New Direction for the GOP?
Are y’all liking the new TAC page? I think it’s beautiful, and I’m thrilled by the addition of Scott Galupo and Eve Tushnet to our stable. I’m still trying to get the hang of the new posting system here, especially the comments. Several of you have written to say that you don’t see the comments thread. Me neither! I wondered if it was a Mac thing, or a browser thing. Turns out it’s in the design; if you want to see comments or leave a comment, you have to click on the specific blog post. You can’t see them from the main page of this (or any) blog. I think we might change that, but for now, that’s how you see and leave comments. Please bear with us as we’re working out these bugs.
If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at my TAC interview with Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican Congressman who is a strong (Catholic) social conservative, but who is suggesting a new, more localist and agrarian way forward for the GOP. Excerpt:
RD: You broke party ranks last year by refusing to renew your pledge not to vote for any future tax increases. Since when do Republican congressmen dare to defy Grover Norquist?
JF: My responsibility is to make judgments about hard, complex issues that I believe to be right. Simply looking at the status quo and suggesting that the tax code is sacrosanct and can never change, and that decisions made in the ’80s and ’90s can never change, is absurd. The tax code is weighted toward the ultra-wealthy and ultra-wealthy corporations, and has created an offshore aristocracy of people who can afford to hire an army of accountants and lawyers. This shifts the tax burden to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and others. I don’t want to see taxes go up on any hardworking American. We need a simpler, fairer tax code. Removing special-interest loopholes could potentially increase revenues and allow for lower rates.
RD: You have been a strong advocate of small farmers and strengthening local food systems. Why is this something conservatives should care about?
JF: We can have systems that are small and local and efficient, or big and unaccountable. Take our financial system. We went through a horrific financial crisis because of a lack of accountability, a lack of ethics, and a lack of proper regulatory oversight. We had corporations so big nobody had any understanding of what was in the portfolio. I compare that to what happened in Nebraska. We had hardly any banks with problems, because they’re main-street banks. They’re small banks. They work with the farmer, the small retailer, the entrepreneur. They understand their business model, and they are responsible. They don’t take inordinate financial risks. When you have a system that’s so big that no one can fully understand it, you’ve got a system that’s not only too big to fail, it’s too big to succeed.
I believe in the benefits of localism as a more traditional economic model. We’re trying to revive an understanding of the dignity and capacity of the person who becomes a steward of free-market principles. Localism is natural to agriculture. In Nebraska, we have a growing desire among the next generation to farm, but some don’t have access to the types of capital and landholding necessary to get their foothold. We should encourage an entrepreneurial movement that gives young people the chance to work the land without a lot of overhead getting in the way of their start-up. We need to reconnect farmers to families, urban to rural, and strengthen local economies, while upholding the extraordinary success of production agriculture as well.