politicians. I would be favorably disposed to this bit of history were it not for the outrageous lack of principle that undergirded it.

Gingrich is a polarizing figure, which is in itself not a bad thing. I wish the American people were capable of holding a general debate on statism versus libertarianism. The problem is that he polarizes without apparent purpose. Given to thoughtless commentary and attention-getting snippets, Gingrich does not strike me as the thoughtful, deliberate type–not a good tendency for the leader of the United States.

His policies are a mixture of good limited-government prescriptions and silliness. On taxes, he seems to understand the merits of the flat tax, though only as an option for taxpayers. He advocates a radical lowering of the corporate tax to 12.5% as well, coupled with large deductions for investment into equipment. His goal is to make America attractive for businesses. So far, so good.

On the environment and energy, he advocates drilling for more oil while using federal funds to research cleaner energy solutions. He is in favor of nuclear energy and in the development of alternative energy sources. Gingrich would like a reduction in the power of the EPA, or so we gather, since he advocates replacing it with something called the Environmental Solutions Agency, which would “work cooperatively with local government and industry to achieve better environmental outcomes while considering the impact of federal environmental policies on job creation and the cost of energy.” In other words, environmentalism is going to cease to be a destructive ideology with a little tweak from him. Right. Better to call it what it is instead of pretending eco-radicals will wake up anytime soon. Still, he rates better than average here.

On health care, Gingrich opposes the current Ryan proposal. He wants insurance competition across state lines, and more “choice,” though his platform supports continued substantial government involvement. Most notably, his recent harsh criticism of that proposal as “right-wing social engineering” is just plain nutty. It is no doubt designed to placate seniors, who want to retain Medicare in its present form. That cannot happen, and I wish he and every other candidate would find the courage to tell them so.

Then there’s religion. Forgive me, but I dislike any candidate bringing religion into the political arena. Gingrich at times sounds like a closet theocrat with his statements that religion (specifically, the Judeo-Christian tradition) is an important part of political life. He things that God, or at least his version of the Head Deity** is necessary to establish individual rights. I don’t think so, there, Newt. My rights do not depend on your God. I also dislike the inclusion of a particular religion in public classrooms. Religious freedom, which Newt says he supports, seems to me to mean hands-off when it comes to the state.

Last, what is it with politicians and infidelity? I feel about Gingrich’s affairs the same way I felt about Clinton’s escapades. I couldn’t care less what someone does with his pants off or her skirt up***. I do care about what a stupendous lack of judgment it requires to compromise oneself that way. It gives me no comfort to think that a President would be subject to blackmail because he/she couldn’t manage to stay true.

On the whole, I simply do not trust Newt Gingrich to be a principled advocate of limited government. I do not perceive that he thinks before he speaks, making him subject to well-deserved ridicule in the press. I believe that he is a traditional Republican at heart and that in the end he will continue the hopeless policy of trying to fix big government rather than truly shrink it. Newt will harm our cause more than help it. I hope his day in the sun is short and that the Republicans give us someone who can frame an honest alternative to the disaster we are living now.


*Apologies to ornithoids for the use of “flocks” to describe groups of politicians.

**A neutral term designed to accommodate all religious folk, including those who believe the position is without an actual occupant.

***Terry realizes that pant suits are appropriate for women in office and hopes the reader will forgive his lack of precision.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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